The Matchstick bromeliad, native to Brazil is in Aechmea subgenus Ortgiesia.
They are epiphytes but will grow on the ground using their roots for support only.
Growing from horizontal above ground stolons they are 30 to 40 cm high.
New plants grow from suckers or offsets from the stolons forming dense clumps.
The green strap-like leaves form a tight basal rosette.
The blade is 20 to 50 cm long and 5 cm or more wide.
The tip is rounded with a sharp spine or mucro.
The edge may have spines all around or just near the tip. (Brazil herbarium specimens.)
There are pale scales on the lower surface and a few on the upper.
The single erect inflorescence, up to 75 cm high consists of a stalk or scape with a spike of flowers.
The scape initially has a few scales but these soon fall off.
The narrow elliptic to lanceolate scape bracts are erect lying along the stem.
The pink to red bracts, with a pointed tip are thin and fragile and soon fall.
The narrow cylindrical unbranched spike of flowers is up to 25 cm long.
Its midrib or rachis is visible between the spirally arranged flowers.
Flowers have no stalk and each has a floral bract below it.
The bracts get smaller the higher up the spike they are.
Flowers have a large epigynous or perianth tube.
The three 5 mm long sepals and the perianth tube are bright pink.
Each sepal has a sharp rigid dark spine up to 4 mm long at the tip.
The 3 petals, 1.5 to 2 cm long alternate with the sepals.
They are slightly spoon-shaped with a pale narrow lower section and a broader blue to purplish tip.
Near the base of the inner surface are 2 scales with a fringed upper edge.
The stamens do not extend past the corolla.
The ovary has a single style with 3 stigma lobes that are folded together lengthwise.
There are septal nectaries at the base of the ovary.
The fruit are pink berries.
There are a number of forms and varieties described as well as a few cultivars.
Aechmea gamosepala var. gamosepala has red sepals and blue to purple petals and another variety has white petals.
Other variations include variegated or reddish leaves, leaves with red edges and a plant with a 1 m high inflorescence.