Tag Archives: palm

Trip Report: Ficus, Plumeria and Palms at Gardens by the Bay

For my one free day in Singapore, I set out to visit the recently-opened Gardens by the Bay, a garden that cost over 1 billion Singapore dollars to build.  I literally took 1,114 pictures during my 1 day in Singapore!  Needless to say, I won’t be posting all of those pictures here.  I am trying to come up with a reasonable number of blog posts on a reasonable number of subjects and a small collection of photos.  First off are some trees from the outdoor gardens, specifically those of the Ficus, Plumeria and various Palm genera.

GBB has a great collection of trees, including several species of Ficus I had never seen before.  One of the first Ficus that I saw (and really admired) was Ficus deltoidea.  My friend, Shawn, that toured the gardens with me, said that Ficus deltoidea is quite common in Singapore and is even used as a hedge or ground cover.  Sure enough, later we saw it densely planted, as if intended to become a ground cover.

Ficus deltoidea
Ficus deltoidea

Ficus deltoidea gets its name from the appearance of the veins on the leaf, which look like a river delta.  There are a couple of other Ficus with triangular leaves.  The species Ficus natalensis ssp. leprieurii has very smooth, triangular green leaves and small brown figs.

Ficus natalensis ssp. leprieurii
Ficus natalensis ssp. leprieurii, Triangle Fig

The Rusty Fig has a very prominent trunk, even when the total tree height is not tall.  The bark is smooth and gray.  The tree gets its name from the color of the undersides of the leaves.  This particular tree had a ton of aerial roots handing down from the branches.  My guess is that the gardens staff is going to have their work cut out for them keeping this tree in check.  It could easily take over and become a behemoth.

Ficus rubiginosa
Ficus rubiginosa, Rusty Fig

The most unusual Ficus award goes to the Philippine Fig, Ficus pseudopalma.  This tree was small, but really didn’t look like a Ficus to me.  Like a palm, the leaves were all emerging from the crown of the tree, with the large black figs packed in at the base of the leaves.

Ficus pseudopalma, Philippine Fig
Ficus pseudopalma, Philippine Fig

Most of the large trees were clearly identified with markers, but one Ficus that I really liked was missing a placard.  It had very small figs that were bluish in color.

Unknown Ficus
Unknown Ficus

I am used to seeing Plumeria rubra trees in various flower colors in most tropical places.  The only other Plumeria species I have seen in Plumeria pudica, which has leaves of a distinctively different shape.  GBB had three other Plumeria (or at least what I thought were Plumeria) that I had not seen before.  One appeared to be the regular Plumeria rubra, but in miniature.  Another looked similar to Plumeria rubra, but had a purplish tint to the leaves.  The flowers were small and understated.  The fruit that formed after pollination was totally different from the fruit of Plumeria rubra; this one was fleshy, football shaped and dark purple.

Mystery Plumeria with colorful leaves and small flowers
Mystery tree with colorful leaves and small flowers

I have enlisted the help of my friends in tracking down the identity of this mystery tree.  They are thinking that it is not a Plumeria afterall.  One possible genus is Cerbera.  I am still looking for the correct ID.

Mystery Plumeria fruit
Fruit or seed pod from the mystery tree.

The other interesting Plumeria was labeled as Plumeria obtusa ‘Hanging Windmill.’  The flowers of this tree are spidery and white and the foliage is much darker than the typical Plumeria.

Plumeria obtusa 'Hanging Windmill'
Plumeria obtusa 'Hanging Windmill'

Of course, there were lots of palm trees at GBB, but I am still only casually taking notice of palms when they strike me as very different from other palms I have seen.  One that fit this bill was Arenga pinnata, which had very dark fiber up the entire trunk.  This is known as the sugar palm, because the unopened inflorescence can be tapped to yield a sugar water.  This palm is important to the diet of the endangered Cloud Rat.  Yes, that is a real animal.

