Scott Arboretum’s Volcano Mist blooms every 10 years; now in full beauty at garden entrance

Tucked seamlessly into the Scott Entrance Garden is a blooming Alcantarea imperialis ‘Volcano Mist’. This endangered plant blooms once in ten years and then dies. Drop by the Scott Arboretum this month to experience this rare occurrence.

Beautiful color and detail of the Alcantarea imperialis ‘Volcano Mist’ blooming at the Scott Arboretum. Photo by R. Armstrong

These massive beauties can approach 8 feet in diameter and have up to a 3-foot tall flower stalk.

Alcantarea imperialis is part of a large family of tropical plants called Bromeliaceae, of which approximately one-third are endangered in the wild largely due to habitat loss and overharvesting for the retail market. Fortunately, some nurseries have started producing bromeliads from seeds or pups in an effort to save the family and bring it back from endangerment.

This particular A. imperialis was bought at the 2011 Unusual Tropical and Annual Sale and was later gifted back to the Arboretum after it grew too large for the owners to care for it properly. This past winter, the cup at the center of the plant, which typically holds water, was empty. Within a few days, the beginning of a flower spike was evident. The A. imperialis was planted in the Scott Entrance Garden in the early spring and will hopefully bloom for the rest of the summer.

Unfortunately, after the A. imperialis blooms, it will slowly start to die. The Scott Arboretum has taken steps by collecting pups from the blooming plant to continue this cultivar. In ten years time, there quite possibly will be another flowering bromeliad that was collected from this one, with just as much elegance and magnificence.

The Scott Arboretum is a unique garden of ideas and suggestions encouraging horticulture in its broadest sense through displays on the 350-plus acre campus of Swarthmore College. We offer some of the region’s most intimate, authentic, and accessible horticultural experiences. The Arboretum is frequently ranked among the most beautiful campuses in the world. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, please call the Arboretum Offices at 610-328-8025 or visit

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