March 11, 2010 | Ellen Hertzman, Former Manager of Volunteer Experience

This time of year, my house plants start sending out bright green leaves and cheery flowers. They recognize the longer, sunnier days and, since I don’t heat my house excessively, they revel in the warmth pouring through my south-facing windows. In the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory, the tropicals are responding to the same signals, with new growth and blossoms in plenty just now. A few tongue-twisters for you this week:

Freycinetia cumingiana, a native of the tropics of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, is currently covered in orange flowers. Find it at the western apex of the building. The triangular buds open to display three tiny round seed pods. This plant—in the Pandanus family—is related to the huge screw pine with its gigantic pendulous stilts just across the Conservatory to the north.

• Wrap your tongue around the lovely Pseuderanthemum reticulatum—well, not the plant itself, but that name! It means “netted false eranthemum”— the netting being the veined pattern on the golden and green leaves. Just now it sports delicate blossoms, white with a sprinkling of purple. See it on the right-hand side of the left-most path, just short of the top of the building.

• Spathoglottis plicata is a delicate purple orchid, springing up from slightly ragged and non-descript leaves. The blooms, however, cascading like fireworks from a central stem, will take your breath away. “Spathoglottis” means “spathe-like tongue”, while “plicata” refers to the pleated look of the leaves. This plant appears in several places towards the top of the Conservatory.

• Finally, take a peek at Pitcairnia corallina, as you descend the stairs from the elevator-tree. Its deep red bloom snakes along the ground, catching your eye as you look down. This plant, a member of the Bromeliad family, in just one of hundreds of Bromeliads we display. Learn more about Bromeliads from the informative signage currently found in the Conservatory.


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