Arenga pinnata, Sugar Palm
Arenga pinnata, Sugar Palm
Arenga pinnata trunk
Arenga pinnata trunk

The other palm that caught my notice was a bottle palm, Hyophorbe lagenicaulis.  There was a row of these along a median at one of the entrances to the park.  They just have a really neat shape to them, don’t they?

 

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis
Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, Bottle Palm

Well, this is something like episode 1 of 10, chronicling my trip to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.  So stay tuned for many more photos and posts soon!

Trip Report: Indonesian fruits

Here in Jakarta I have gotten to try lots of different foods.  Since I am restricting this blog to plant-related subjects only, I will share the more planty food I have eaten here on my trip.

Salak
Salak

The coolest fruit by far is Salak, which is the fruit of the Salacca zalacca palm. It is also called snake fruit because of the scaly skin. It is amazing how much the skin is like a snake skin!

Peeling the salak
Peeling the salak. Here you can see the separated fruits inside.

The fruit inside is hard and divided into sections like garlic cloves. It is not juicy and contains a large hard seed, but the fruit is pretty good.

Salak with seed exposed
Salak with seed exposed

One fruit is particularly famous around southeast Asia for being loved by the locals and hated by western visitors. It is durian and it smells god awful. Truly. I actually haven’t had a chance to taste a pure durian fruit (yet), but I did buy a durian pudding and eat a good 5 or 6 spoon fulls. I was actually surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I wouldn’t say I liked it, but I will say that the smell was worse than the taste.

Durian pudding
Durian pudding

I am planning to try a durian and also a dragon fruit (hopefully) in Singapore, before I head home.  I also need to try one of these starfruits!

Starfruit
Carambola (or starfruit)

Fruit juices are very popular here, especially with lunch. I have now tried at least 6 different kinds, including strawberry, lychee, guava, the two pictured below (from fruits I had never heard of), and sirsak (two pictures down). The lychee fruit comes from the Litchi chinensis tree. I haven’t actually seen any lychee fruits, but I looked up some information on them and they are very similar to longan (below).

Two fruit juices, popular to drink with meals
Two fruit juices, popular to drink with meals

Sirsak juice is made from the “soursop” fruit of the Annona muricata. It is my favorite juice that I’ve had here. It was pretty thick and really tasted like a virgin pina colada. Does it get any better than that?

Sirsak juice
Sirsak juice

Before you peel off the woody skin, the Longan fruit looks like a tiny potato. This fruit comes from the Dimocarpus longan tree.

Longan
Longan

Once the skin is peeled away you can see the milky translucent fruit, which is a lot like a grape with the skin peeled away. It is juicy and has a good taste, although I can’t think of anything that it tastes like. There is a large seed inside. The name longan means “dragon’s eye” in Chinese, due to the appearance of the fruit and seed inside. I liked this fruit pretty well.

The exposed inside of the Longan
The exposed inside of the Longan

The Markisa fruit is from one of the edible species of Passionflower, Passiflora edulis. It looks a lot like an orange on the outside, but it’s a whole different ball game inside.

Markisa (passion fruit)
Markisa (passion fruit)

When you peel the skin away you find lots of seeds that are basically encased in a small amount of sticky fruit that is really not worth the trouble. It doesn’t taste great and the fruit to seed ratio is about 1:1. That’s a lot of spitting and very little to show for it. I read on wikipedia that the orange-skinned variety (like mine) is usually not eaten but the fruit juices are strained out and used for various recipes.

Inside of the Markisa (passion fruit)
Inside of the Markisa (passion fruit)

Well, that’s all for now. Off to taste some more fruits!

Trip Report: The Audubon House

While in Key West last month, we visited “The Audubon House.”  You would think with a name like this that the house would have once been under the ownership of someone with the name of Audubon.  It turns out the connection is a little less direct.  John James Audubon, the well known historical figure for his art depicting American birds, traveled to the Florida Keys in 1831 in order to paint the native birds of Florida.  While he was in the Keys, he stayed at the house next door to this house.

