Beautiful Surprises in the Conservatory
by Frankie Geouge, Conservatory Volunteer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The Lewis Ginter Conservatory is full of botanical surprises, even for a seasoned gardener. One of these is the delightful Jaboticaba Plinia Cauliflora, of the family Myrtaceae. Also called the “Brazilian grape,” this slow-growing evergreen is widely cultivated in its native country. What I find most interesting is the unusual placement of its flowers and fruit. In the springtime Conservatory, Jaboticaba sprouts profuse tufts of feathery white flowers directly from the trunk and limbs. Soon afterward, multitudes of purple-black fruits cling like fat, wine-filled ticks to the smooth, light colored bark. The small, dark, plentiful fruit is made into jams, jellies, and wine in Brazil. According to one cultivator, the flavor of the fruit changes according to its age.
“On the first day, its flavour is like guava; the second day it is like mangosteen; the third day is lychee; the forth is passion fruit; the fifth is sweetsop fruit; the sixth up to the eighth is grape. The best flavour sensation is on the ninth day when the fruit is perfectly ripe: it tastes sweet and smells good.”
Another floral surprise can be found in the center of the Conservatory, and is now blooming delightfully under the Dome. The Pink Trumpet Tree, tabebuia heterophylla, hails from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Antilles and grows only in zones 10A through 11 of the continental United States. The University of Florida Extension office says the tree is usually evergreen throughout most of its range, but “may be briefly deciduous as the new leaves emerge.” This year in the Conservatory, the tree denuded in early spring. After a brief rest (and while the tree was completely leafless), sumptuous, pink, hibiscus-like blooms began appearing in clusters on the tips of the branches. Now the leaves have started to return, the flowers are in full bloom, and the combined effect is glorious.
While visiting the Conservatory, be sure to enjoy the amazing Fräbel sculptures!
“I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.” — Abraham Lincoln