Eliciting ohhs at the north end of the vine pergola is the magnificent specimen of Clerodendrum splendens. This vining clerodendron (the common name ends in ‘on’) is from Africa, and for a clerodendron behaves itself rather seemly. With large leaves and clusters of small flowers reaching some five or six inches across, the vine will twine around a support and dangle branches quite beautifully. The wow-power of
|Seen closer, the red of this
Clerodendrum is brilliant.
this is equaled by is growing ease in full sun with moderate amounts of water. Sulphur butterflies are drawn to the flowers, making a lovely site now in the garden. It can be cut back to keep it attractive once it completes flowering, usually at beginning of summer.
Sky vine, Thunbergia grandiflora, is full of its blue-violet funnel-shaped flowers, and the shower of orchids, in the middle of the pergola, is bursting with light pink flowers that are so numerous they seem to envelope the structure in a cloud.
Nearby, a somewhat more modest plant is adding to the pergola’s color: Stigmaphyllon sagraeanum. Its butter-yellow flowers have clawed petals, that is they are narrow at the base and frilled at the rounded ends. This is a characteristic of the Malpighiaceae family, which includes our native shrub of the pine rockland Byrsonima lucida or locust berry. It is
thought that Oncidium orchids imitate the shape of malpighias to attract oil-collecting bees for pollination. Malpighias have oil glands at the base of the sepals, and even though the orchids do not, the flower shape entices bees to venture in to have a look.
The palm Copernicia macroglossa bears round fronds that encircle the trunk with petioles so short they seem not to exist. There is no crown shaft, just a glorious head of leaves that gradually die and fall, but stay attached to the trunk. This skirt of old leaves is the
|My petticoat palm, age 11.|
source of its common name, petticoat palm or Cuban petticoat palm. Perhaps because it carries its fronds, both dead and alive, for such a long time, it is extraordinarily slow growing. Perhaps not. Several of the garden’s Copernicia macroglossa specimens are seen with the related Bailey palm (Copernicia baileyana) and some others in the genus at the south end of the Montgomery Palmetum. More specimens are down in the lowlands on the east side of Center Lake. One of them offers a tantalizing insider’s view of what’s beneath that petticoat. Here is a photo, in case you’ve ever wondered what it looks like from below. My own petticoat, now about 11 years old, has just
|What lies beneath.|
produced its first flower stalks, which are tentatively emerging between upper fronds. It’s extremely well adapted to our alkaline soils. And, outside of a well-intentioned landscaper who once decided to trim up the dead fronds, it seems to have no enemies.