Werner Siebje Mancinelli
The bromeliads are plants of the Bromeliaceae botanical family, with 3.086 species. These plants are found in the Americas, while Pitcairnia feliciana is the unique species of the group found in west Africa. The bromeliads are spread from Argentina and Chile to the northern state of Virginia in the United States and they are very common in Brazil.
They are also known as "monjola" (in portuguesc), "gravatá" or "caraguatá" (in tupi-guarani). The name bromeliad comes from a tribute to the Swedish botanist and medical doctor Olaf Ole Bromel (1639 to 1705).
These plants may occur as epiphytes (supported on trees but not as parasite), as saxicola (rock dweller) or as terrestrial, as Bromelia antiacantha.
Its leaves are distributed in the form of rosettes (spiral) and many of them can form tanks to accumulate water and debris, moreover, they are coated with trichomes that help in absorbing water. In the rainforests their communities form suspended lakes.
Several animals use bromeliads as aid in its survival, such as monkeys, who drink the water accumulated in epiphytic bromeliads and can also feed their leaves. Several insects use them as housing and source of survival; in addition, many birds eat the flowers' fruits and nectar.
They occur in rainforests at altitudes that go to 4,200 m, and they arc found even in deserts. The largest existing bromeliads occur in the Andes, like the Puya raimondii, which reach 3-4 m and 10-15 m when flowering. The epiphyte Tillandsia usneoides ("barba-de-velho") is probably one of the smaller species, which also shows no roots.