Nodding Strap Airplant

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A ring of green blades surround a dangling flower blooming in the night.

This week we have another rare and endangered plant.  This time it is a bromeliad. The    Nodding Strap Airplant, Catopsis nutans. A relatively small species with dark green leaves barely six inches long and one to three inches wide at the base. Leaves taper to the tip.

Only a few leaves grow in a spiral forming a small tank that collects rain water. A nodding flower stalk grows from the center of the tank and dangles over the side with seed pods made up of bracts (modified leaves).   Nutans is a night blooming plant with l three petal bisexual yellow flowers to attract moths. Petals can be one inch in length.  As many as ten flowers can bloom in the night.  Flowering occurs in fall and winter.

Nutans is endangered by illegal hunting, the Mexican bromeliad weevil and the lack of specimens to start a growing population. Nutans is only found in the swamps of the Fakahatchee Strand. Populations are few and far between with just a few specimens in each. A recent visit to the Strand by members of the Native Plant Society found a population of just two plants (to the joy to the lead biologist).

The biologist collected one specimen for the Naples Botanical Gardens to use to collect seeds. That specimen was placed in the trunk of an oak tree where I photographed it. Note the nodding flower stalk.

 

Dorothy Rodwell