by Kristen Natoli, Chief Nursery Specialist at the Conservatory of Flowers
The Pride of Burma (Amherstia nobilis) in Aquatic Plants gallery has had a long journey with the Conservatory of Flowers, which makes it all the more exciting to observe this long-awaited full bloom! Native to Myanmar, this small tree from the Leguminosae family is very rarely encountered in the wild but has been cultivated throughout the tropics. This species rarely produces viable seed and is mostly vegetatively propagated. I love it for the elegant drape of the tender new leaves, but the flowers are spectacular and something we have yet to really experience.
Our tree’s journey began when an avid fan of tropical plants and the Conservatory of Flowers contacted us in 2016 to recommend introducing a few flowering trees to the collection. A donor from Sacramento was so interested in experiencing this tree that he could not grow at home, that he offered to source and donate a specimen to us.
At the time I was unfamiliar with the Pride of Burma but after some research, I was completely enchanted and readily agreed. In spring of 2017, the donor had an air-layered specimen of Pride of Burma rushed to us from a nursery in Hawaii. At the time it was a spindly 12” plant distressed from the journey. It took me a few years to figure out the unique needs of the plant, during which it limped along and had one ‘stress bloom’ but didn’t show much promise.
Eventually I got the hang of the plant’s unique needs (lots of fertilizer, lots of magnesium and plenty of room for roots) and it began to thrive. During the COVID closure I decided it was showtime for this lovely tree and I introduced it into the Aquatics gallery, placing just north of the door to Highland Tropics. The tree is now on the cusp of rewarding us with an extraordinary show of tropical beauty. I hope you all get a chance to see it!
Amherstia nobilis started blooming in the Aquatic Plants Gallery on January 8th, 2022. Make sure to visit in the next few days to view this spectacular bloom! Even if you miss the flowers, this tree is still remarkable, particularly for the rich copper color and droopy appearance of its new leaves. This leaf color is likely an adaptation that makes tender new growth look unappetizing to potential predators.