Wonderful Crops – Grasp Gardener Program

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There are about 375,000 species of vegetation worldwide, with extra being found or described regularly. Many of those are typical herbaceous or woody issues we’re all accustomed to. However some vegetation are very completely different, whether or not for his or her weird look, rarity, measurement, or another distinctive characteristic. You may consider some, similar to baobabs, redwood bushes, voodoo lilies and lots of others. This text is a short introduction to some of probably the most attention-grabbing vegetation I’ve had the chance to see in habitat (in no specific order) that most individuals have by no means even heard of, a lot much less seen.

Puya raimondii in Huscarán Nationwide Park, Peru.

Puya raimondii, or Queen of the Andes, is the world’s largest species of bromeliad. The terrestrial vegetation themselves could be 9-10 toes tall, with a rosette of spiny, grass-like leaves. After which the big, erect inflorescence that holds greater than Three,000 flowers grows as much as 30 toes tall! This makes it one of many largest flowers clusters of any plant on earth. The person creamy-white flowers are about 2 inches extensive with shiny orange anthers. The plant flowers as soon as after 50-100 years, after which dies (monocarpic). Not like most bromeliads, it doesn’t reproduce by offsets, however solely from seed. It happens solely within the Andes at about 13,000 toes in just a few remoted areas in Peru and Bolivia. Huascarán Nationwide Park in Peru is among the most accessible of these websites. A number of small specimens exist in maybe a half a dozen botanical gardens on the earth (together with UC Berkeley’s Botanical Backyard, the place one bloomed in 2014), however one of the best likelihood to see these dramatic vegetation is within the wild.

Entrance to Huascarán National Park, Peru (L), Puya raimondii in the Park, and a younger plant (R).

Entrance to Huascarán Nationwide Park, Peru (L), Puya raimondii within the Park, and a youthful plant (R).

Puya raimondii L-R: leaves, the author in front of a flowering plant, flowering plants (white) and dead plant that flowered the previous year (brown), closeup of inflorescence, hummingbird at flowers, and closeup of white flowers.

Puya raimondii L-R: leaves, the creator in entrance of a flowering plant, flowering vegetation (white) and useless plant that flowered the earlier yr (brown), closeup of inflorescence, hummingbird at flowers, and closeup of white flowers.

Puya berteroniana, or blue or turquoise puya, is one other massive terrestrial, monocarpic bromeliad from South America, native to the mountains of Chile. The rosette of spiny, silvery-green leaves solely develop Three-Four toes tall and extensive, with the plant ultimately forming a big colony of offsets. However its declare to fame are the astonishing turquoise flowers with shiny orange anthers. Huge flower stalks 6-7 toes tall are coated with 2-inch blossoms which can be laborious to imagine they’re not manufactured from plastic. It’s grown exterior its native habitat within the Andes in just a few botanical gardens in gentle climates, such because the College of California – Santa Cruz Arboretum and is obtainable on the market, however can be troublesome to develop as a container plant.

Puya berteroniana in habitat (L), inflorescence (LC, flowers (RC), and closeup of waxy, turquoise flower (R).

Puya berteroniana in habitat (L), inflorescence (LC, flowers (RC), and closeup of waxy, turquoise flower (R).

Echium wildpretii is an herbaceous biennial endemic to the island of Tenerife within the Canary Islands. With a standard identify of Tower of Jewels, this plant lives as much as its identify when it flowers within the second yr, producing a thick, erect inflorescence as much as 10 toes tall densely coated with shiny salmon to crimson flowers from the gray-green to silver rosette of leaves. Longwood Gardens (Pennsylvania) and the Missouri Botanic Gardens in St. Louis, MO have had it blooming of their conservatories, and it may be grown in elements of California (I’ve by no means seen it in any public or personal gardens, though many different species of Echium are generally used as panorama vegetation in California).

Blooming Echium wildpretii in Parque Nacional de Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Blooming Echium wildpretii in Parque Nacional de Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Young plants (L), blooming plants (LC and C), inflorescence (RC) and flowers (R) of Echium wildpretii.

Younger vegetation (L), blooming vegetation (LC and C), inflorescence (RC) and flowers (R) of Echium wildpretii.

