Flowers have an expression

Bromileads (we think) on display just inside the door to the Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in DC, March 2013

Bromileads (we think) bloom just inside the Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution,
Washington DC March 2013

“Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals.  Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright…” Henry Ward Beecher

On a recent visit to the Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, I was delighted to see the beautiful flowers pictured above, growing just inside the front window. Unlike most flowers at the Smithsonian, these did not have any labels that named or described them. I asked around, and staff were not certain either, but the general consensus was that they were some form of bromilead.

When I came home I did a bit of research and found out some fascinating facts about this particular family of flowers. They are incredibly diverse in appearance, ranging from the pineapple (surprised? I was) to Spanish moss (which is neither Spanish, nor moss) to brilliant varieties similar to the one pictured above. I thought of Beecher’s quote when I saw these flowers, which certainly have an expression unlike most others. How would you describe them? Words that come to mind for me are cheerful, serene, elegant, and vivacious. I hope they will brighten your day as they did mine!

This post was originally published seven years ago today. By the time I returned to the Sackler for a subsequent visit, the bromileads had been replaced with a different display, and I missed them. I’m glad I had my camera and got the photograph when I did.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    Those are some sassy bromileads! And they’re having so much fun together laughing that they’re making me smile, too!

    • They were so beautiful. The photo doesn’t begin to capture it, but the sight of them made it worth the trip into town, even if I had not been able to see many other things that day, which of course I did.

  2. mike c

    And as you probably know some of the so called flowers of these beauties are actually leaves- called “brachts., ” not unlike Poinsettias- not a flower but a leaf. I saw some of these growing in the wild while on a trip to Costa Rica. Seemed like they were up in the trees- nestled close to the main trunk at a branch point. And of course the pineapples also. And here in Georgia my tiny basil seeds have sprouted. They look like poppy seeds. I have never been able to grow basil in cool- damp- Seattle.

    • Yes, that’s fascinating about the flowers that are actually leaves. I’ve been able to get poinsettias to stay alive for years, but never can master the light cycles required to get “blooms” on them. Your basil sounds wonderful. I need to learn to grow fresh herbs. I tried to grow basil once but failed dismally.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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