If you ever grow a small nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans), you’ll easily produce the 1-seeded fruit, inside which is the nutmeg (the seed) and its surrounding red aril (which is sold as the separate spice, mace)
The truly nice, blue-flowered Geranium ‘Roxanne’ – see Puzzlements for bit more about generic names that may surprise people.
It isn’t impossible to grow Peonies in SoCal. I personally planted this pink tree peony in Liu Fang Yuan over 10 years ago. It hangs in there, and rewards us each April with a handsome show. The flower is actually set beside a champagne flute for scale – it’s that big!
Rosa ‘Altissimo’ is one of my favorite garden roses. There are four against the south-facing tea room facade in The Huntington Rose Garden. They bloom almost all year, and take the blazing heat in stride. The flowers reflect simplest of rose forms, with an occasional petaloid.
A crested plant of Euphorbia neriifolia, one of thousands of plants included in listings of potentially-active medicinal plants of India, though the bulk of texts refer to poisoning and blindness. As with all Euphorbias, the white milky sap is caustic and toxic.
Cones of a female Welwitschia mirabilis plant in the Huntington Desert Garden Conservatory. Pollination droplets remain visible for days, and seem to capture pollen that sinks into the solution, which is over 80% sugars. Pollen grains germinate, generating short tubes that deliver a sperm nucleus to the egg.
Search: “Development and evolution of the female gametophyte and fertilization process in Welwitschia mirabilis (Welwitschiaceae)” William E. Friedman, 2015.
From the Friedman article: “It is out of all question the most wonderful plant ever brought to this country and the very ugliest” (Huxley, 1918, pp. 24–25). And from Darwin, “I am reading Wellwitschia [sic]: what a wonderful plant it is; but the case requires more knowledge than I have fully to appreciate: those devilish ovules, embryos, sacks & membranes drive my weakened brain half mad” (Charles Darwin to Joseph Hooker, 5 March 1863)
In 1990, Hawaii’s Carmela orchid breeders developed Phalaenopsis ‘Big Foot’, a hybrid selection in which the signature orchid labellum (the “lip”, the petal that positions insect pollinators) develops more like one of the lateral petals, lacking the normal shape and symmetry (see the photo immediately below this one.) Contemporary Taiwanese hybridizers are now developing many forms based on this big-lipped genetic aberration.
A flower showing the natural Phalaenopsis form, in which the labellum is bilaterally-symmetrical (zygomorphic) with horns, folds, and color that help position the natural pollinator.
Angraecum sesquipedale, a large-flowered orchid native to Madagascar, gained fame through Charles Darwin’s reasoning. In writing the first book on orchid pollination (1862), Darwin knew that white flowers with spurs (nectaries) are often associated with crepuscular moth pollination. Studying this Angraecum and its long (25-50 cm, i.e. 10-20 inch) nectary, Darwin (supported by Wallace) predicted that a moth would be found with such a long proboscis. In 1903, such a sphinx moth (Xanthopan morganii praedicta) was discovered.
Peering up, into the flower of Nesocodon mauritiana, we see the business-end of a most curious association. Nesocodon (native to Mauritius) is one of few flowers known to be visited and pollinated by lizards, who are after the hanging droplets of translucent red nectar. Read a bit more in The Gazette report An Island Belle.
Puya alpestris, each flower with its bright green stigma, brilliant orange pollen, and metallic deep blue-aqua petals… When viewed up close, it might be difficult to connect Puyas to Pineapples, but when visitors see the massive colonies, they get that connection easily. The plants look like overgrown Pineapple rosettes.
Peonies, flocking in Liu Fang Yuan. Folks are always surprised that we are able to cultivate and flower peonies in Southern California. Peonies are great for showing students flowers that each have more than one pistil.
Terraces in The Huntington’s Celebration Garden provide a changing scene of texture and color. Here, blousy lavenders barge into a sea of Santalina, Nepeta, and chartreuse Euphorbia ‘Dean’s Hybrid’.
Rhomneya coulteri, a wonderful, sometimes towering native poppy with 5″ flowers. Plants establish easily and spread underground, so take a bit of caution as to where you place them.
