What’s in Bloom

WHAT’S IN BLOOM

Learn about the Conservatory’s five distinct galleries and see which plants are currently in bloom.

AQUATIC PLANTS

HIGHLAND TROPICS

LOWLAND TROPICS

POTTED PLANTS

WEST GALLERY

AQUATIC PLANTS

The magical pools in the Aquatic Plants Gallery simulate the flow of a river winding through the tropics. The gallery features a diversity of aquatic plants and colorful water lilies including the Giant Water Lily with its majestic, spiny leaves visible during all but the coldest months of the year.  Carnivorous pitcher plants, warm-growing orchids, and brightly painted Heliconia and Hibiscus are scattered throughout the gallery. Giant taro leaves line the pond and the flowers of bromeliads emerge from their water-filled buckets amidst a diversity of epiphytes, creating an eye-catching display of colors and textures.

Bulbophyllum echinolabium
Common Name | Hedgehog-shaped Lip Bulbophyllum
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Sulawesi

This handsome, but unpleasant smelling flower is one of the largest of the Bulbophyllum species of orchids. It has a moveable warty lip. The lip on an orchid is a modified petal that is attractive to pollinators. The lip of the B. echinolabium has a spiny texture and the color resembles raw or rotten meat. The smell of the flower has been described as a stink bomb, a decomposing rat, and just plain appalling. The fragrance, texture, and color are designed to fool carrion flies into believing that the flower is a piece of rotting meat.

Cananga odorata
Common Name | Ylang-Ylang
Family Name | Annonaceae
Native to | Malesia to Queensland

The drooping flowers have six narrow, greenish-yellow petals and yield a highly fragrant essential oil which is used in perfumes, soaps, and for aromatherapy. The wood is also used locally for rope, construction, and sometimes as fuelwood. Interestingly, the Ylang-ylang is used by the food industry as a peach or apricot flavoring. The flowers are not only used for their beautiful scent but also for lowering blood pressure, reducing fever, and relieving tension. The flower is spread on the bed of newlywed couples in Indonesia and is often worn by women in the Philippines. Ylang-ylang grows in full or partial sun and prefers the acidic soils of its native rainforest habitat.

Coelogyne
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia to West Pacific

The orchid genus Coelogyne is comprised of about 200 species, commonly called Necklace Orchids because of their long pendant like inflorescence. Most of the species are relatively easy to grow and produce long-lasting fragrant flowers. In their winter dormant season, they can go weeks without water. They often have elaborately marked lips to attract pollinators, which include bees, wasps, and beetles. You can find our numerous Coelogyne orchids displayed in the Potted Plants Gallery.

Dendrochilum
Common Name | Necklace Orchids
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Taiwan, Indo-China to New Guinea

Dendrochilum has about 346 scientific plant names associated with it, but only 271 of those names are accepted. One reason for this discrepancy is that after a plant was named and categorized it was later discovered to be a synonym of another more established plant because of new information or new data. This is a process that has troubled taxonomists for centuries, but with new ways of testing plants genetics and the ease of access to data these problems will be less frequent.

The genus is known for their pendant-like inflorescences, or clusters of flowers, that hand down in two long rows up to 50 cm long. Some visitors find the distinct fragrance of the miniature, star-shaped flowers pleasant, others a bit strong and musty. Dendrochilum species grow at higher elevations in the humid rainforests of Taiwan, Indo-China and throughout the West Pacific Islands including New Guinea, Borneo, and Java.

Lasimorpha senegalensis
Common Name | Swamp Arum
Family Name | Araceae
Native to | West Africa

Lasimorpha senegalensis is a very large aquatic plant from west Africa, found in swamps, ponds, and other areas with slow moving water. Beneath the water’s surface, this plant grows quite vigorously by lateral shoots, or rhizomes. Its flowers rise singularly from its base and smell of decomposing fruit. L. senegalensis’s stems, or petioles, are angular and thorned with arrow-shaped leaves. These leaves are known to have been used as a vegetable and as a medicine during childbirth. Its rhizome has also been used medicinally to treat ulcers and, as a decoction, for nervousness and pain.

