Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Beauties

Summer in the subtropics can be very hot and humid for humans but for most plants acclimated to this climate, it is very comfortable. Along with longer, warmer days, we have been getting consistent rainfall, both of which have helped many of our plants put on new growth and become reproductively active. The Gardens are full of life, colors, textures and interesting structures.

One of the highlights of our collection right now is Cycas micronesica with its first flush of female strobili (cone-like structures). If you have taken my TYUP™ tour, you know all about cycads and their prehistoric past. Now we need a male plant so the pollen from the male strobili can fertilize the ovules in the female strobili and we can get seeds. Despite our lack of a male plant, we may be able to obtain pollen from Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) in Coral Gables and fertilize the ovules by hand. MBC has a collection of stored pollen from some of their cycads and since our plant came from them, we may well find a match.
Cycas micronesica

A female strobilus similar to a (pine)cone

Note the small green ovules inside the 'cone' scales.

After at least one month of waiting for the flower buds to open, we have finally been rewarded with the fragrant blossoms of Jacquinia keyensis or Joewood (primrose family, Primulaceae). This is one of my favorite plants since the flowers are slightly unusual; the outer whorl of stamens are actually well-developed staminodes that resemble petals (see photo below). The fragrance from these blossoms is exquisite and smells like gardenia with a hint of ylang-ylang. The flowers are already fading but will hopefully produce copious amounts of fruit since I want to grow them from seed. Native to the Florida Keys and south Florida, it grows in habitats between the low-lying mangrove forest and the more upland hardwood hammock so it’s right at home along our bayfront.
Jacquinia keyensis in full bloom (close your eyes and inhale the perfume from the flowers!)

Floral anatomy of Jacquinia keyensis

We have a closely related cousin to joewood that is a new arrival to the Gardens: Clavija domingensis, otherwise known as Langue de boeuf or beef tongue plant due to the leaves’ resemblance to a long bovine tongue. This plant is native to the Dominican Republic and will eventually be a very interesting specimen once it grows up a bit. After one week of being in the ground it already flushed out a new set of leaves. Two of its Dominican associates are planted nearby, the zombie palm, Zombia antillarum and 2 new Dominican cherry palms, Pseudophoenix ekmanii, which are critically endangered in the wild.

Clavija domingensis or beef tongue plant from the Dominican Republic with its new flush of leaves.
Pseudophoenix ekmanii, Dominican cherry palms, in the wild they are over-harvested for their sap which is used to make palm wine.

Another fragrant favorite is Plumeria sp. or frangipani and all of our trees are in full bloom. Guests recently strung their own lei! You can see the photos on our Facebook timeline.

The little fledgling doves appreciate the canopy of our white Plumeria alba.

At Robert Is Here tropical fruit stand in Florida City, they sell mangrove honey and you may think, "What? I've never seen a mangrove flower." Well, here they are in all their loveliness...
Flowers of the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle, are often overlooked but they are quite elaborate on close inspection.
Here are the flowers of the black mangrove, Avicennia germinans, which, although small, are very fragrant.

For more photos on what is blooming at the Gardens right now, see our Facebook page for photo albums.

Emily B. Magnaghi
Associate Director

1 comment:

  1. Here is a direct link to our Facebook Album, "Tropical Beauty at Kona Kai," which has lots more photos from our May/June photo collection of the flowering plants here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort: