Flowers worth finding

Friday, April 22, 2011

Four plants are blooming now at the Garden that you should come and see.

Napoleon's hat.

One was noticed by Jason Lopez in the horticulture department, who planted it five years ago. This is Napoleonaea imperialis, or Napoleon’s hat, and Jason sent an email to the staff saying it’s worth a trip to plot 45 to find it. In his email Jason wrote, “This plant comes from west Africa and is found in the rainforest under story, where the twigs are used as chew-sticks, the fruits sugary pulp is used for desserts and the roots are used medicinally.”

Scott Zona has one of these West African plants in the Wertheim Conservatory at FIU and posted a couple of lovely pictures of it in the past. The corolla is reflexed, Zona pointed out, and the whorls are stamens. A flat stigma is found in the center. The flowers are cauliflorous, growing directly on the branches, so you may not see them initially when you find the plant.

There is another flowering tree you should seek out in the Conservatory.

Pride of Burma.

Amherstia nobilis, or Pride of Burma, has but a single pendant cluster of pink flowers, but the flowers are so wonderfully elegant that some people consider Amherstia the most beautiful flowering tree in the world. Two of its petals are tipped in yellow and an upright, larger standard petal is colored with band of yellow as well as discreet touch of magenta and some bars of darker pink.  Ernesto’s Good Earth was the first nursery to introduce the tree to South Florida commercially several years ago, and it was so delicate and cold tender that the tree had its own tent to protect it over winter.

Brownea sp.

Another wonderful flowering tree is in the genus Brownea. Labeled simply Brownea sp. (species), the specimen is next to the offices of the horticulture staff. Softball sized clusters of scarlet flowers throw out many golden-tipped stamens. It’s quite a special show.

Is this jacaranda prettier than
the Pride of Burma?

But even the Jacaranda cuspidifolia near the Bailey Palm Glade seems more beautiful than usual this year, showing off deep blue flowers that are abundant all around the canopy.

So take a look at these wonderful plants and decide if any of these is indeed the most beautiful in the world. Or offer your own nominee.