Stangeria eriopus
Common Name | Natal Grass Cycad
Family Name | Strangeriaceae
Native to | Southeast Africa

Stangeria eriopus is an amazing Cycad that can easily be mistaken for a fern. Its large divided leaves rise from a hairy stem that gave the plant its name eriopus, or “wooly footed.”  It grows in coastal grasslands and inland forests. In traditional medicine, this plant is used as a purgative and cure for headaches by the Zulu and Xhosa peoples. S. eriopus is classified as vulnerable and is the only species within its Genus. The Conservatory of Flowers is fortunate to have two specimens, one male and female, that might one day “get together.”

Alcantarea imperialis
Common Name | Imperial Bromeliad
Family Name | Bromeliaceae
Native to | Brazil

This giant terrestrial bromeliad can be found growing on inselbergs (isolated rock outcrops) in southeastern Brazil. The genus is named after the last emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro II de Alcantara and the specific name is Latin for imperial. It takes between 8-20 years to flower and will flower for up to 12 months. This species plays an important ecological role as it stores rainwater in the pockets created by its leaves, offering a home to frogs, insects, and even other small aquatic plants. Alcantarea imperialis is becoming increasingly threatened in the wild due to habitat loss, which in turn affects the creatures that are dependent on the plant.

Nepenthes bicalcarata
Common Name | Fanged Pitcher Plant
Family Name | Nepenthaceae
Native to | Borneo

The fanged pitcher plant is named such because of the ‘walrus-tooth-like prickles’ that protrude from the pitcher. The meaning of the specific epitaph also eludes to this unique characteristic, Latin ‘bi’ means two and ‘calcaratus’ means spurred. The plant has a symbiotic relationship with a species of ant called, Camponotus schmitzi. The plant has adaptations that provide the ant colony with food or shelter. In exchange, ants aid the plant in pollination, seed
dispersal, defense, or the gathering of essential nutrients. N. bicalcarata is ranked as vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List.

HIGHLAND TROPICS

Conservatory of Flowers is one of only a handful of institutions in the United States to feature a Highland Tropics display, given the challenge of creating such a cool and humid climate. The gallery mimics the misty cloud forests of tropical mountaintops. Dense mosses, Impatiens, and Gesneriads engulf rocks. Majestic Rhododendrons and tree ferns grow from the forest floor. Also featured is the renowned collection of delicate high-altitude orchids. Many of these orchids are epiphytes, which are plants that grow on other plants, including the infamous Dracula orchids that peek from hanging vines and through tree branches throughout.

Aeschynanthus ‘Thai Pink’
Common Name | Thai Pink Lipstick Plant
Family Name |  Gesneriaceae
Native to | Thailand

Aeschynanthus ‘Thai Pink’ is especially attractive because of the glossy, chartreuse leaves and the pink flowers that emerge like a bubble from the pink sepals. Many species of Aeschynanthus are called lipstick plants due to the appearance of the developing buds. They have long, trailing stems and bright flowers pollinated by birds.

Anguloa
Common Name | Tulip Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | West South American to Venezuela

The Anguloa orchid is commonly known as a tulip orchid because of the way the leaves resemble tulip leaves when they emerge from the forest floor.  The flower’s waxy petals and sepals form a cup that partially encloses the lip and column, which contains the reproductive organs. The lip acts as a landing pad for the pollinator and it rocks when landed on. This motion helps remove pollen from the flower and attaches it to the bee. The bee is attracted to the strong cinnamon scent of the flower.

Anthurium
Family Name | Araceae
Native to | Mexico to Tropical America

This Anthurium inflorescence is called a spadix and is framed by a red, orange, white, or green spathe, which looks like a leaf or petal. The spadix holds dozens of microscopic female and male flowers. In order to avoid self-pollination, these flowers are active at different times. By avoiding self-pollination Anthuriums’ can increase genetic diversity, increase disease resistance, and increase their offspring’s ability to adapt to change. When Anthurium flowers are pollinated, the spadix fills with round, berry-like fruit. The berries might look sweet but, Anthuriums’ contain calcium oxalate crystals which are highly poisonous if ingested.

