Along the coast, we’ve been in a rain shadow for weeks. The interior and western suburbs have received downpours yet we parch on. So last Sunday’s rain gave new life to some struggling tropical plants, especially the calatheas, which were practically panting last week in my garden.
|A calathea species refreshed
Monday morning in the Fairchild Conservatory, the calatheas were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with delicate flowers tentatively poking their noses out for air. Calathea is a genus in the Marantaceae, or prayer plant family. The species grow in moist tropical rainforests, which explains why mine have been struggling outside in the drought even though they are in deep shade. When they thirst, they roll up their leaves, just as bromeliads roll their leaves inward when they need water. There are many species of calatheas and far fewer marantas, which have equally beautiful leaves and branching stems.
A remarkably beautiful costus species is Costus aff. erythrophyllus, located next to the Conservatory pond, also seemed to enjoy its bath. It has dark leaves with red undersides and a cone-like inflorescence tinged with red. The “aff” means affinity, indicating that the costus in question appears to be related to the species erythrophyllus.
For weeks, I’ve been admiring the helmet flower or Costa Rican skullcap, Scutellaria costaricana. Its intense scarlet flowers are tipped in yellow. From Costa Rica and Panama, Scutellaria costaricana is sold as a houseplant in the north, but it blooms off and on throughout the year in the Conservatory.
Perhaps it will rain again soon.
|A bee at work.|
How many pollinators are you caring for? How many can you name? Flies, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, digger bees, bumble bees, beetles, bats, moths, even lemurs are pollinators. But they are disappearing.
So a few years ago, in response to the The Forgotten Pollinator Campaign, Congress set aside a week to focus on the big and little creatures that turn flowers into fruit, and put food on our table.
Allow a few wildflowers and weeds to remain in the yard for the native bees and butterflies. Allow a little soil to remain bare in the yard for ground nesting bees. Plant a butterfly garden. Foreswear pesticides.Go to www.pollinator.org and learn more.
|A newly hatched monarch.
Every year, the Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society show features exceptionally well grown specimens including ferns, begonias, aroids, orchids and bromeliads. It's a plant lovers feast, really, and a chance to see how lovely tropical plants can look when given expert care.
This year, it's hard to find an imperfect leaf. Many blue ribbons flutter among the fronds and flower spikes. Here are some really lovely examples:
|Elegant in its simplicity is this
Anthurium faustomirandae, an aroid native to Mexico, has heart-shaped leaves that may reach four feet in length. It doesn't have gaudy spots or stripes or anything out of the ordinary except its big, beautiful green leaves. It grows well in South Florida, and if in a pot can thrive in a mix that includes bark, peat moss, potting soil and perhaps some charcoal or soil conditioner. It likes to be moist.
Platycerium wandae, the largest of the staghorn ferns, is a native of New Guinea and simply breath-taking when it begins to achieve its regal size. The specimen in this show is small but quite lovely
and young. Notice the frills around the growing point, where forward fertile fronds emerge from the shield fronds. This is the characteristic that tells you it's a wandae and not a P. grande.
Calanthe triplicata is a terrestrial orchid that wanders widely from China through Oceania. Its leaves are plicate and the white flowers are held on a talk stalk with many of them crowded at the top.The show entry has multiple flower spikes.
Large-leaf maidenhair, while not officially in the show, is being sold by an exhibitor, and the lovely feature of this fern is the new red growth. It's Adiantum macrophyllum and hails form the Caribbean, Central and South America. It likes high humidity and moisture and grows well in limestone soils. Or, baby it in a pot.
The show runs Saturday and Sunday, and you should come by and see how beautiful some tropical plants can be.