Hidden treasures

February 4, 2010 Panayoti Kelaidis , Senior Curator & Director of Outreach

Rohdea japonica in winter glory

  Rohdea japonica in winter glory

Some plants don't overwhelm at first. These obscure, strange little plants in the Lily Family are tucked here and there around Denver Botanic Gardens. As you can see below, the flowers are modest. From September to spring, the glowing red-orange berries they produce delight  the far too few winter visitors out and about to see them.

As with every other of the tens of thousands of plants in our collection, an enormous amount of lore and history accrue to Rhodea. This is one of a handful of cult plants that have been collected and cherished in Japan for centuries: there are forms of Rohdea bought and sold daily in Tokyo for thousands of dollars. They are practically objects of veneration in Japan. Strangely, even the common green forms are rarely available commercially in America.

How we obtained an enormous number of these over the last ten years, through the graces of a volunteer (Bill Stuffelbeam) to a superb collector and gardener in the Washington D.C. area (Bobby Lively-Diebold) is a saga unto itself.

Suffice it to say that a botanic gardens and its collections are the accrual of an enormous mesh of relationships and a culture that makes the filming of a trifle like Avatar rather like painting by numbers...come to think of it, these plants are almost something you'd expect to see on Pandora!

Come check them out when you come to be dazzled by the spectacle of our new Moore exhibition: they are in the shady part of Plantasia and impossible to overlook. A modest counterpoint to that imposing exhibit!

Rhodea japonica in bloom in May


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