What's in Bloom?

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Amorphophallus konjac

Location in Conservatory: CHOMP Gallery

Native to: Tropical and subtropical Eastern Asia

 

While the so-called devil's tongue or voodoo lily is not super-sized like its famed relative, the gigantic Amorphophallus titanum, it is impressive. This A. konjac is now unfurling and beginning to give off the signature stench of dead rats that plants in this family are known for. The stench, while off putting to humans, is a seductive lure for the beetles and flies that pollinate this plant in its native habitat -- tropical and sub-tropical Eastern Asia. These plants are not carnivorous.

 

The smelly, raw-liver colored "beauty" has been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years. Its starchy corms are processed into both a flour and jelly. In Japanese cuisine, a gelatinous cake called konnyaku is used in dishes such as oden and is also cut into noodle-like strips. In China and other parts of Asia, it is often processed into a fruit jelly snack, but these candies prompted recalls and food warnings here in the United States after several highly publicized choking incidents among children. A. konjac is often used as a diet food, as it has no calories and is high in fiber. The Japanese have called it "a broom for the intestine." Lipozene is made from A. konjac. A. konjac is also used widely in cosmetic products.

Vireya Rhododendron

Location in Conservatory: Highlands Gallery

Native to: S.E. Asia. Although these are tropical regions, vireyas mostly grow in the cool mountainous areas, either as epiphytes high in the tall trees of the cloud forest, or in open ground in shrubberies.

 

There are over 300 Vireya species, approximately one third of all Rhododendrons. Other plants in the Ericaceae family are azaleas, blueberries, and cranberries.

 

Many Rhododendrons make poisonous nectar. This poison helps to keep herbivores away, but is harmful to humans who consume honey made with the nectar.

Costus curvibracteatus

Location in Conservatory: Lowlands Gallery, to the left of the fish pond as you enter from the vestibule

Common name: orange tulip ginger, spiral ginger

Native to: Central America

 

This plant produces bright orange flowers surrounded by red bracts. The wide leaves attach to the stem in a spiral fashion. The arrangement of the leaves makes it a good ground cover and under the right conditions, it will bloom year round.

Miltonia/Miltoniopsis Orchid

Common name: Pansy Orchid

Location: Highlands Gallery

Native to: Peruvian Andes.

 

This cheery orchid flower looks like a cross between a pansy and a butterfly. Native to the cloud forest, this orchid demands high humidity and cooler temperatures. An interesting adaptation of these epiphytes is that a number of species display markings on their lips which glow under ultra-violet light visible to bees, a likely pollinator.

 

The Miltoniopsis orchid was once considered a Miltonia. A separate genus was then formed, but the two are so often hybridized that all but the most serious orchid growers call Miltonia orchids Miltoniopsis.

Bulbophyllum makoyanum

Common name: daisy orchid

Location: Aquatics Gallery, hanging over the lower pond

 

Containing over 1,000 species, Bulbophyllum is one of the most diverse and truly odd orchid genera. Most are pollinated by flies attracted by the floral parts moving in the breeze or the fragrances of sap, blood, dung, or rotting meat. B. makoyanum is called the daisy orchid because a dozen inch-long yellow flowers grow in a whorl and give the appearance of a single flower. 

Medinilla magnifica

Common name: pink lantern

Location in Conservatory: Aquatics Gallery, under the Amazon water lily sculpture

Native to: Phillipines

 

In every stage of its blooming cycle, this Medinilla magnifica is true to its name. The magnificent flower clusters, called “panicles”, begin as a dewdrop-shaped pendant. Protecting the pendant are pink “bracts”, which look like petals but are actually modified leaves. As they unfold, the bracts curl upwards and reveal clusters of tiny pink and purple flowers. The flowers leave behind berry-like pods which remain on the plant for weeks.

Zamia roezlii

Location in Conservatory: Potted Plants next to stone table

Native to: Columbia

 

Cycads are a unique, ancient family unrelated to any other group of living plants. Cycads flourished in the Mesozoic Era some 250 million years ago. Zamia roezlii is one of the most primitive cycads, and also one of the largest and most majestic. At a distance, this cycad is easily mistaken for a palm, which it resembles in both size and habitat. Z. roezlii grows in swamps along the Columbian coastline. Locals use the seeds contained in the cones as food and consider it a delicacy.

 

Specialized woody growths on the cones, called sporophylls, either produce pollen on a male plant or large ovules on a female plant, which if fertilized develop into colorful seeds. A cycad plant is either male or female and the cones of each sex are usually quite different. The color and erect position of the cones on this plant indicates that it is probably a male. 

Pineapple

Location in Conservatory: Aquatics Gallery

 

The pineapple plant is in the Bromeliad family. The fruit is actually made up of hundreds of berries that have fused together.

 

On his second voyage to the Caribbean in 1493, Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to taste the sweet fruit. Because it resembled a pinecone, Columbus dubbed it “The Pine of the Indies.” It was then introduced to Spain when Columbus brought it back, as a gift, for queen Isabella.

 

In the Victorian Era, the pineapple became an icon of hospitality after seafaring captains placed fresh pineapple on their gateposts to signify the man of the house was at home and receiving guests. They were also a sign of wealth because they were expensive and difficult to procure. Some people who couldn’t afford to purchase them, rented pineapples to display in their homes. 

Nepenthes lowii

Location in Conservatory: Highlands Gallery hanging on south wall near the orchid case

Native to: Borneo

 

This unique species of carnivorous pitcher plant lives in tropical areas where there is a small population of ants. Ants make up a large portion of food in the Nepenthacae family’s diet. The N. lowii has adapted to this lack of prey by finding other ways to gain nutrients. Shrews and birds sit on the pitcher and eat the white, protein-rich substance secreted by bristles on the lid. As they eat, the animals defecate in the pitchers, providing the necessary nitrogen for the N.lowii to grow. Thus, this relationship is beneficial for both species.

Eugenia uniflora

Common name: Surinam cherry

Location in Conservatory: Lowlands Gallery, south wall

Native to: tropical South America's east coast ranging from Suriname to southern Brazil

 

The fruit of the Surinam cherry is used as a flavoring and base for jams and jellies. The taste ranges from sweet to sour, depending on the cultivar and level of ripeness. The tree was introduced to Florida for ornamental purposes but is now out of control and listed as an invasive species.

 

The plant is relatively pest resistant. The leaves are spread on house floors in Brazil, so that when crushed underfoot they exude a spicy, resinous fragrance, which repels flies.