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There are more than 3,000 types of bromeliad species, found largely within tropical areas of the Americas and valued primarily as ornamental house or garden plants. The most famous member of this family is the pineapple, otherwise known as Ananas comusus, which is the only bromeliad that is in commercial demand as a food product. Bromeliads are perennial plants as well as monocotyledons, meaning that they have a single seed leaf. The various types of bromeliad species range from very large to very small. Some bromeliads are terrestrial, gathering nutrients from soil, while others are epiphytes that survive by living on another object or plant.
Bromeliads are part of the Bromeliaceae family, which is divided into the subfamilies called Bromeliodeae, Pitcairnioideae, and Tillandsioideae. Many of the bromeliad species can be maintained indoors. Good drainage and appropriate air circulation are key to bromeliads that flourish in an indoor environment. Aechmea, the most commonly known type of bromeliads, tend to do well indoors, especially when provided plenty of water. Neoregelia, which was named for Eduard von Regel of the Saint Petersburg Botanic Garden, is said to be simple to grow indoors or in an outdoor environment.
A number of bromeliad species originate from Brazil. One such species is cryptanthus, a terrestrial variety with bright foliage. The species known as vriesea, found in both Brazil and Mexico, typically flourishes indoors, and its size ranges up to 5 feet (1.5 m) in height. Also native to Brazil is the species called nidularium, which is often found on dead logs and as a ground cover, as well as dyckia, which varies in size but is similar in appearance to an aloe plant.
Tillandsia is a type of bromeliad species that gets water from scales in its leaves, rather than relying on soil for nutrients. Spanish moss is an example of tillandsia. There are approximately 500 species of tillandsia, which is found in habitats ranging from Argentina to the southern United States. Another variety of epiphytic bromeliad species is catopsis, which is found from tropical South America to Florida.
One fast-growing bromeliad species is billbergia, which is said to be easy to cultivate. Its leaves grow straight upward. Billbergia is named for a Swedish botanist, Gustave Billberg. A variety of bromeliad known as guzmania, after the naturalist Anastasio Guzman, can grow more than 2 feet (61 cm) wide and is believed to be especially attractive when several of the plants are placed together.