The Audubon House
The Audubon House
John James Audubon's travels through Florida
John James Audubon's trip to the Florida Keys

The house has been preserved and connected with Audubon because he admired the gardens while he was in the area and supposedly painted some of the trees and plants into his portraits of various Florida birds.  The gardens have been kept in great condition as a tribute.

Roseate Spoonbill portrait by John James Audubon
Roseate Spoonbill portrait by John James Audubon - my favorite from the Florida collection.
Tree loaded with blooming orchids in front of Audubon House
Tree loaded with blooming orchids in front of Audubon House

The house is now a shrine to his work and has a very nice garden outside.  We toured the house and gardens outside, enjoying the beautiful setting.  I think Christie and I could settle into this house just fine.  The trees outside are covered in orchids, and many of them were in bloom for our visit.

Brassavola orchid
Brassavola orchid
Crinum lily bloom
Crinum lily bloom

Other interesting plants filled the flowerbeds, including a couple of large Crinum lilies, some yellow Walking Iris (Neomarica longifolia), and a nice Chenille plant (Acalypha hispida).

The yellow walking iris - Neomarica longifolia
The yellow walking iris - Neomarica longifolia
Chenille plant - Acalypha hispida
Chenille plant - Acalypha hispida

There were lots of Calatheas scattered throughout the gardens, and concentrated here and there.  I have seen these growing in many botanic gardens, but not very often in an outdoor setting.

Calathea Peacock (so the sign reads)
Calathea Peacock (so the sign reads)

The gardens also contain some Florida native plants, which would have been important to Audubon, as he preferred to paint his birds sitting on authentic trees and plants to the area where he would find them in nature.  One of the natives I really liked was this cycad, Zamia floridana.

Florida native cycad "Coontie" - Zamia floridana
Florida native cycad "Coontie" - Zamia floridana
Christie under a nice Staghorn fern
Christie under a nice Staghorn fern
Philodendron stenolobum
Philodendron stenolobum

There were also some nice aroids, including this large Philodendron stenolobum (above) and Alocasia portei (below). I loved the pendant Anthurium vittariifolium, with its pink berries showing (two below) and now have a small seedling plant from a recent plant trade. I hope my plant is this attractive some day.

A large Alocasia portei
A large Alocasia portei (in the center of the image)
Anthurium vittariifolium with berries on spadix
Anthurium vittariifolium with berries on spadix
Chamaedorea metallica
Chamaedorea metallica

My second favorite palm in the entire family is Chamaedorea metallica, which is called the Miniature Fishtail Palm, or Metallic Palm.  It has silver-blue leaves and striking orange flowers and berries.  It is small for a palm, with a maximum size of only 5 or 6 feet tall, and it is therefore usually growing as an understory tree.

Bed of Sansevierias
Bed of Sansevierias - probably Sansevieria metallica.

You probably already know that I like Stapelias. Am I crazy or do the buds of the Stapelia below look just as cool as the open bloom? Yes, I did bend down and stick my nose into the flower to smell the pungency. And yes, I did request Christie do the same. She grudgingly did so – after a third or fourth request.

Stapelia leendertziae
Stapelia leendertziae in bloom.

The Audubon House sits on a lot large enough to have several wandering paths through the gardens and 2 separate set-aside gardens: a water garden and an herb garden. The water garden was very tastefully designed, with some heron statues in the pond. I’m sure JJ Audubon would have liked to sit and stare at these nice statues.  The setting of this garden is similar to what I have talked about doing with a portion of our backyard, with the ground paved in either bricks or rock and a shallow pond or other small water feature.  Just a relaxing place to sit and enjoy the outdoors.

The appropriately decorated Audubon water garden
The appropriately decorated Audubon water garden.

Trip Report: Renovated Myriad Gardens

Last week the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory in Oklahoma City reopened after a year of renovations.  The purpose was primarily to replace the 20-year old panels that were past their prime.  While they were taking the place apart, they went ahead and repainted the structure, revamped the layout of the interior a bit, laying new walkways and completely redoing the behind-the-scenes staff and educational area.  For now, only the publicly seen area is finished and the rest still needs a lot of work.  During the year that the renovations were being done, most of the plants were covered with tarps, protecting the plants while also blocking out the light.  Some plants survived and others did not.

