Catopsis berteroniana

Plant of the month: February

Also known as: Lantern in the Forest
Native to: Southern Florida to Brazil
Blooms: clusters of yellow flowers on a long stalk up-to 90cm tall
Habitat: high up in tree branches
Where it’s found at BBG: Subtropical House

Catopsis berteroniana is an epiphytic, tank bromeliad that is purported to be carnivorous. It grows high up on tree branches for support, and enjoys living in sunny areas where there is very little falling leaf litter. The leaves are covered with a white, chalky powder, which helps to reflect ultraviolet light, in effect rendering the plant invisible to insects. Insects fly into the branches, collide with the leaves and fall into the tank of rainwater collected in the vase-like leaf rosette. If the insects do try to climb back out, they slip on the chalky, white substance and back into the water where they drown. It is thought that glands on the leaves absorb nutrients from these drowned insects.