Modern hybrid tomatoes can be weird. The seed of this one never really go dormant, in the end sprouting from over-ripe fruit, like one of those alien movies where the creature hatches inside and erupts from its unsuspecting host.
Regardless how repulsive it is to me that dye is injected into flower stems of Phalaenopsis, it is difficult to ignore the rainbow of possibilities.
A treasure room in a treasure house (kura) in Marugame, Japan
Chorisia speciosa flowers are the first sign of fall at The Huntington.
Heinz Chapel, Pittsburgh, has windows dedicated to science and nature. “O all ye Green Things Upon the Earth, O Let the Earth BLESS the LORD
David Lee reminds us that blue is a tricky color for plants to make. Petals of the buzz flowers of Borago do a nice job in meeting those challenges. The flowers are said to be edible, and show up in salads from time to time. Joseph Miller (1722) tells us this is “one of the four cordial flowers,” suggesting borage flowers have been used in liqueurs and infusions.
The doubled-up forms of Papaver orientale come apart as beautifully as they came together. Here you see the pistil – the future fruit. In the related Papaver somiferum, that fruit is the source of both poppy seed for bagels and opium for morphene.
We often have remarkably colorful sunsets over the Gardens, though our urban landscapes do not often celebrate these vistas.
Even a simple kidney bean is full of expectation.
Flowers of Magnolia grandiflora pose problems and possibilities in explaining floral structure. The nearly countless, separate green pistils, with their unfurling textured stigmatic surfaces, defy textbook examples of how a single flower is structured. And those flat anthers that shed so readily, well how do you explain that to someone who’s looking at a drawing of a tulip?
If you are searching for ovaries, they are easy to find in an Orange flower.
Lemon flowers show their ovaries just as nicely as the Oranges.
Cacti, like these Golden Barrels (Echinocactus grusonii) grow oriented to the sun. Gardeners know that when you relocate a plant, retain that orientation so it will continue to grow naturally, and so as to reduce the chance of sunburn. This population in The Huntington Desert Garden has been facing the same direction or over 70 years. By moonlight, I almost get the impression they are headed somewhere.
The flower of Sarracenia. Sepals flare out, while the blossom faces downward, much like a buzz flower. The delicate, pendent white petals are short-lived.
When the petals drop, Sarracenia flowers retain the splaying ruffle of sepals and the huge stigmatic shield (behind which you’ll find the fruit.) I talk about these the the Gazette, in a report titled Dumbwatches.
Liu Fang Yuan has been graced with buoyant panels created by visiting artist Tang Qingnian. Good thing the Gardens staff was able to restore the lake in time for the installation. Staff removed 50 yards of mud and muck, and replaced the 55 yards of gravel in the biofilter. It was massive undertaking, but the pond is “much better now:
It’s July, and it’s hot. Summer is the time to investigate Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera. The flowers, of course, get most of the attention, but if you have a chance to touch one of the peltate (shield-like) leaves, cradle it gently, like a tray, and drop some water in the center. Water moves across the leaf surface like quick silver, and at midday, you’ll find air bubbles pouring out of the central scar, where the leaf blade emanates from its supporting stalk (the petiole). This reminds us that Lotus plants root themselves in oxygen-deprived mud. Atmospheric gases circulate from leaves to underwater stems and roots – raising bubbles in this tiny pool.
Centrothamnus maximus gets maximal attention from visiting insects. Daisies (this is a thistle-type) are an open invitation, a communal table for almost any bug with a snout…
We associate attractive fragrances with flowers, but pleasant aromas emanate from the yawning chasm created by pitcher leaves of Sarracenia leucophylla. The fragrance must work, because we find the remains of hundreds of victims in older traps.
Cotton, flowering in the Mississippi flats south of Memphis on a muggy morning. The green sepals hang around to cradle a future mature boll. See the following photo….
A mature cotton boll. It takes a bit of agricultural acculturation to make sense of the reason a company that sells high-end bedding might brand itself with “boll” and “branch”. Marketers have had to work extra hard so customers can spell Boll and somehow connect it to Branch. I can’t understand why they don’t simply explain that the “boll” is the source of the fiber. Perhaps they don’t know.
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