Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Barbican Conservatory: hothouse flowers

Two weeks ago we posted about the overflowing life in the Barbican Conservatory. We touched on the cacti in the desert room, and some of the plants along the tropical paths. But there are so many species in the Conservatory that one post wasn't enough to count all our favourites!

The gumamela, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, from our Conservatory post.

One of the most interesting flowers in our tropical home is the bromeliad, a plant of infinite variety. We spotted a familiar friend: the blushing bromeliad or Neoregelia carolinae. This house & garden plant is fairly common, but its strong colours draw the eye immediately.

In the wild, bromeliads catch water in their deep flowering centres, providing homes for insects and tiny rainforest frogs. They reproduce by putting out offshoots called 'pups', after which the flowering plant dies.

This amazing creature is the silver vase, or Aechmea fasciata. It's the first time we had ever seen one and we were stunned by this cherry-blossom pink sun with its purple and fuchsia flowers.

The Conservatory was full of other tropical flowers we hadn't seen before. One gorgeous example was Hedychium gardenarium, a bright spray from the Himalayas. This plant is actually a kind of ginger.

The shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeana, has delicate pink flowers that drooped over the walkway as we passed.

The false shamrock or butterfly plant, Oxalis triangularis, lined the upper bridge leading to the desert room.

We wanted to take note of every Latin name and species of plant, but there were a whole series of them with labels that were missing, hidden, or otherwise invisible. We took pictures of our favourites anyway.

Orchids, rose-like bushes, and bright sprays were everywhere and we were dying of curiosity, but not even Google could help.

There was a corner of pepper varieties that was more clearly labelled. We found the one that seemed most like the Philippine sili: the appropriately-named 'Demon Red'.

Other peppers were also romantically-named: the Black Pearl and Satan's Kiss. All these peppers are 'cultivars' (specially bred varieties) of Capsicum annuum.

But the best prize grew in a little tub near the window overlooking the beehives. Venus flytraps and pitcher plants - carnivorous plants! - the favourite subjects of more morbid nature documentaries.

We looked in vain for trapped insects in the hungry green mouths, but there was nothing to feed our bloodthirsty interest. These plants are apparently fed on a very regulated schedule; no binging allowed!

When we had wandered and looked enough, we settled in to draw some of the more interesting flora. We hope we managed to capture a little of the life and energy that surrounded us.

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