Welwitschia mirabilis is an historic gymnosperm (a cone-bearing plant – cycads, pines, spruces, and firs are distant family) which is the one surviving member of the Welwitschiaceae household, originating within the Jurassic interval. First found in 1859 by Friedrich Welwitsch, this “dwelling fossil” is exclusive within the plant world as a result of it produces solely two leaves throughout its total lifespan, which could be as much as 2,000 years, however is mostly 400-1,500 years. It lives in remoted communities in an especially harsh setting in a slender strip of the coastal Namib Desert from central Namibia to southern Angola the place rainfall is usually restricted to only an inch a yr. It will get the vast majority of its water from common ocean fogs, nonetheless (its distribution coincides with the fog belt the place dense fog types repeatedly because the chilly Benguela Present of the Atlantic Ocean meets the new air coming off the desert).

Welwitschia mirabilis in habitat in the sandy Welwitschia Flats of Namib-Naukluft Park near Swakopmund, Namibia (L) and on rocky slopes in western Namibia (LC and RC), and a very large, old plant (R).

Welwitschia mirabilis in habitat within the sandy Welwitschia Flats of Namib-Naukluft Park close to Swakopmund, Namibia (L) and on rocky slopes in western Namibia (LC and RC), and a really massive, outdated plant (R).

The extensive, succulent leaves develop constantly from the woody base as much as 12 toes lengthy, splitting after some time into strap-like sections, making it appear to be the plant has extra leaves. It’s thought that this mass of foliage directs moisture condensing on the leaves towards the bottom of the plant to water the roots rising within the sandy soil. However it may well additionally take up water from fog immediately by quite a few stomata on each leaf surfaces. Like different gymnosperms it’s dioecious (female and male on separate vegetation), however as a substitute of cones the male vegetation produce one thing referred to as microstroboli that are harking back to angiosperms (flowering vegetation). The biggest specimen recorded is within the Messum Mountains. One other large plant on the Welwitschia Flats close to the Swakop River is over Four toes tall and 28 toes extensive. Because the plant is well grown, even in containers, small specimens are sometimes on show in conservatories or greenhouses in lots of botanic gardens together with Kew, Kirstenbosch, and even on the Domes (Milwaukee Park Horticultural Conservatory), and different locations.

Welwitschia mirabilis plants have just a single pair or leaves (L) and produces female (C) and male cones (R).

Welwitschia mirabilis vegetation have only a single pair or leaves (L) and produces feminine (C) and male cones (R).

Dypsis decaryi, generally referred to as Triangle Palm for the form of the trunk, is kind of uncommon as a result of it doesn’t have the radial or bilateral symmetry of almost all different vegetation, and as a substitute has three sides to the principle stem, forming a triangular form in cross part. Restricted to a single mountainside in Madagascar, its survival within the wild is threatened due to its restricted distribution and over assortment of seeds for export. However as a result of this palm is fast-growing and simply grown from seed, it’s widespread in cultivation and is usually planted as a decorative in gentle climates. It does properly in containers and may even be grown as an indoor plant. Open air it’s incessantly used as a specimen plant the place its distinctive form will present properly, and even as a avenue tree in some locations.

Triangle palm, Dypsis decaryi, in Madagascar (L), near Spanish Village in Balboa Park, San Diego (LC), in a residential landscape in southern California (RC), and closeup of the three-sided trunk (R).

Triangle palm, Dypsis decaryi, in Madagascar (L), close to Spanish Village in Balboa Park, San Diego (LC), in a residential panorama in southern California (RC), and closeup of the three-sided trunk (R).

Couroupita guianensis is a tall tree (as much as over 100 toes tall) native to the rainforests of northern South America and Central America, with very distinctive flowers and laborious, spherical brown fruits that encourage the frequent identify of Cannonball Tree. Within the household Lecythidaceae (which additionally accommodates Brazil nut, Bertholletia excelsa), this tree is grown as a decorative in different tropical areas and has naturalized in some locations. The three-5 inch extensive, strongly scented flowers are borne in massive bunches immediately on the tall, unbranched trunk (cauliflorous), making bushes in bloom very showy. Every flower has six apricot-pink to crimson petals that gradate to yellow in direction of the guidelines, with an uncommon, lopsided association of the stamens, with a hoop of fertile stamens on the heart and different sterile stamens organized to type a hood. The flowers, which lack nectar, are pollinated by carpenter bees and different bugs attracted by the pollen. The fruit is edible (however can have an disagreeable odor), and is usually fed to livestock.

Cannonball tree, Couroupita guianensis (L), flower clusters (LC), flower (C), intact fruit (RC) and opened fruit (R).