[Note: I apologize up front if my pictures are not up to snuff.  I just got a smart phone recently and all of these pictures were taken with my phone, since I didn’t have my camera with me.  Although it takes pretty good pictures, I don’t have as much control over focus, flash or exposure.  Some of the images are out of focus and I didn’t realize it at the time.  Others are a bit grainy, due to the exposure.  Others (especially close-ups) look pretty decent.]

Miniature Powder Puff (Calliandra emarginata)
Miniature Powder Puff (Calliandra emarginata)
One of many flashy Bromeliads planted all over the place.
A couple of the many flashy Bromeliads planted all over the place.

I had the opportunity to be in the Crystal Bridge (CB) on opening day this last week as a volunteer during the Arts Festival.  I was happy to see that many of the special plants in the CB were still there and in decent condition – the Jamaica Poinsettia Tree (Euphorbia punicea), many tall Palms, the spoon-leaf Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia parvifolia), the Golden Chalice vine (Solandra maxima), many Cycads, several prize Aroids, and many Euphorbias and other succulents on the dry side of the CB.  In fact, those Cycads are all doing really well – almost all of them are “in cone” right now, which is cool if you’re a Cycad-person, and even pretty neat if you’re not (like me).  Kenton, the education director at the Myriad, pointed out to me that one of the Cycads was producing smaller leaves than normal, but also making some offsets.  The last year probably stressed this plant into making offspring in ways that it usually does not.

Cycad that looks like bamboo
Cycad that looks like bamboo. Notice the prevalent cones at the base!

Since I don’t know my Cycads and didn’t bother to look at the identifying tags (when available), I’m just calling these like I see them.

Very grassy-looking Cycad.  There are cones at the base of this one too, but it's pretty impossible to see in this picture.
Very grassy-looking Cycad. There are cones at the base of this one too, but it's pretty impossible to see in this picture.
One of the larger Cycads at the CB.  This one is about 8-10' tall and has cones hanging down, as you can see on the right side of the picture.
One of the larger Cycads at the CB. This one is about 8-10' tall and has cones hanging down, as you can see on the right side of the picture.

For now, the empty space where plants were lost has been filled in with TONS of Bromeliads and Orchids.  It’s very pretty and colorful, but has a different feel from what it used to have.  It is kind of like 50 each of 8-10 different species, rather than 400-500 different species, like it used to be.  My guess – especially after talking with Kenton – is that this choice of plants was just to fill up the space to get it started with.  Some of the more unique and interesting plants that were previously here (and will be here again) take longer to track down and acquire.  I look forward to seeing the CB evolve over the next 10 years or so.  I imagine it will become a jungle once more!  But I was thoroughly enjoying looking at all of the different orchids tucked into every crook and cranny.  I know that even if these plants are ignored, in the wonderful growing environment of the CB, these plants will continue to grow and bloom every year.  Even though there were a lot of Oncidiums and a couple of Cattleya (both common), there were also some less common orchids, like Zygopetalums, Phaius, Bletilla and others whose names I can’t think of right now.

Zygopetallum orchid
A really nice Zygopetallum orchid. I just love the mixture of colors in these flowers.
Unknown Dendrobium orchid
Unknown Dendrobium orchid
Interesting orchid blooms resting on a bromeliad leaf
Interesting orchid blooms resting on a bromeliad leaf
Unknown orchid - maybe a Dendrobium.  I have to say this is my favorite picture from my two days in the CB.  It's just perfection.
Unknown orchid - maybe a Dendrobium. I have to say this is my favorite picture from my two days in the CB. The scene is just perfection.
I only know Bletillas well enough to realize this was one.  I don't have any ideas on the species or hybrid name.  It's a pretty plant, though.
I only know Bletillas well enough to realize this was one. I don't have any ideas on the species or hybrid name. It's a pretty plant, though. Bletillas are terrestrial, along with the Phaius which are planted in the CB.

