| The genus Cryptanthus was
established by Otto and Dietrich in 1836. The genus belongs to the Bromelioideae and
comprises some 25 species, from which several hundred hybrids have been developed.
Cryptanthus are prized for their foliage rather than their flowers, which are typically
nestled, "hidden," in the center, hence the name: cryptos+anthos (hidden
Cryptanthus are terrestrials, indigenous to the dry forests of
eastern Brazil. Most grow in shady moist areas, some grow in rocky terrain, a few grow in
full sun. They are dependent on their root system for water supply, since they do not
store in their centers. A very few ( e.g. C. warasii, C. glaziouii, C.
succulent and can store water in their leaves.
Cryptanthus produce their best color in strong light; however prolon exposure to
the sun should be avoided as a general rule. If they begin to redden unnaturally or to
bleach light should be reduced. They tolerate low temperatures but their preferred range
is 60° F to 80° F. Fertilize during the months of active growth. Pups are produced
prolifically from buds at the leaf axils. Pups are often produced even before the plant
flowers. Some species produce a mound and pups fall off the top, taking root where they
fall. Because Cryptanthus are moisture-loving and not subject to fungal problems.They are
excellent plants for terrariums.
Rooting the pups is often difficult. They can survive for months
without rooting but eventually they must root in order to grow. If they do not root under
humid conditions, bottom heat may help.
FORM: rosette, usually flat close to the ground but in some species (C.scaposus, C.
pseudoscaposus) a short stem is formed which bears flowers at the top.
SIZE: from a few inches (C. microglaziouii) to over 3' in diameter.
LEAVES: many narrow leaves tapering to a sharp point. A few species have spoon-shaped
leaves which have the appearance of being carried on a petiole (leaf stem). Several
species have very narrow, even grassy, leaves (C. maritimus). Leaf edges are usually
undulated and armed with fme teeth. Leaf undersides covered with scales (trichomes).
Leaf Color: green, pink, red, maroon, chestnut, near black. Leaf markings: longitudinal
stripes, transverse banding. Leaves of some species are succulent.
INFLORESCENCE: nestled low in the center of the plant. In a few species (C.
pseudoscaposus) the inflorescence rises some 6" above the rosette.
FLOWERS: three sharply pointed narrow petals, white. Neither showy nor fragrant.
FRUITS: seeds are borne in berries.
PUPS: grow from the leaf axil and break away readily from the mother plant. A few species
bear pups on stolons (runners). C. sinuosus 'Cascade' produces numerous
24-30"stolons, covered with bracts (modified leaves).
Names: aside ftom tribute to persons, the specific names given to cryptanthus most often
describe qualities of the leaves:
bivittatus -having two stripes
latifolius -wide leaved
marginatus -having margins
zonatus -having zones, i.e. bands
Leaf color: aurantiacus -orange, carnosus -pink (i.e. meat-colored),
fuscus- dark, dusky, viridis -green.
Growth habit: acaulis -stemless, bromelioides -like a bromelia, scaposus -having
ascape, sinuosus -sinuous, winding
Location: maritimus -at the sea coast