Dracula
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | South Mexico to Peru

One might assume that the name is a reference to, Count Dracula, but in Latin, Dracula literally means ‘little dragon’. When fully open, the flower resembles a dragon’s face. The genus was founded in 1978 by Carlyle Luer and about 118 species have been described as of today. Living in the cloud forest of the tropics between 300 and 2800 meters in elevation, Dracula orchids are a remarkable example of mimicry. Mimicry is an adaptation that allows an organism to look like another plant, animal, or in this case, a fungus. Dracula flowers use visual cues in their patterned calyx, a showy labellum and smelly chemical signals to mimic mushrooms and attract mushroom-associated flies.

In our vey own Highlands Gallery you can experience these beautiful beings smiling down at you from our hanging vines, the horticulturalists cleverly named, Vlad the Vine and Elvira the Vine.

Masdevallia
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to South Tropical America

Masdevallia is a genus of 350 cool growing orchid species. They are best known for their unusual triangle-shaped flowers made up of sepals fused into a tube-like structure. Though the flower shape is similar from plant to plant, the difference in size and color is wide and wonderful.  Masdevallias have a wide variety of diverse scents, colors, and textures that relate to the small fruit flies that pollinate them. Scents range from rotting gorgonzola to a ripe peach or apple.

Pleurothallis cypripedioides
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Ecuador and Peru

This beautiful little orchid is easily distinguishable by its hairy, pouch-like flower. Their appearance might remind the viewer of a baleen whale feeding in the ocean. Both its lip and lower “pouch” grow a colorful array of thick hair that looks like baleen.  Pleurothallis cypripedioides is a miniature orchid that can be found growing on trees, holding on with its roots as they collect dripping water. It grows at elevations between 1100 and 3600 feet in hot to warm tropical forests. This orchid crawls and spreads by its main stem and has leaves that stay approximately an inch and a half in length. Additionally, many botanists liken this tiny orchid to Cypripedium, or lady slipper orchids, which would explain the species name cypripedioides.

Sobralia
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to South Tropical America

The large fragrant flowers of Sobralia orchids have beautiful multi-colored lips. The striking blooms appear sequentially on the inflorescence and range widely in color from purple to pink, yellow, and white. The flowers vary greatly in size ranging from 2 to 10 inches wide, but all are very short-lived and last either only a day or a week at most. The plants have lance-shaped leaves arranged along a reed-like stem and some species can grow 44 feet high.

Hedychium coronarium
Common Name | White Ginger Lily
Family Name | Zingiberaceae
Native to | Southeast Asia

While commonly known as the white ginger lily, Hedychium coronarium is not a lily but is actually in the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Hedychium coronarium is native to the Eastern Himalayas where it grows from rhizomes and requires heat and humidity. The fragrant white flowers resemble butterflies and are the national flower of Cuba, where is it referred to as mariposa due to the shape of the flowers. It is said that during Spanish colonial times, women used to carry secret messages inside the flowers during to aid in Cuba’s independence.

LOWLAND TROPICS

In the steamy, lush jungles of the Lowland Tropics Gallery, a light rain falls on the canopy of majestic palms. An enormous kapok tree lies on the forest floor while brightly colored orchids and falling water cascade around it. Coffee berries, cacao pods, and tropical fruits hang heavily from branches, and the sweet fragrance of jasmine and Stanhopea orchids mingle in the air. The gallery is also home to the Conservatory’s centenarians, including the towering Imperial Philodendron, a pygmy date palm from San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, and several rare and ancient Cycads, which are primitive gymnosperms that pre-date the dinosaurs.

Acalypha hispida
Common Name | Chenille Plant
Family Name | Euphorbiaceae
Native to | New Guinea, Malaysia

The common name, chenille, means caterpillar in French. The fuzzy, pendulous inflorescence of the chenille plant range in color from vibrant red to a creamy white. The chenille plant is dioecious, meaning the male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers are on separate plants. The individual flowers which make up the inflorescence are very tiny, have no petals, and are made up of feathery pistils. These pistils are tightly packed into cylindrical flower clusters along the raceme called catkins. Flowers with catkins, including the chenille, are predominantly pollinated by the wind, and occasionally by insects.