As always, there are many Gingers and Begonias planted in the CB.  There are a couple of mature Begonias that I can tell were salvaged from before the construction.  These are mostly tall cane-like Begonias that are probably true species.  Most of the new ones are clearly hybrids – very colorful and unusual looking things.

An unknown Begonia, probably a hybrid.
An unknown Begonia, probably a hybrid. The silvery blue foliage is a winner in my book!
Another unknown Begonia
Another unknown Begonia with vibrant and rough leaves.

I leave you with one picture of the Myriad just before closing time.  They now have colored lights installed in the CB, which show off the cool structure from the outside at night.  You can see from this picture how wide the walking area is now, since they widened the path and the plants are not yet pushing their bounds.

View from inside the Myriad Crystal Bridge at night
View from inside the Myriad Crystal Bridge at night.

Bring your plants to work day

I’m not actually suggesting a new holiday.  It’s just a clever name for my post.  Although I wouldn’t mind this being a holiday – I already celebrate it everyday.

The National Weather Center - across the street from where I work.
The National Weather Center - across the street from where I work.

[For those who are interested, I work on the research campus at the University of Oklahoma.  The research campus is made up of about six buildings built over the last 5 years.  These buildings are filled with academics, government groups and private companies (like the one I work for).  The anchor of the research campus is the National Weather Center.]

Aglaonema and a palm tree in the fourier of my office building
Aglaonema and a palm tree in the fourier of my office building

My office building (like the others on the campus) is a nice, new facility that has lots of plants in the hallways and office suites.  Plants are added for decoration, as well as to help purify air in the office environment.  This is a pretty trendy thing nowadays, and I guess it has been for quite a while.  What’s cool for me is that some of my favorite plants are those common plants kept as easy-care foliage plants (such as the Aglaonema pictured above).

Ficus tree, Sanseveira (short pot) and a very cool Philodendron
Ficus tree, Sanseveira (short pot) and a very cool Philodendron

All of the plants are in really nice, huge pots.  And the plants are grouped in twos or threes.  This is my favorite grouping.  I walk by it each morning on my way up the stairs.  The Philodendron is so cool.  I think I might have to ask one of the plant maintainers if I could get a cutting…

Close-up of the really cool Philodendron in the stairwell.
Close-up of the really cool Philodendron in the stairwell.

Other common plants in the office building are Dracaenas, Epipremnum ivies and large Bird of Paradise.  Here is a nice grouping of two Dracaenas in the hallway.

Two tall Dracaena warneckii plants in the hallway.
Two tall Dracaena warneckii plants in the hallway.

Of course, being the planty guy that I am, all of these great plants scattered throughout the building aren’t enough for me.  I have my own set of plants on my desk: Philodendron hederaceum (‘Micans’), Polyscias scutellaria, Scindapsus pictus, Aglaonema sp.  I used to have a Philodendron ‘Brazil’ on my desk, but it got too large and had to be taken home.

My shield Aralia (Polyscias scutellaria)
A shield Aralia (Polyscias scutellaria) on my desk next to the computer monitor.

The shield Aralia was a birthday gift the first year I started working here, so it’s now about 2 years old and has grown a lot.  I’ve heard that these plants are a little finicky and hard to keep.  No doubt it probably would not be as healthy as it is today if I wasn’t looking at it 5 days a week!  The office environment (and my constant watching eye) has apparently suited it well.

Philodendron hederaceum Micans
Philodendron hederaceum 'Micans'

My Philodendron ‘Micans’ is starting to grow as rapidly as my Philodron ‘Brazil’ did.  It had to be taken home when our company moved and my desk space was reduced.  I really like it’s rate of growth, but I hope the ‘Micans’ can stick around a while longer.

Scindapsus pictus and Aglaonema
Scindapsus pictus and Aglaonema on my desk.

In addition to all sorts of health benefits in the office space, plants just make me happy and my work space would be depressing without them.

Do you keep any plants in your workspace?  Or does anyone else in your office?