Just outside the Tropical Fruit Pavilion, a jackfruit tree has a goodly number of enormous fruit still attached to its trunk. It's worth seeking out just to marvel at the size of the fruit.
In his book Exploring for Plants, David Fairchild tells of finding jackfruit the "universal" fruit of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) markets in the mid-1920s. In the past, he said, he had found it rather strong.
When his host in Ceylon, Andreas Nell, boasted of the superior qualities of a "honey jack,'' Fairchild wrote, "I had never heard that there were distinct varieties of the jackfruit, although of course such a thing was reasonable, so I naturally wanted very much to taste one."
It had to be halved with a machete and then cut into segments. He pronounced that the fruit had "an extremely rich sweet flavor."
"We saved all the seeds from this fruit and sent them to the Panama Canal Zone and Honduras and Cuba and even to South Florida, where there was already one jackfruit tree that had borne fruit."
The gardens that received them were part of the network of gardens that received new plants and seeds from Fairchild's office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introductions.
Today, Noris Ledesma, curator of tropical fruit, says superior cultivars have been developed, including one called Sweet Fairchild. Ledesma and senior curator Richard Campbell, in their book, The Exotic Jackfruit: Growing the World's Largest Fruit, recommend growing grafted trees that will produce fruit within 3 to 5 years, and maintaining them by pruning to a height of 6 to 8 feet. There are more than 30 cultivars growing at the Fairchild Farm.
Sweet Fairchild, by the way, is described as having a mild, sweet flavor.
This weekend the Garden House is bursting with color and weirdly shaped leaves as the show and sale of the International Aroid Society has become a treasure chest of new plants.
|Pride of Sumatra.|
Aglaonemas and caladiums are filling the house with beautiful reds, pinks, sunset oranges, and hot pinks. The colors are coming from Thailand, where plant breeders have been ramping up the visuals for some time.
Aglaonema Pride of Sumatra is a beautiful example of this. Another is the long, skinny leaves in deep red and
|Caladium Devil's Tongue.|
green is displayed on a Caladium sport that Bill Rotolante calls 'Devil's Tongue.' Colocasia Mojito is a spotted limey-green.
Best of show went to a beautifully grown old favorite belonging to Steve and Marie Nock, Dieffenbachia 'Camouflage.'While most unusual was awarded to Philodendron 'Tequila,' a cross of Philodendron goeldii and Philodendron bipinnatifidum with fascinating leaves shaped something like stars.
|Most unusual awarded to Philodendron 'Tequila.'|
Our light is changing ever so slowly, and walking around Fairchild this morning, I noticed the abundance of fruit that also marks a seasonal change. Bitterbush female trees are loaded with beautiful red berries. Bitterbush is a lovely small tree of the Miami-Dade County hammocks that grows in the West Indies and northern South America as well. The compound leaves are pointed and pretty. Bitterbush trees are usually dioecious, with male and female flowers occurring on different trees.
Bromeliads, heliconias and cycads are laden with fruit, as are the
figs. Iris domestica, the blackberry lily, and rain lilies have seed pods on them, while two closely related trees, the carambola and the bilimbi, are fruiting and flowering at the same time. The carambola is Averrhoa carambola or star fruit, and fall is the peak of fruit production. The bilimbi, Averrhoa bilimbi, which flowers and fruits on its trunks and branches as does the carambola, is sometimes called the cucumber tree. Its many green fruit are said to be too acid to eat, but are suitable for pickles instead.
Flowers have not gone away, however. The
|Cassia roxburghii, the red cassia.|
fall means Cassia roxburghii, the red cassia, is displaying pinkish-red flowers on the tops of its graceful, long compound leaves. This lovely tree ought to be seen more often in South Florida.
By the Visitors Center, the specimens of the flame of Jamaica, Euphorbia punicea, are ablaze with brilliant red bracts and small flowers.
On the vine pergola, the wooly morning glory, Argyreia nervosa, has some interesting flowers now. The big heart-shaped leaves that supposedly look like elephant ears give this vigorous vine one of its common names, elephant climber. The leaves and flower stalks are covered with a whitish down, and the flowers are light purple with darker centers. Each trumpet-shaped flower has a white calyx that looks, from a distance, like another flower.
|Monk Skipper sipping
nectar on yellow alder.
