Selective Vriesea die-back

paul_t23(Coastal Sydney)January 28, 2009

Hi everyone, finally got my act into gear to join you. Thanks for all the great reading and pics over the last 6 months since I found you!

I hope you can help me. I have had this problem with just two plants so far but they are (were) ones I was really happy with, and it seems to be staying around, so I want to do something about it if I can. It seems to follow a very consistent pattern - hopefully these pictures will explain.

Vr. Snows of Mauna Kea with leaves dying back, shown here up to 4th leaf dying, affects only leaves half-way up plant - leaves above & below all OK

Same plant 1 month later - leaves previously going brown now drying out, and a couple more leaves just starting to go off:

Top half of plant still healthy and growing very well:

Close-up of normal healthy leaf tip for reference:

Close-up of leaf tip just starting to die back - pretty much the same pattern each time - tip goes yellow, then yellow starts to move down leaf followed by brown, taking 2-3 weeks to go from tip to near base:

Always seems to stop a bit above the base of the leaf, at around the time that another leaf or two start:

A Vr. ospinae ospinae did the same thing 6 months ago - but only on one of the two heads coming off the same stem, then whatever it was stopped and it grew past it. Now it is doing it again. The first time I though it was sun-burn, but now I can be certain it isn't:

The Vr. o. ospinae and Snows of Mauna Kea are in different places. I've pulled both of them out of their pots and their roots and potting mix (medium good pine bark) look and smell fine. The plants smell fine. Other Vriesea's next to them are fine. Other Vr. ospinae ospinae & gruberi's nearby are fine. They all seem to be getting the same treatment with fertiliser and watering.

I'd be really grateful if anyone knows what this could be. The only thing I can think of is that the plant is trying to get rid of some sort of toxic substance by storing it away in a leaf then killing the leaf off. Problem is, why aren't other plants affected? It has me beat. Love to hear from you.

All the best and cheers, Paul

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I have had this happen to me recently on 2 Vriesea. Mine was from foriegn material that IKE pushed into them. thye have straightened up since I cleaned then and treated them with a mild dose of fungicide but still doesnt make me happy about the lost leaves.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 3:44PM
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I've had the same problems on 2 Vrieseas both of which I cleaned out, repotted and put in some sun and they seem to be doing better. One is a 'Snows of Mauna Kea' cross.

I read a bromeliad society newsletter once that listed some treatments that local nurseries used and one seemed to be for just this problem, but I can find that article now.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:02PM
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Exserohilum Leaf spot maybe?

Here is a link that might be useful: Exserohilum

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:14PM
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Hi Paul t23,
Wecome to our friendly group.

I can't help you with your problem but I'm pleased to see you don't live too far away from me. Where on the Sydney coast do you live?

I live about 2o minutes south of Wollongong at Shellharbour and on the coast also so we probably have similar climatic conditions.

Good to see someone closer to home joining the forum.

All the best, Nev.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 7:32PM
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paul_t23(Coastal Sydney)

Hi everyone - thanks for the feedback. I've had both plants for quite a while (SoMK for a year without problems, V. ospinae for 6 yrs or more), so whatever it is, I guess it has probably started here.

Bromadams - thanks for the fungus link. I couldn't see anything that looked obviously fungal to the naked eye, but you jogged me into putting some under a microscope. Would expect to see something fungal at 40x but couldn't see anything at any stage in the die-back - leaf was remarkably clean! Worth a try though! Haven't had any luck with mild fungicides either.

Nev, thanks for making contact. I'm at Maianbar, complete with the local population of deer from the national park. Next major project is to put in a front fence so I can re-bromscape the front yard without their help.

Cheers, Paul

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 3:26AM
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I've been having all sorts of tip browning on my big Vrieseas ever since I moved them into the new shadehouse. I still haven't figured it out, but among my many theories is a) some unknown chemical leaching and dripping from the shadecloth or pipe structure, or splashing up from the new benches, b) an off-brand fertilizer used in the mix when I repotted some of them, c) a plague of ants migrating into the soil and bringing root mealybugs, d) lack of air circulation from being jammed so close together, e) slightly higher light levels than where they were previously (at least during summer, when the tip burn seemed to get worse), f) vog (volcanic haze) drifting over from the Big Island and causing acid rain, g) bad karma, h) all of the above, i) none of the above.......

Most of what I'm seeing has been more even, though. That selective yellowing of just a few leaves as in the ospinae picture, particularly when it's higher up in the plant, is something a bit different. I have been seeing some of that too, most notably on Vr. Mint Julep and Werauhia kupperiana, and not just in the new house. No sign of any disease organism either. I haven't got a clue, but I just wanted to let you know you weren't alone!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 3:08PM
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Hi Paul,
The light bulb just flashed in my brain when I read Lisa's reply. I had a similar thing happened when I first renovated my old shade house and it was caused by the copper leaching from overhead unpainted CCA treated pine roofing timber.

Are the affected plants directly under something that could "drip" some toxic substance on them? I've even had a similar thing where the plant leaves were touching some new galvanised mesh. It's all food for thought.

All the best, Nev.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 3:28PM
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I am relieved that it's not my lack of knowledge of care. I also have the same problem on some vrieseas from Hawaii that I pampered (maybe this is the problem) and yet some vrieseas that I hardly do anything that grow well.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 6:41PM
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I found out threw some reading that dry is better than wet with Vriesea . The don't uptake alot of water threw the roots...Their roots are just like Tillandsia. They do like cool moist air on the leaves combined with good air flow to dry the leaves out quickly

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 7:28PM
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You are probably right Hdd.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 7:38PM
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    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 10:56PM
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I don't think its a bug/pathegen or all the plants would be affected right around the plant thats having problems

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 9:54AM
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As Mr. Kerry says, get it tested.

"My advice is if you encounter something unknown to you it is well worth the nominal fee to take a sample to your local research station for analysis."

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 5:59PM
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paul_t23(Coastal Sydney)

Hi everyone, been away for a few days and just catching up - sorry to resurrect an ageing thread.

Lisa - sorry to hear about your leaf-tip dieback. Hopefully it will go away like I'm hoping mine will. Thanks to everyone else for your comments as well - very much appreciated.

Nev, I had read the article you wrote in the Illawarra brom soc newsletter some time back - the one describing the problem you had from the CCA-treated pine. You may have hit the nail on the head - there was in fact a couple of bits of CCA pine overhead. No sign of any drips onto the plants (polycarb roof), but just in case, I pulled the roof off and painted all the timbers over Christmas.

Probably too early to tell if there has been any change yet, but I'll keep my fingers crossed! If it continues, I'll probably take up bromadams' suggestion and get some samples tested, although I'm inclined to HDD's thoughts on this.

Cheers, and thanks again. Paul

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 3:36PM
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exotica(New Zealand)

Although it probably is from treated wood, just keep in mind water quality also. Vriesea, Guzmania and Tillandsia are all very susceptible to water with high calcium, chloride, iron levels or other impurities. If you're using bore water, or heavily treated town supply or rain water stored in a new concrete tank, this can cause exactly these symptoms.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:23PM
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