Areca vestiaria
Common Name | Sunset Palm, Orange Crownshaft Palm, Monkey pinang
Family Name | Arecaceae
Native to | Maluku and Sulawesi

This palm varies from a red crown shaft with maroon leaves, to an orange version with green leaves, and everything in between. It has been observed that there is substantial color variation depending on elevation, with the more colorful plants coming from higher elevations. It is also commonly known as ‘pinang yaki’ or monkey pinang to native Indonesians, possibly because the Sulawesi crested macaque frequent this palm to enjoy the sweet ripe fruit. This photo shows the three stages of the palm’s fruit – the yellow inflorescence emerging, the full-sized but unripe yellow fruit, and the ripe red fruit.

Brassavola cucullata
Common Name | Daddy long-legs orchid
Family Name | Orchidacaeae
Native to | West Indies, Central and South America

Brassavola cucullata is a beautiful small- to medium-sized orchid with a droopy personality. It grows epiphytically and looks best mounted in cultivation. In the wild, it grows in coastal rainforests up to approximately 6000 feet in elevation. Its leaves are terete, meaning cylindrical or tapering, and typically hang downward from the orchid’s base. Like its leaves, B. cucullata’s flowers bloom in sets of one to two with pendant petals and sepals. Flowers have a slightly musty-sweet smell and can range between white and red in coloration. Lastly, B. cucullata is a type species, meaning it is the species which the genus Brassavola is described around and will always be associated with.

Coffea arabica
Common Name | Arabian Coffee
Family Name | Rubiaceae
Native to | Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan

Coffea arabica contributes to around 71% of the world’s coffee. Coffea canephora is the next largest commercially grown species of coffee. Coffea arabica is said to produce better tasting coffee because the lower caffeine content makes it less bitter. Today, it is Endangered under the IUCN Red List. Climate change, deforestation, genetic erosion, pests and diseases are all contributing factors to why this species is declining in the wild. Increasing wild genetic diversity is critical for coffee growers, as it can help in developing strains of coffee that are resistant to disease, pests, or drought.

Scientists have determined a number of ways coffee plants use caffeine to their benefit. When leaves die and decompose on the ground they contaminate the soil with caffeine which makes it difficult for other plants to grow. Coffee plants also use caffeine to deter insects from eating their young leaves and beans. With the high doses of caffeine contained in these plant parts, a bite can be fatal to insects. But the nectar contained in coffee flowers is laced with a small dose of caffeine.

Crescentia cujete
Common Name | Calabash Tree
Family Name | Bignoniaceae
Native to | Central and South America

Crescentia cujete, more commonly known as the calabash tree, has been cultivated throughout tropical Central and South America since ancient times. The light green bell-shaped flowers grow directly on the trunk and branches and are pollinated by bats. The fruit is a poisonous berry that is widely utilized to make bowls, jugs, utensils, and musical instruments. The fruit nectaries attract stinging ants which help defend the plant against goats and other herbivores. Crescentia cujete has a variety of medicinal properties from treating toothaches, diarrhea, pneumonia, and lung diseases.

Heliconia
Common Name | Lobster Claw, Toucan Beak, False Bird-of-Paradise
Family Name | Heliconiaceae
Native to | Central Malesia to SW. Pacific, Mexico to Tropical America

Heliconia is a genus of tropical flowering plants. The majority of Heliconia species are native to tropical Central and South America. Heliconia species support a diversity of ecological relationships with various organisms. Hummingbirds are the principal pollinators of Heliconias in the Americas. The flowers produce an abundance of nectar and the color, shape, and curve of the flowers are adapted to specific hummingbird species. Several species of Heliconia open their flowers at night to attract nectar-eating bats for pollination. Additionally, multiple species of bats use the leaves and foliage to construct habitats and shelters. Heliconia species with upright bracts are known to collect rainwater and support a community of minute, aquatic fauna.

Heliconias thrive in tropical conditions and habitats that have an abundance of water, sunlight, and rich soil. The inflorescence, or cluster of flowers, are quite distinctive and range in colorful hues of red, orange, yellow, and green. The inflorescence consists of brightly colored, waxy bracts (specialized leaves at the base of flowers) arranged alternately on the stem that encloses and protect small flowers. Heliconias used to be included in the banana family but was relocated because of how different the flowers look.

Magnolia liliifera
Common Name | Egg Magnolia
Family Name | Magnoliaceae
Native to | Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam

The egg magnolia is highly valued in Asia for its fragrance. The flowers are small relative to many species of magnolia, but the flowers scent is intense. When blooming, the fragrance of tropical fruit fills the air in the galleries. The flowers grow on the upright tips of stems and last only a day. The common name ‘egg magnolia’ is derived from the egg-like shape of the blooms.