Cannonball tree, Couroupita guianensis (L), flower clusters (LC), flower (C), intact fruit (RC) and opened fruit (R).

Nepenthes is a big genus of about 150 species primarily from tropical forests of Southeast Asia generally referred to as pitcher vegetation. Pitcher vegetation dwell in nutrient-poor soils, so have advanced to accumulate nitrogen from different sources. All of those vegetation have a extremely modified leaf that types a deep container with a lid on high. The lid prevents the pitcher from filling with rain water, and a colourful rim lures bugs or different prey to the vegetation. The underside of the pitcher is stuffed with syrupy fluid that pulls the animals, and the inside partitions of the pitcher is coated with a waxy substance so the animal can’t crawl again up the slippery floor.  After the insect drowns particular digestive enzymes break down the meal. Most are carnivorous, digesting lizards, bugs, spiders, worms and the rest that find yourself trapped within the sticky sap contained in the pitcher. However at the very least one species has gone in a distinct route, producing a candy exudate and an ideal perch to draw tree shrews, who then defecate into the pitcher and the manure is digested for the nitrogen it accommodates. These vegetation are frequent in indoor collections of botanic gardens worldwide and are sometimes provided by specialty nurseries.

A bog filled with Nepenthes in Madagascar (L), with mainly yellow pitchers (LC and RC) and a few red ones (R).

A lavatory stuffed with Nepenthes in Madagascar (L), with primarily yellow pitchers (LC and RC) and some crimson ones (R).

Alluaudia is a genus of six species within the household Didiereaceae endemic to Madagascar. Most happen within the southwestern a part of the island. Like many different members of that plant household, every particular person leaf is accompanied by a conical backbone produced from brachyblasts just like the areoles present in cacti.  The leaves are organized in rows alongside the stems, the spines possible developed to guard in opposition to feeding by now-extinct lemurs.  A. montagnacii is discovered within the spiny forest as a part of a selected plant group with Euphorbia intisy and E. stenoclada. A. procera is a deciduous species that resembles (however is totally unrelated to) ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens, of the Sonoran Desert in North America. The paired ½ inch lengthy rounded succulent leaves and gray spines alternate alongside longitudinal traces up the stems. It adapts to container tradition, so is usually grown by succulent collectors. These vegetation could be seen in lots of botanic gardens in gentle climates, similar to within the Madagascar plant assortment of the Dwelling Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, CA (close to Palm Springs) and within the Desert Dome of the Milwaukee Park Horticultural Conservatory.

Alluaudia in the spiny forest in southern Madagascar (L), Alluadia sp. in habitat (LC and C), closeup of the leaves (RC) and the spines (R).

Alluaudia within the spiny forest in southern Madagascar (L), Alluadia sp. in habitat (LC and C), closeup of the leaves (RC) and the spines (R).

Aloe pillansii, the large quiver tree, is among the scarcest and most spectacular species of Aloe native to southern Africa. It grows as much as 50 toes excessive, branching dichotomously (dividing repeatedly into two equal branches) so it superficially resembles the way more frequent Aloe dichotoma, the quiver tree. Nevertheless, A. pillansii has paler, wider, recurved leaves; is taller, with a extra scraggly, Dr. Seuss-like progress type; and has a extra restricted distribution on mountain slopes within the arid winter rainfall space of the Richtersveld on the border between Namibia and South Africa. Discovered solely in distant, rugged areas, these weird bushes have fissured golden bark on swollen trunks and branches that start solely halfway up the trunk, every topped with a dense rosette of leaves. As a result of it is vitally sluggish rising and is troublesome to domesticate, it’s hardly ever seen in collections.

Aloe pillansii habitat (L), in the Richtersveld, South Africa (LC), with the author (RC), and the more common Aloe dichotoma (R) near Niewoudtville, South Africa.

Aloe pillansii habitat (L), within the Richtersveld, South Africa (LC), with the creator (RC), and the extra frequent Aloe dichotoma (R) close to Niewoudtville, South Africa.

