Q: Can you please tell me what plants I have growing wild on my property on Amelia Island? I have searched and searched on the web but can’t find anything like them. They appear to be some type of succulent, possibly in the Aloe family.
A: The photos you sent me were beautiful. I suspected they were some type of Bromeliad but I wasn’t sure so I asked a couple of the UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension Master Gardener volunteers who specialize in bromeliads to help. One of the Master Gardener Volunteers, who has a horticulture degree and used to work for a local nursery, identified them as Bromelia pinguin. Bromelia pinquin is native to Mexico, most of South American and even the Caribbean. About one year after the fruit withers, the plant dies. It reproduces vegetatively and by seeds, which is one of the reasons it has spread so quickly in your landscape. According to John K. Francis, Research Forester from USDA, the fruit is strongly acidic, tastes somewhat like pineapple and is used to make a refreshing drink. It can become a nuisance in wildlife areas and removal may be required if it becomes overgrown and escapes formal landscapes. Their relative, Bromelia balansae, are non-natives and have a tendency to “misbehave” by escaping to wildlife areas. I realize you did not plant these bromeliads but it is a good lesson for all of us to be careful before putting plants in our landscape especially those coming from exotic areas.