Musa
Common Name | Banana, Plantain
Family Name | Musaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia to West Pacific

The Musa genus is primarily known for being the source of bananas and plantains. Considered the fourth most important crop in the world, many cultures expand on the use of Musa plants for things like medicine, fibers, dyes, fuel, cordage, wrapping materials, and even steam for cooking.

Banana or Plantain?

Bananas and plantains are considered the same fruit botanically. However, they differ in genome which lead to the different classifications between cooking bananas, plantains, and dessert bananas. Plantains are larger and starchier than bananas.

Pachira aquatica
Common Name | Malabar Chestnut, Money Tree
Family Name | Malvaceae
Native to | Mexico to South America

Pachira aquatica is cultivated in Asia for its edible nuts, which grow in a large, woody pod and taste like chestnuts. The common name, money tree, refers to a story of its origin. A poor man once prayed for money and one day on walk he found this “odd” plant, took it home as an omen and made money selling plants grown from its seeds. Small trees can be found in nurseries with braided trunks. Braiding contains the tree’s sprawl and symbolizes locking in luck or money. This tropical wetland tree is native to the forests in regions of Mexico to South America.

Theobroma cacao
Common Name | Cocoa Tree, Chocolate
Family Name | Malvaceae
Native to | Costa Rica and Northern South America

Theobroma cacao is famous all over the world for producing chocolate. The genus Theobroma means ‘food for the gods’ in Latin and the species name comes from the Aztec word ‘xocolatl’ meaning bitter water. Edible properties of cacao were discovered by Central Americans over 2000 years ago. The Mayans and the Aztecs are known to have used it in religious and marriage ceremonies. Now widely grown across the equator, almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa comes from Western Africa.

The flowers are tiny yellowish white to pale pink and bloom all year off of the trunk of this tree. In the wild only 5% of the flowers will mature into seed pods because of lack of pollination. The cocoa pods are about 15 to 25 cm long and are not only used to make chocolate but are also used medicinally to stimulate the nervous system, lower blood pressure, repair damaged skin, treat anemia or as a heart and kidney tonic.

POTTED PLANTS

The Potted Plants Gallery pays homage to the Conservatory’s late 1800’s Victorian roots when plant collectors stored their exotic tropical treasures in opulent glass greenhouses to protect them from cold European climates. This ever-changing garden of curiosities features a rotating host of unique, charismatic and rarely seen plants from tropical places throughout the world. Lush flowering trees and shrubs are held in an incredible assortment of decorative urns and containers from all over the world including copper containers from India, Javanese palm pots, ceramic pots from Burkina Faso and a historic urn from San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Anthurium
Family Name | Araceae
Native to | Mexico to Tropical America

This Anthurium inflorescence is called a spadix and is framed by a red, orange, white, or green spathe, which looks like a leaf or petal. The spadix holds dozens of microscopic female and male flowers. In order to avoid self-pollination, these flowers are active at different times. By avoiding self-pollination Anthuriums’ can increase genetic diversity, increase disease resistance, and increase their offspring’s ability to adapt to change. When Anthurium flowers are pollinated, the spadix fills with round, berry-like fruit. The berries might look sweet but, Anthuriums’ contain calcium oxalate crystals which are highly poisonous if ingested.

Bulbophyllum echinolabium
Common Name | Hedgehog-shaped Lip Bulbophyllum
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Sulawesi

This handsome, but unpleasant smelling flower is one of the largest of the Bulbophyllum species of orchids. It has a moveable warty lip. The lip on an orchid is a modified petal that is attractive to pollinators. The lip of the B. echinolabium has a spiny texture and the color resembles raw or rotten meat. The smell of the flower has been described as a stink bomb, a decomposing rat, and just plain appalling. The fragrance, texture, and color are designed to fool carrion flies into believing that the flower is a piece of rotting meat.