Kigellia africana, sausage tree, is a tree within the household Bignoniaceae which happens all through tropical sub-Saharan Africa. There are a number of subspecies (as soon as acknowledged as 10 completely different species). Its frequent identify comes from the large fruits that appear to be fats sausages hanging from the branches on lengthy, rope-like peduncles as much as 20 toes lengthy. The grey-brown, woody berries can develop as much as two toes lengthy and weigh 15 kilos. Though toxic to people, the fibrous pulp is eaten by baboons, elephants, monkeys and different animals. Earlier than the namesake fruits develop, massive, velvety deep crimson to orange or purplish inexperienced bell-shaped flowers are produced in pendant panicles, though every particular person flower is oriented horizontally. They’re pollinated at evening by bats and visited by many bugs throughout the day.

Kigellia africana inflorescence (L), flower (LC), fruits (C and RC), and a local holding up a large fruit (R).

Kigellia africana inflorescence (L), flower (LC), fruits (C and RC), and a neighborhood holding up a big fruit (R).

Each a part of the tree has been used medicinally by completely different indigenous peoples all through its vary in Africa; it was historically used to make dugout canoes in Botswana and Zimbabwe; it’s typically thought of a sacred tree so is incessantly protected when different bushes are reduce down. It’s grown as a decorative shade tree worldwide in tropical climates (though there’s a threat from falling fruits relying on the place they’re planted!). This tree could be seen in a conservatory at Kew Gardens, and out of doors at botanic gardens or different areas in gentle climates. There may be one outdated specimen within the northwest nook of the Mediterranean Backyard on the north facet of the San Diego State College campus by the Life Sciences and Bodily Sciences buildings, and one other on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Sausage trees, Kigellia africana, on the Okavango Delta, Botswana (L), in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya (C), and a young tree planted in the parking lot of the Phebeni Gate to Kruger National Park, South Africa (R).

Sausage bushes, Kigellia africana, on the Okavango Delta, Botswana (L), in Masai Mara Nationwide Park, Kenya (C), and a younger tree planted within the parking zone of the Phebeni Gate to Kruger Nationwide Park, South Africa (R).

And listed here are two extra superb vegetation that I’ve solely seen in botanic gardens, however hope to see in habitat sometime…

Victoria amazonica is the world’s largest water lily, native to the Amazon basin. With leaves with upturned edges that may develop to 10 toes in diameter and roots as much as 25 toes lengthy, it may well help a good quantity of weight (if evenly distributed). The flowers are equally large, beginning out white and aromatic with solely feminine elements mature once they open at evening, attracting pollinator beetles which get trapped inside. The flowers then flip a pink colour and are scent much less when the male elements mature to mud the beetles with pollen earlier than releasing them because the flower opens the following evening.  Piercing spines cowl the stems and underside of the leaf to assist forestall being ate up. John Lindley launched it to Europe in 1837 the place its scientific identify was given in honor of Queen Victoria. Kew Gardens in London has a fantastic assortment of those vegetation, however they may also be seen in lots of different botanic gardens all through the world (http://www.victoria-adventure.org/victoria/gardens_2003.html).

Victoria amazonica at Kew Gardens (L and LC) with huge floating leaves (RC) and big flowers (R).

Victoria amazonica at Kew Gardens (L and LC) with large floating leaves (RC) and large flowers (R).

Male malachite sunbird on Erythrina caffra.

Male malachite sunbird on Erythrina caffra.

Aloe polyphylla is one other uncommon aloe with a restricted distribution, however in contrast to the earlier A. pillansii, this one is usually grown as a decorative. Native to basalt rock crevices on very steep slopes excessive within the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho (an African kingdom surrounded by South Africa), this plant grows with its quite a few broad, grey-green leaves with sharp, darkish ideas organized in an ideal, tight, five-pointed spiral – which could be clockwise or counter-clockwise. The stemless vegetation develop in dense teams, however don’t produce offshoots. It’s endangered in its native habitat due to over-harvesting, and since its solely pollinator, the malachite sunbird, can be in decline. It’s propagated from seed, and extra not too long ago by micro-propagation as demand is excessive as a prized specimen for collectors. It’s also a standard characteristic of succulent gardens and botanic gardens worldwide in gentle climates, similar to Totara Waters in Auckland, New Zealand or in coastal California gardens (the place it doesn’t get too scorching in the summertime), together with the College of California – Berkeley Botanical Backyard.

Aloe polyphylla at Totara Waters, Auckland, New Zealand (L), spiral arrangement of the leaves when viewed from above (C), and red flowers (R).

Aloe polyphylla at Totara Waters, Auckland, New Zealand (L), spiral association of the leaves when seen from above (C), and crimson flowers (R).

– Susan Mahr, College of Wisconsin – Madison

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