Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wonderful Wide World of Plants

I've recently come across a tree that somehow illustrates to me the sometimes innovative and wacky ways certain plants evolve to protect themselves from enemies of one kind or another. Today, that would be the Ceiba speciosa, known as the Silk Floss tree, which hails from Brazil and the northern parts of South America. What is its aforementioned defense? Spines! Lots of them encircling the massive trunk, thick conical spines. You sometimes see spines on branches, even certain leaves, but rarely on the trunk (at least to this degree). Of course, if you're not concerned with eating the bark, the spines could be considered an attractive feature of this plant. It also has a fat trunk, making it a type of very large caudiciform. Surprisingly, the tree can do quite well in the milder regions of our Bay Area. Below are four photos, one of the tree in full glorious bloom, a closeup of the thorns, one showing its fat trunk and one of the cottony insides of the seedpod (from which the common name derives).
Then more photos of my garden. The stars this week are the first of my lilies coming into bloom. Enjoy!

Here is the Ceiba in full bloom. Spectacular!

I wasn't kidding about the thorns!

To we caudiciform lovers, this is one beautiful fat trunk!

A seedpod that is a sheep? Almost. The Ceiba seedpods contain a wooly, fluffy down.

Here's the first of my Brodiaea californica flowers. There aren't many native bulbs (especially those for sale) but this is one of them. This species has larger lavender flowers, rather than the more typical cup-shaped bluish-purple ones of the hybrids.

There's nothing quite like the pinkish-orange translucent color of Clarkia Aurora. Simply one of the most beautiful flowers in existence.

This new version of the popular rhoeas poppy, Papaver rhoeas 'Pandora' features rich burgundy tones, with some raspberry colors in there. Like most rhoeas poppies it's prolific. 

To the uninitiated,  tiger lilies are orange (with dark spots). Dig deeper and you find they come in a host of colors. My Tiger lily mix included this brilliant golden yellow color and the pale, almost salmon, orange variety below. I'd previously shared another variety from this mix that had deep red flowers.

Most Tiger lilies have nodding flowers and that's been true of this mix of colors.

Lilium Golden Splendor. This trumpet-type lily features the stiff, elongated flared petals typical of trumpet lilies. Beautiful and fragrant too.

Papaver somniferum 'Lilac Pom Pom.' I grew this variety from seed and it's now finally putting out its first flowers. The bees quickly found the flowers, which are rich in nectar. 

Here's another one of the Tiger lily varieties. Strangely, this one has very few spots. Maybe not a tiger at all?

This pretty short-stemmed lily is part of an Asiatic mix called Summer Garden. Asiatics offer a great variety of colors and patterns but alas are not fragrant.

This unusual looking lily is Lilium Lankongense. It's a turk's cap lily (L. martagon), only with pinkish-light purple colors. Martagons have heavily reflexed petals, as you see here. Though the flowers are smaller and aren't fragrant, their architectural look is quite appealing.

A dwarf, bush-type Wisteria? Count me among the skeptical until I found this W. 'Kofuji.' It's supposed to only get 2-3' tall. Notice the delicate leaves. Unique and charming.

Laburnum anagyroides. I've discovered with this Golden Chain tree that it likes a good amount of water in spring. Doing that really brought on its best bloom season ever. You can see its relation to the legumes family by the pea-like flowers.

How tough are Asclepias? This one self-seeded in my Pavonia pot and is almost crowding it out. It's in full bloom right now, drawing not only butterflies but bees as well to its colorful flowers. 

If I was going to 'evolve' into something floral, I might choose this ground morning glory relative (Evolvulus). Yes, that really is its name, though its lovely blue flowers will make you forget everything else about it. It comes back like clockwork each year, having spread a bit further each year. 

Japanese forest grass is a lovely description for this golden Hakonechloa. Despite its rep as a shade plant, it actually prefers a good amount of sun. That certainly helps to bring out its golden colors. 

Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver.' You get a bit of the 'flaming' part with the pink new growth but there's also the subtle chartreuse tone of the lighter foliage.

This Echium Blue Bedder turned out to be the white flowering sport. It contrasts nicely with the lavender Scabiosa and since both plants are loved by bees, it's a sure fire destination.

Like many trees that get huge but have varieties that are much smaller, this Eucalyptus Moon Lagoon is said to only get to 6'. I love the color of its leaves and I got to put it in one of my favorite new pots. 

Here's another shot of my Lilium Golden Splendor that shows off a bit more of its trumpet-shaped form. Note the length of its stamen.

Salvia corrugata. The species name refers to the rough-textured leaves, a definite attraction, but the flowers are awfully pretty too.

One of the articles I'd like to write is 'Evergreen species of normally deciduous trees.' I just did a Chronicle column on the one evergreen dogwood (Cornus capitata) and here's one of the few evergreen Magnolias (M. grandiflora 'Little Gem'). Known as Southern magnolia for its natural home, it does well here in the Bay Area. It is different in two ways, being not just evergreen but a summer bloomer (most Magnolias bloom in late winter). As it turns out, bees adore the nectar that's produced by these flowers and like the little guy here, there always seem to be bees snooping about the flowers.

This strange plant with the tiny purple flowers is a Gomphrena decumbens. Most people are used to the little 'bedding' Gomphrenas  so seeing this species can come as quite the surprise. It can get 3' x 3' and it flowers pretty much nonstop from spring to late fall.

This simple but pretty flower belongs to Pavonia missionum. A careful look reveals it to be a member of the mallow family. This species is native to Argentina but does well in our Bay Area. 

Brodiaea 'Rudy.' Annie's Annuals is now growing this outstanding variety and it has delivered the goods in its first year.

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