Burbidgea schizocheila
Common Name | Golden Brush Ginger, Voodoo Flame Ginger
Family Name | Zingiberaceae
Native to | Borneo

Bright orange cones of blooms emerge from the upright inflorescence. Dozens of individual flowers open successively over a period of two weeks. The plant also has handsome deep green leaves and dark red stems. Burbidgea is a genus of plants in the ginger family (Zingerbaraceae) with five known species that are all endemic to Borneo. Burbidgea schizocheila is considered vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List due to extensive habitat loss. Extensive logging of Boreno’s forest for palm oil plantations have made humans the main reason for their decline. 

Cattleya
Common Name | Corsage Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical Central and South America

Cattleya is a premier flower in the floral industry and are used by orchid enthusiasts to create hybrids (often with Laelia orchids) and prize plants. Their large, showy flowers often have a pleasant sweet or citrusy fragrance. They are often used for prom or weddings in corsages which gives them their common name, Corsage Orchids. An interesting adaptation of Cattleya orchids is that some have a pseudobulb attached to every leaf to store water and nutrients, which are used in the dry season. In the wet season, new leaves grow twice as fast. Many species grow in the trees so they don’t get water from the soil and instead depend on humid air.

Coelogyne
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia to West Pacific

The orchid genus Coelogyne is comprised of about 200 species, commonly called Necklace Orchids because of their long pendant like inflorescence. Most of the species are relatively easy to grow and produce long-lasting fragrant flowers. In their winter dormant season, they can go weeks without water. They often have elaborately marked lips to attract pollinators, which include bees, wasps, and beetles. You can find our numerous Coelogyne orchids displayed in the Potted Plants Gallery.

Cymbidium
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia and Australia

Cymbidium are noteworthy because of their standard and miniature sizes with approximately 55 natural species, 16 natural hybrids, and thousands of hybrids exist. They bloom in the winter with over a dozen flowers ranging from white, pink, red, orange, or even black. Many of the showier hybrids have large striped petals and sepals and a ruffled lip of a contrasting color. Cymbidiums are popular in the florist trade for corsages and floral design.

 

Globba
Common Name | Dancing Lady Ginger
Family Name | Zingiberaceae
Native to | Tropical & Subtropical Asia to NE. Australia

Plants in the Globba genus are commonly known as the dancing lady ginger due to their yellow flowers that dangle and dance in the wind. This dance is likely performed to attract the plant’s pollinators. The purple petal-like structures are called bracts. Bracts are modified leaves that protect the flowers as they emerge and may also attract pollinators by providing a colorful backdrop for the flowers. A greatly elongated, arched stamen contains the plant’s pollen. Notice that the flowers are symmetrical when divided in half, much like a face or an orchid flower. Globbas are members of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, and like all gingers, they grow from creeping rhizomes that form clumps underground.

Ixora coccinea
Common Name | Scarlet Jungle Flame, Flame of the Woods
Family Name | Rubiaceae
Native to | India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia

Ixora coccinea, commonly known as scarlet jungle flame, is native to Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. It has been introduced to other tropical regions around the world and today is widely grown as a popular ornamental shrub. Ixora coccinea is a dense multi-branching evergreen shrub that is notable for its brightly colored blooms. The scarlet, tubular flowers grow in dense rounded clusters and can bloom year-round in the right conditions. Ixora coccinea is a member of the Rubiaceae family and is a showy relative of coffee. The genus name Ixora is a Portuguese translation of Isvara meaning ‘lord’ in Sanskrit and is a reference to the god Siva. The species name coccinea translates to scarlet and is a reference to the blooms.

Laelia
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to Tropical America

Laelia orchids are stunning with blooms in a wide range of color from bold pinks and purples to bright yellows and greens. Laelias are found in forests from sea level to mountain habitats across Mexico down to tropical America.

The Laelia genus is a great example of taxonomic work in progress. Laelia was formerly a large genus of orchids from Mexico to Brazil. With new DNA evidence and modern research, the Laelia and Cattleya genera have been rearranged to better reflect their evolutionary history.

Maxillaria tenuifolia
Common Name | Coconut Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to Costa Rica

This orchid is known for its wonderful fragrance reminiscent of coconuts and pina coladas. The flower’s rust-colored sepals surround a spotted rust and white lip. The grass-like foliage makes an attractive houseplant even when not in flower. This genus derives its name from the Latin word maxilla which means jawbone. The lip of the flower looks like an arched tongue. The result is a blossom that slightly resembles a jawbone.

