Last week the first of our five Silk Floss trees blossomed for the first time!
Soon, the whole tree will be covered with these large blossoms that are very attractive to butterflies.
Ceiba speciosa is native to South America, and I’ve read that no two trees have exactly the same color flowers…we’ll have to wait to see if that’s true.
When not in bloom, the tree is imposing, covered in gnarly spikes that are actually used to store water during dry seasons.
Sorry for the poor picture quality, this was taken on an iPhone–we’ll post some better quality shots when the tree is really going off!
A second of our 5 Silk Floss (or Ceiba or Monkey No Climb) trees bloomed for the first time last week.
I mentioned before that I’d read no two trees have exactly the same color bloom, and indeed our tree that bloomed first is a dramatically different hue and shade of pink. Here’s some pictures of both for comparison.
I prefer the newer ones with the deeper pink and darkly flecked yellow center. The last picture is a wide shot of the tree–it’s trunk is covered in sharp stiff points which will go away when it gets much older. Those spines store water in case of drought.
A month ago our Lancepod trees (Lonchocarput violaceus) started to bloom, and now they’re in full swing with beautiful violet flowers that stretch along the tops of the spidery, unkempt branches.
Also, our Indian Cork Tree (Millingtonia hortensis) has been blooming again in the past month. These white flowers blossom at night, and I caught some shots this morning while some were still open.
They are wonderfully fragrant; sometimes it’s called Tree Jasmine. The soft bark of the tree is sometimes used to make a type of cork in Asia.
A number of unusual fruits are developing throughout the gardens right now.
First, it looks like the fruits on our Areca catechu palm are almost ripe, meaning we could harvest Betel Nuts if we wanted! Those who have visited less developed countries in the tropics may have seen old men in the streets of a town or city with rather hideous red stained teeth and a vacant look in their eyes.
They chew the nut of this fruit, traditionally wrapping it in a Betel leaf (a different plant in the pepper family) with lime and clove or cardamom or some other spice.
Chewing the leaf and nut together are mildly stimulating like drinking caffeine, though the nut is addictive and carcinogenic, sometimes thought of as the Asian equivalent of chewing tobacco. In fact, chewing betel is more popular than chewing gum worldwide, used by 5% of the population!
Next, we have some atemoyas developing on the side of Lucy’s Park. Atemoya is a cross between sugar apple and cherimoya, all in the Annonaceae family and Annona genus.
The inside of these fruits is white and deliciously sweet, with a creamy custardy texture you scoop easily out with a spoon. Soursop, which some may be familiar with, is also in the Annona genus, but I like Atemoyas and Cherimoyas a lot more.
Our tree is loaded right now, more than 2 dozen!
Last, our Anatto pods are growing amidst a few late blooms (Bixa orellana). These spiny red fruit pods will split open when ripe revealing a bunch of seeds surrounded by a red powder called bixin, a non-toxic and tasteless dye.
This is the dye that was used originally to make margarine yellow (and therefore more butter-like) when it was first created. It is also used to die the rinds of cheese.
Sometimes called the Lipstick Plant in South America where natives traditionally used the endemic plant to die their lips, or mixed it with oil and applied it to the skin to repel insects. Bixin is being used more and more as people eschew artificial dies.
It makes a particularly good replacement as very few are allergic to it.
We really have a lot of different flowers blooming right now!
The lack of rain and continued sun seems to be encouraging things left and right. The first picture below is of our Madre de Cacao or Gliricidia sepium. These delicate little pink flowers with a yellow spot on the upper petal base are flourishing in the inner, shady canopy of the tree, protected from the sun all day.
Gliricidias have a number of different common names around the world, but it earned Madre de Cacao for its usefulness when planting cacao (chocolate) trees, which need shade and wind protection especially when they’re young.
Gliricidia grows very quickly, providing shade for a newly planted orchard, and also grows thickly and can be easily pruned to create a living fence. It also makes good fodder for livestock and the roots and bark can be used as a rat poison!
Below our Gliricidia, you’ll see our Cat’s Whiskers (Orthosiphon aristatus var.), which has a bunch of these conical flowers with delicate white whiskers with faintly purple ends. It’s not an uncommon flower, but it’s awful perty.
Finally, at the bottom is a variety of the Wrightia religiosa, which I’ve read is sometimes called Water Jasmine. These shrubs can get large, but are often pruned as bonsai and held sacred by Buddhists, often found in Japanese temples.
These delicate little blooms are intensely fragrant, and have been showing up here and there, one at a time, for months now. The last few weeks is the first time we’ve had a whole handful on the recently planted specimen at once.
Our African Nutmeg (Monadora myristica) just bloomed for the first time ever.
Here’s a slightly damaged flower that fell off–I’ll add some pictures from the plant itself when we have some sun and can get some decent shots. Pretty far out! Looks like some alien chandelier.
The inside of the main bulb/capsule (can you tell I’m not a botanist? is covered in polka-dots and has another little chandelier/stamen hanging there.
Look out for more frequent blog posts in the new year, including videos and our own homemade chocolate processing!
Here is a review of some of the Vireya Rhododendron blooms we’ve seen in the last six months. This is a tropical variety of Rhododendron with many different cultivars…
This stunning and unusual flower only lasted 2 days before it wilted and disappeared. This is the first bloom ever of our Brownia macrophylla, also known as “Jamaica Flame.” It is named after Dr. Patrick Browne, an Irishman who wrote “The Natural History of Jamaica” in 1756. Hummingbirds love this one!
We almost missed getting these pictures, and so don’t have any shots of the flower before its fully open. As is typical of the young Brownea tree, this one is still low, spreading its foliage close to the ground. It hasn’t yet gained much height, but when it does the leaves will do a better job of protecting the flowers from the heat of the sun.
This may be why our single flower didn’t last very long…