Spain and Latin America

Between 1783 and 1816 a very large expedition led by José Celestino Mutis has been undertaken in what is now Colombia and areas of adjacent countries. It was known as the Real Expedición Botánica del Nuevo Reino de Granada. The graphical result of this expedition was produced by many illustrators and amounts to thousands of predominantly colored plates on folio format which have been preserved in the archives of the botanical garden in Madrid. There are about 10 bromeliads among them, belonging to the genera Puya, Pitcairnia, Racinaea and Tillandsia. They can be viewed on the website of the Real Jardín Botánico at

Between 1787 and 1803 an expedition has been executed by Martin de Sessé and José Mociño in New Spain, a territory covering present day Mexico and Central America. About 1800 botanical subjects were illustrated and also 89 zoological ones. This so-called Torner collection is now part the botanical art collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh. Some 10 bromeliads are included from the genera Aechmea, Catopsis, Hechtia, Pitcairnia and Tillandsia. For more information see their website at The author of this website has also published an article on this subject in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society vol.69(2) 2019 (see PDF).

Hipólito Ruiz and José Pavon were the authors of Flora Peruviana et Chilensis, in 3 volumes published in Madrid between 1798-1802. Their expedition took place from 1777-1788 in Peru and Chile. In volume 3 we find 17 black and white drawings of bromeliads, some of new species. A grand total of 325 engravings were made for this flora. Many illustrations were used by Lyman Smith in the monograph on Bromeliaceae for Flora Neotropica.
See below some iconographical results from the Spanish expeditions mentioned above, with the current names of the species. First from left to right those from Mutis (Greigia stenolepis) and from Ruiz and Pavon (Racinaea parviflora).

Below some watercolor drawings resulting from the Sessé and Mociño expedition (Hechtia podantha and Tillandsia ionantha), in fact copies made in 1817 for Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle and now deposited at the Botanical Garden of Geneva. The row of small pictures below it represent the original drawings from the Hunt Institute, they date from 1787-1799 and were painted by various artists.

One of the members of the expedition by Ruiz and Pavon stayed in Peru and Ecuador a little longer and continued to explore from 1799-1808. This was called "La expedición de Juan Tafalla a la Real Audiencia de Quito"; plant descriptions and illustrations resulting from this expedition were not published till 1989 in Madrid, the Flora Huayaquilensis in 2 volumes, the vol.2 with 216 plates. Among the 7 bromeliads are Tillandsia narthecioides and a Pitcairnia sceptrigera (depicted below). The drawings with some parts of the plant in color are by Xavier Cortés from Quito. Plants in the flora of Juan José Tafalla Navascues were mainly collected in the province of Guayaquil in Ecuador.

The illustrations from the publications treated untill now originate from the 19th century. Genera et Species Plantarum Argentinarum is from a much later date, namely from 1943-1956. It was commisioned by president Juan Peron. In 5 volumes (7 tomes) edited for the first 3 volumes by H. R. Descole of the Instituto Miguel Lillo and published in Buenos Aires, the plantspecies from Argentina are described and illustrated on folio format, 810 plates of which 156 in color. In volume 3 of the year 1945 the Bromeliaceae and some other families of plants are treated by Alberto Castellanos. The bromeliads are presented on 99 plates, 57 of them in color. Here is a selection of them. Bromelia serra (Figure 78) is a thorny stoloniferous species with leaves over 1.50 meter from the arid zones of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. It was described by Grisebach in 1879. From the same countries comes Tillandsia duratii var. saxatilis (Figure 79). Originaly it was called Tillandsia decomposita in Baker's Handbook of the Bromeliaceae. This is an epiphyte growing in dry woods, although the name of the variety suggests it is dwelling on rocks. The spikes of this plant are growing curved-spreading, as opposed to the erect form in the var. duratii. Tillandsia australis (Figure 80) is a huge plant clinging to steep rocks in Argentina and Bolivia, where it has to endure periods of both dry and rainy weather. With its pending darkred colored inflorescence it measures about 2 meter. This species has long been known as Tillandsia maxima, but this name proved to be invalid as it was already in use for an obscure bromeliad from Central America. Also from Argentina and Bolivia is Puya dyckioides (Figure 81), a 40-70 cm high species growing on rock and sandy soil at higher altitudes.

A very ambitious lithographical work from Brazil was Florae Fluminensis icones by José Mariano da Conceição Vellozo (or Velloso), a friar in the Franciscan order. Vellozo collected and studied plants for 25 years; in 1790 he went to Lisbon in Portugal to publish his flora. Initially 554 engravings were made in Venice (Italy) but due to political turmoil Vellozo had to go back to Brazil, taking along the drawings. After his death in 1811, they were found by friar Antonio de de Arrábida. The Brazilian emperor Pedro I commissioned the work to be published. The drawings, all of Brazilian plants, were send to Paris and printed by E. Knecht of the firm founded by A. Senefelder (the inventor of the lithographic technique). The 3000 printed copies of a final total of 1640 plates, dated 1827, were shipped to Rio de Janeiro, but only a small number were distributed there in 1831, the bulk went to a paper factory. Bound in 11 volumes of large format (52x35 cm.), volume 3 contained 23 plates of Bromeliaceae. The monochrome illustrations are not detailed but give an idea of the morphology of the plants, though the species on some of them can not be determined. The incomplete text of Florae Fluminensis was printed in 1825 and distributed in 1829 in Brazil; a complete text was published in 1881.

From the same country but more than a century later a number of drawings of bromeliads were published by American taxonomist Lyman Smith in Arquivos de Botânica do Estado de São Paulo. In the volumes 1 and 2 dated from 1941 to 1952, Smith published several articles titled Bromeliaceas novas ou interessantes do Brasil, with the descriptions of many new species. The drawings were in black and white, only a few were in color, like that of Aechmea distichantha (Figure 82). This species of about 30-100 cm grows in different types of habitat as an epiphyte and also terrestrial in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Finally, from the United States of America comes the journal Addisonia, containing colored illustrations and popular descriptions of plants. It was published by the New York Botanical Garden (vol.1-24 1916-1964) and edited mainly by J.H. Barnhart and E.J. Alexander. In total there were 800 colored illustrations, 13 of bromeliads. One of them is Cryptanthus glazioui (Figure 83). This is a native of eastern Brazil, the plant illustrated had been cultivated since 1915 in a greenhouse at the New York Botanical Garden.

Figure 78. Bromelia serra Grisebach. Drawing A.V. de la Torre, Genera et Species Plantarum Argentinarum plate 24 (1945).
Figure 79. Tillandsia duratii var. saxatilis (Hassler) L.B. Smith. Published as Tillandsia decomposita Baker. Drawing M.L. Valdez del Pino, Genera et Species Plantarum Argentinarum plate 96 (1945).
Figure 80. Tillandsia australis Mez. Published as Tillandsia maxima Lillo & Hauman.Drawing A.E. Avila, Genera et Species Plantarum Argentinarum plate 74 (1945).
Figure 81. Puya dyckioides (Baker) Mez. Drawing E. Chimale, Genera et Species Plantarum Argentinarum plate 53 (1945).
Figure 82. Aechmea distichantha Lemaire. Arquivos de Botânica do Estado de São Paulo vol.1 plate 101(1943).
Figure 83. Cryptanthus glazioui Mez. Published as Cryptanthus glaziovii Mez. Addisonia vol.20 plate 645 (1937-1938).