Phragmipedium
Common Name | South American Slipper Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to South Tropical America

Plants in the genus Phragmipedium is named after their shoe shaped pouches and are native to regions of Mexico to Southern Tropical America. The pouch is a modified petal, also called a lip. The pouch traps insects, which are forced to escape through a backdoor exit, depositing pollen as they squeeze out, thus pollinating the flower. A distinct trait of “Phrags” is that their flowers bloom sequentially, one after another. Each bloom lasts about two weeks; meanwhile, another bud is developing. The entire flowering season can last from six to eleven months. Depending on the species, the colors can range from green, to a soft mahogany-pink, to a dazzling orange-red.

Sarracenia
Common Name | North American Pitcher Plants
Family Name | Sarraceniaceae
Native to | Northern America

Sarracenia is a genus comprising of about 11 species, all pitcher plants that are native to Northern American. Similar to the more famous Venus flytrap, these plants are carnivorous. But unlike the fly trap, which moves to trap its prey, the Sarracenia has a passive trap. The plant’s leaves have evolved into a funnel-shaped pitcher. Insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the lip of pitcher, as well as a combination of color and scent. Slippery footing at the pitchers’ rim causes the insect to fall in. Once inside, tiny downward-facing hairs make it nearly impossible for an insect to crawl back out, and liquids at the bottom of the pitcher make tiny wings too wet to fly.

Sarracenia are often found in hot, sunny bogs of Texas and the east coast of the United States. Bog soil is acidic and lacks nutrients so digested insects serve as an important source of nourishment for the plants. When blooming, the Sarracenia’s dramatic umbrella-like flowers are usually on long stems well above the pitcher, to avoid trapping potential pollinators. Today, the IUCN Red List has named several species vulnerable, threatened or endangered because of human interference.

WEST GALLERY

After trekking through the tropics respite can easily be found among the fern fronds of the West Gallery. Ferns are an ancient group of plants that have their earliest ancestors dating back approximately 400 million years.  Many Victorians had a passion for fern collecting, housing their most delicate species in tropical conservatories like this one. Today, ferns are found on every continent except Antarctica. Look out for a New Zealand Tree Fern in the southwest corner, and a delicate-looking Tassel Fern amongst the many ferns hanging from above. With ample seating among these peaceful plants, the West Gallery offers a gentle recharge.

Huperzia squarrosa
Common Name | Tassel Fern
Family Name | Lycopodiaceae
Native to | Southeast to Pacific Asia 

Plants in this genus were once a part of the genus Lycopodium from which they differ by not having specialized spore-bearing cones. Spores from Lycopodium are highly flammable and were once a primary ingredient in fireworks and in flash powders used in photography. The dry spores are also hydrophobic, which makes them repel water, and were used as a waterproofing powder for pills, and surgical gloves. Today, we know that Huperzia squarrosa also has impactful medicinal properties that are used to treat brain disorders, Alzheimer, and Parkinson diseases.

Microsorum musifolium
Common Name | Crocodile Fern
Family Name | Polypodiaceae
Native to | South Myanmar to New Guinea

Microsorum musifolium is especially noteworthy for the texture of the leaves, the Crocodile Fern comes from the Malaysian Archipelago and makes a great house plant. The name Crocodile Fern comes from the beautiful dark green veins that wrinkle in a pattern that resembles the back of a crocodile. It is naturally an epiphyte and can grow on trees or even on rocks. It can tolerate medium shade and prefers to stay moist but well drained. If grown correctly, they can grow up to 1 meter tall and over 1 meter wide. The genus Microsorum means ‘small sori’ in Greek, which describes the cluster of spore capsules on the underside of the leaves. The species name musifolium means ‘banana-like leaves’ which references the elongated strap-life fronds.

Platycerium
Common Name | Staghorn Fern
Family Name | Polypodiaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Old World, Peru to Bolivia

Staghorn ferns have two types of fronds, basal and fertile. The sterile, oval-shaped, basal fronds not only help the plant adhere to trees, but also cover the roots to protect against damage, capture rain water, and trap leaf litter that decomposes and provides the plant with nutrients. The antler shaped fertile fronds hold the reproductive spores. There are about 17 accepted species, the most common is P. bifurcatum mature plant can be up to 3 feet across.

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