Saturday, February 27, 2010

Flaming flame vine

I wonder how this plant got its common name??

Inspired by fellow South Florida blogger, TOG of Coral Gables who posted pix of a hedge of flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta), I'm posting pix I took at Fairchild Garden this week. Generally, I'm not a fan of orange flowers, but this was a stunning sight.

The vine is native to Brazil and is vigorous enough to smother trees, so it needs to be con
trolled, but, as TOG's photos show, it makes a nice hedge, too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oaks in flower

It's another sign of spring.

I was up on the roof this afternoon to clean the gutters and take care of any pruning needs and was delighted to see the live oak closest to the house covered in "blooms." Most of the time, they're so inconspicuous you don't even notice them. They remind me of tiny catkins.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Death and life in the garden

I was at my potting bench this afternoon when a commotion at the top of a coconut palm caused me to turn just in time to see birds scattering and a broad-winged hawk flying off with a victim in its talons. Small, downy feathers drifted to the ground.

This morning, there was a dead Muscovy duck in the water that looked like part of it's underside had been ripped off. I'm wondering if there's a gator or a croc back in the lake. I haven't seen any ducklings for a while, which adds to my suspicions.

The effects of the long cold spell continue. The cold chilled the waters deep enough to cause a massive fish die-off, and for a while the stench of decay wafted up from the canal where dead fish -- and iguanas -- floated past.

It also stayed too cold for the iguanas to revive. I haven't seen the monster at the top of his tree since the freeze. Vultures are flying low, spoiled for choice of dinner. Much as I regret the loss of life, gardens around South Florida will benefit from the reduction in their numbers.

Coconut fronds have turned brown and continue to drop in large numbers, but I don't think that the palms themselves will die. Before a palms drops a frond, it pulls out the nutrients, leaving a dry, brown skeleton to fall. In a healthy palm, the lower fronds die first, as is the case here.  Even so, they're still heavy and they can damage the plants below. Last week, a frond split the trunk of a prized croton.

But enough of the gloomy news;  the Clerondendron quadriloculare, the starburst or shooting star clerodendron (below), is in flower, and orchids and bromeliads are about to bloom, too. Plus, I heard a mockingbird singing its heart out the other day. Twitterpating 2010 has begun!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Architectural plants

I am endlessly fascinated by the architecture of plants. Here are some examples, starting with a couple of shots of a silver gray Bismarckia noblis palm.

The next is a banana leaf unfurling.

Then we have a silver gray bromeliad, but I don't know its name.

The final one is a cycad.

Art by M. Nature

The neoregelia bromeliads are beginning to flower around here; you can see a tiny pink one in the center of the plant surrounded by water.

But I do I think the artist was a little sloppy with the paintbrush!

Challenging the future

Last Saturday, I was one of several volunteer judges for the high school environmental debates, part of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's annual Challenge. Pictured are the debate participants.

The Fairchild Challenge encourages middle and high schoolers to become environmentally aware through assorted programs and competitions. Now in its seventh year (and my third time judging the student congress debates), the program is being copied by other organizations around the U.S., and as far away as Singapore, South Africa, Brazil and Ireland.

It really is inspirational to be part of such an endeavor and I encourage anyone affiliated to a botanical garden or a museum to learn more.