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December 2, 2019 | Nicholas Giaquinto, Conservatory Horticulturist

Winter is approaching and now is the time to head inside and retreat from the cold. Thanks to the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory, we can enjoy colorful flowers and lush foliage year round. Our tour this time will focus on aroids (Araceae), my favorite plant family and one that you may be familiar with. Aroids—like peace lily, Chinese evergreen and pothos—have become a staple in the houseplant market as many of them are easy to maintain and can tolerate lower light conditions. The famous corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) is also a member of the aroid family.

The easiest way to identify an aroid is by observing a flower. Aroid flowers have a spathe, a petal-like structure which can serve as the visual attractor for pollinators, and a spadix, which is a spike containing the flowers. The  Tropical Conservatory houses 101 different taxa and more than 60 species.

As you enter the Tropical Conservatory from the mezzanine and walk toward the treehouse, you encounter a wonderful aroid vine, Monstera deliciosa. This vine is currently showing its mature leaves. Many vines will have smaller juvenile leaves when they are growing in the understory and will develop larger mature leaves when they are climbing and grow where more light is available. Monstera can also flower if given the right conditions, and the ripened fruit is edible.

Continue on and look near the stream, where Anthurium veitchii grows. This anthurium is native to Columbia and is grown for its handsome ruffled leaves.  

Continue forward to the bridge to see a semi-aquatic aroid, Colocasia esculenta. This plant is used to make the Polynesian dish called poi.  

Opposite of the stream is a bed that has Philodendron ‘Moonlight’. Philodendrons can either be vines or compact shrubs. ‘Moonlight’ is a tight shrub with chartreuse colored leaves that are held in red sheaths. Over time, the leaves become darker.

There are many more aroids in the Tropical Conservatory that all provide excellent color and texture from their flowers and foliage. Slow down and enjoy some time in tropical space, which is delightful whatever the weather.

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