This time of year, while rather bleak and cold outside, really gets me excited for what's growing on in the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory. As I was watering this morning, I could not take my eyes off of the absolutely beautiful Brownea ariza. The big, bold, red flowers always seem to slow time down for a few minutes and remind me of how much beauty really exists in my "office."
Brownea is a member of the large Fabaceae, or bean, family. The genus itself is not a particularly large genus, with about 30 species. Brownea ariza is a smaller tree, and sometimes can take on the form of a large shrub. All members of the genus are native to Tropical South America. Brownea, as well as many other members of the family, put forth new leaves in a very interesting and unique way. The young, tender leaves emerge looking rotten or diseased and as the leaves mature, they grow into their "normal" state, this most likely occurs to prevent predation upon the new growth. Brownea ariza also exhibits cauliflory, which means that the plant flowers and fruits from its main woody stems or trunk rather than from new growth. A few other famous cauliflorous plants are: Theobroma cacao or chocolate, Callistemon or bottlebrush, and Cercis or redbuds. Because of the cauliflorous flowering habit, the large flowers are very hard to miss.
It's right around this time every year that our Brownea really starts to push out many blooms, and this year is no exception. The plant is packed with them right now with quite a few of them right around eye-level. The flowers, unfortunately, only last a couple of days, so be sure to come in and enjoy them while they're here in force. The Brownea ariza is located just to the left of the fork in the path after entering the Boettcher Tropical Conservatory through the main doors, you can't miss it. (And of course, keep an eye out for all of the gorgeous blooming bromeliads!) There are two good vantage points for enjoying the Brownea ariza, one being directly in front of the tree from ground level, the other being from the balcony just above the main entrance to the conservatory near the Green Roof Exhibit. I also feel obligated to point out that the newly planted Brugmansia sanguinea has a few buds, so check that out while you're here too! Hopefully I'll see you soon, as you absolutely don't want to miss this fantastic display of winter color in the Boettcher Tropical Conservatory.