image of bromeliad genre

Orthophytum gurkenii
Photo by Laura St. Denis

Orthophytum (or-tho-fy'tum) are found in the dry areas of eastern Brazil. The name ortho (straight) and phytum plant) refers to the straight inflorescence which is tall for the size of the plant. Even though the plant is only about six inches tall the flower stalk can be 12-18 inches.

Unlike other bromeliads, many of the Orthophytum have a unique arrangement of leaves on the tall flower stalk. They grow on rocks or rocky ground with intense sunlight and little water.

Because of their harsh natural environment they are easy to grow. They can be grown successfully in a cactus garden. The leaves are usually a green or copper color with soft spines. All of the small flowers are white.

Orthophytum navioides is an exception to the tall inflorescence rule. It has many thin glossy green leaves which turn red when it flowers. The white flowers nestle in a green center surrounded by the red leaves.

The leaves of Orthophytum gurkenii have an apple green inflorescence with multiple flower heads. The leaves have irregular white bands across a brown background. This is a striking plant when in bloom as you can see in the photograph by Laura.

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