December 5, 2009 | Ellen Hertzman, Former Manager of Volunteer Experience

Purple Vines

If the outdoor world seems a little drab, step into the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory for a burst of color.

• Black and Blue: We have a new display case in the Conservatory, just inside the main entrance, containing the hands-down coolest set of frogs ever (Dendrobates auratus ‘Blue’)! If you thought the yellow and black ones upstairs are amazing—they are—wait till you see the tiny black and blue ones! I’m told there are five of the little guys in the terrarium, but if you can find them all your eyes are a lot better than mine. Natives of South and Central America, Dendrobates—both the yellow and the blue varieties—live on the rain forest floor and, with a diet of certain toxic insects, they create a powerful poison that gives them their nickname: Poison Dart Frogs. (Here at DBG, they are quite harmless, since they are fed fruit flies dusted with vitamins by the hardworking Hort. staff.)


• And Purple…: A trio of purples cascade from the top of the elevator tree. Three vines covered in blossoms intertwine: Morning Glory (Ipomoea indica) is a familiar warm-season introduction here, but is native to the tropical areas of the New World. Another familiar introduction is a form of Trumpet Vine—Thunbergia battiscombei. Its red-flowered cousins cover fences here in the summer. Our version is a pale lavender blue, and is native to tropical Africa. The third in our collection of purples is Petrea volubilis, also know as Sandpaper Vine for its rough-textured leaves. Petrea is named for Robert Petre, a patron of botany. “Volubilis” means twining.


• And Red…: While you’re looking up at the top of the elevator tree, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Norantea guinanensis, a South American native with a long, red appendage made up not only of dozens of small flowers, but also of round pods that look something like berries, but are in fact nectar sacs that attract birds for pollination.


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