Butterflies are all over the garden, and promise not to disappoint enthusiasts who come for Butterfly Days, Sept. 25 and 26. It’s an event cosponsored by the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association.
The yellow alder, Turnera ulmifolia, on the edge of the rainforest, has buttery yellow flowers that attract skippers. A Monk Skipper was helping itself to the nectar this morning. Milkweed continues to produce its brilliant yellow and red flowers that are so attractive to Monarch and Queen butterflies. The
|Polydamas Swallowtail is laying eggs
on new growth of Aristolochia.
Aristolochia vines in the butterfly garden have no flowers, but the Polydamas Swallowtail butterflies were busy ovipositing on the tender new shoots. Firebush specimens continue to produce tons of tubular flowers, and attract many kind of butterflies. Find a shady spot to sit and watch.
|When you root a cutting outside, you never know
what's going to join in the fun.
It was not your imagination. In August, the National Weather Service recorded 21 days of light rain and 11 days of thunderstorms. We sweltered in heat that averaged 1.5 degrees above normal, but our maximum highs were 2 degrees above normal. We may be worn to a frazzle, but outside, the plants are growing like gangbusters. Even the new croton leaves are gigantic as a result.
Rainbows of mokaras are sparkling throughout
my garden, pleased as punch with the rain and heat. (This manmade genus of orchid blends Vanda, Ascocentrum and Arachnis genera and the combination grows beautifully with minimal care.)
Perhaps fewer plants could be happier with the rain, heat and humidity than the aroids. Anthurium watermaliense, Anthurium x Marie, Anthurium faustomirandae and
Anthurium schottii are assuming significant tropical stature. The Anthurium faustomiorandae is an adolescent, with the newest leaf measuring 36 inches in length. It may have leaves that reach 6 feet – if hurricanes and cold don’t interfere. Beneath a bird’s-nest anthurium, a dwarf ginger called Globba winitii has added several new stalks of leaves and
flower spikes – it is a volunteer, and in years past, one new stem has been its maximum output. Even the Alocasia macrorrhizos 'Borneo Giant,' which was leveled in the cold, is growing with such vigor it’s scary. The upcoming show and sale put on by the International Aroid Society on Sept. 18 and 19 should have some remarkable plants on display.
Which brings me to the rainy days of September. Aside from weeding during every spare moment, continued snail patrol is the order of the day – or night, if you prefer to stalk them with a flashlight as they work. Snails love rainy weather even more than aroids, and they seem to find new leaves of aroids especially appetizing.
On the to-do list: It’s time to cut back the poinsettias and bougainvilleas. Shorter days mean these, and other day-length sensitive plants, such as the Christmas cactus, soon will set buds. Start now keeping the Christmas cactus drier.
Keep the fans running in the orchid house because this is prime fungus weather. Rot on Phalaenopsis orchids calls for a dose of cinnamon. Physan 20 (1 tablespoon to a gallon of water) is a good disinfectant that you can spray on your collection to help prevent disease.
|Plan your vegetable garden
and prepare for planting.
Think vegetables: there’s still time to solarize your raised bed by covering with clear 6 mil plastic in order to kill any weed seeds. Leave the plastic in place for 4 to 6 weeks. Then add compost and give the microorganisms a week or so to kick in before planting. I like to plant vegetables in October when it’s a little cooler, but you may want to start now.
September a good time to correct nutrient deficiencies so plants are at their best when winter arrives. What do deficiencies look like? What you most often will see are the following signs:
Nitrogen: pale yellow leaves, often yellowing from the edges inward.
Potassium: drying edges of leaves and leaf tips; orange checkered appearance on older palm fronds.
Magnesium: old leaves show mottled yellow between veins.
Iron: yellowing between veins of new leaves. Eventually, even the veins can turn yellow.
Manganese: new leaves show yellow blotches, mottling and yellowing. On palms, look for brown, frizzled new fronds, eventually shrinking in size.
Micronutrient foliar sprays will help you correct problems before cold weather really complicates the picture.
|The lotus seed pod 34 days after the flower opened.|