|Auracaria aruacana in its Chilean habitat.|
Dr. Scott Zona’s presentation, A Botanical Tour of Chile, mesmerized the Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society Monday night – not only because of the botanical knowledge imparted but also the fabulous photos (four of which he graciously allowed me to use here).
Scott, a former palm specialist at FTBG, is curator of the Wertheim Conservatory at Florida International University. He traveled to Chile with fellow botanists Dr. John Tobe of Tallahassee and Drs. John and Soejatmi Dransfield. John Dransfield is another palm expert who retired from the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.
Scott said they spent two weeks touring and botanizing in the temperate and central part of Chile, where the flora grows in mid-California-like conditions. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Andes Mountains on the other, the plants have been isolated for a long time, he said, and he added 10 to12 new families of plants to his life list.
Some of the wild relatives of houseplants showed up, such as Alstroemeria pulchra var. maxima. Alstroemerias are bulbs. You’ve seen them sold in this country as cut flowers called Peruvian lilies. Another northern
houseplant relative, Calceolaria crenatiflora, with its cute pouch-like lip, is endemic to Chile. What seemed to be a mini Mussaenda turned out to be Cruckshanksia hymenodon, with colorful wide sepals and small yellow flowers.
While lots of red and orange tubular plants seemed perfect candidates for hummingbird pollinators, Scott said he saw only one hummer on the trip.
What thrilled him? Seeing his favorite palm, Jubaea chilensis, with trunks four to five feet across and enormous crowns of pinnate fronds. The sap is used to make a kind of honey in Chile.
Another heart-stopper: the auracarias. Auracaria aruacana was “spectacular” he said, and a huge millenary Auracaria with a burned-out trunk was thought to be 2,000 years old.
Scott’s photostream on Flickr is not only full of gorgeous images but the plants are correctly named!
A perfect winter morning got the chocolate festival off to a beautiful start Friday. Chocolatiers in the Garden House had such tempting samples on display that few could resist.
|Millie with her cake.|
But the food vendors had some scrumptous offerings, too. Millie, the M of M&L Carib Conchs, made a chocolate cake that seemed to epitomize the event.
However, there also were vegan chocolates, teas and spices and kettle corn to sample.
Oncidium Sharry Baby smelled as wonderfully of chocolate as the real thing.
|Black sapote offering.|
At the fruit pavilion, the cacao tree's chocolate pods were high up but impressive, while outside you could sample the exotic flavors of canistel and black sapote.
And should you find yourself full to the brim with chocolate and in need of a short break to refresh your taste buds, wander into the Conservatory, where the Amherstia nobilis, the Pride of Burma, is flowering. It is a lovely sight, one that is not that often seen in our part of the world.
Long-John, Triplaris cumingiana,is in its glory right now on the
west side of the Bailey Palm Glade. The tree’s red (female) flowers are on long racemes, and against a brilliant blue winter sky, they are spectacular. Hailing from Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia, this flowering tree shows off every winter. The stems are hollow and inhabited by stinging ants when in their natural setting, so the tree is sometimes referred to as the ant tree. This slender, tall tree may reach 80 feet or more, and may flower later in the year in Central America, from February to about April.
When coming to see the Triplaris, wander over to the butterfly garden. It’s a good time to see Julias and skippers such as the Long-tailed, with its iridescent blue-green body, Horace’s duskywing and the Twin-Spot.
It's the perfect time of year to visit the garden and spend a leisurely hour watching butterflies.