Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
Wave Hill’s Tropical House, the left-hand arm of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory, contains many decorative plants, and one of the most striking is Cryptanthus fosterianus ‘Elaine,’ a member of the bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae). It is in a couple of spots in the Tropical House and is not hard to find: each leaf has a dark-brown, purple center, a broad edging of bright pink and a mesmerizing overlay of chalky-white zigzag stripes.
Cryptanthus fosterianus is one of more than fifty species of Cryptanthus (earth stars), all of which are native to Brazil. The cultivar ‘Elaine’ is a selection of C. fosterianus made at a nursery in Florida in the 1970s.
The common name for Cryptanthus is earth star, which is appropriate not only because of its star-like shape, but because it does indeed grow in the ground—not necessarily the usual behavior for all species of bromeliad. Many are epiphytic, that is, they grow on trees. Those species that grow in soil are called terrestrial. The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is another example of a terrestrial bromeliad.
This first shot is taken from the eastern end of the Tropical House, near the entrance.