Ananas comosus ‘Variegatus’ Pineapple

Brazil is the home of the pineapple, which gave its name to the whole family. It is likewise probably the best known of all bromeliads, not necessarily as a plant for decoration, but for its edible fruit. One would be hard put to find a locality where pineapple grows wild — none such is known. All one encounters are plants that have become established in the wild as escapes. There is no doubt, however, that originally this species grew on sunny, sandy soils well supplied with humus, perhaps also on alluvial soils. Anyone who has ever seen large pineapple plantations has surely noticed both the good quality soil and the excellent irrigation system. Pineapple, unlike other bromeliads, must have a constant supply of adequate soil moisture. The beautiful reddish-pink inflorescence develops into a collective fruit. In the tropics, where great attention is paid to quality, young fruits are wrapped in newspaper. For several months the fruit ripens protected from the sun in this manner, thus acquiring a better and mellower flavour. The taste, of course, also depends on the type of pineapple, for those grown on plantations include various tried and tested cultivars.

If you would like to grow a pineapple yourself you can do so by cutting off the terminal tuft of leaves crowning the collective fruit, along with a slice of the fruit and inserting it in a mixture of peat and sand. In time this will yield a number of flowering as well as fruiting plants but (according to plantation owners) the fruits will be of poorer quality than those produced by plants grown from side-rosettes. Added to this, plants grown in Europe always have a poorer flavour.

The cultivar, given optimal conditions (that is a summer temperature of up to 30°C (86°F) and winter temperature of about 20°C (68°F), high atmospheric moisture, an adequate amount of direct sunlight and rich feeding), will develop a rosette up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter. The blood-red inflorescence as well as the leaves, which are reddish in the centre, are extremely decorative. It is generally impossible to provide ideal conditions in the home but even there one can be rewarded with handsome specimens after several years.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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