January is the perfect month to visit Volunteer Park Conservatory. The holidays are over for a while, but there’s still a few weeks before the days start to get long and the color returns to the world. While it might still be cloudy and grey outside, it’s always balmy and bright inside the Conservatory!
Each time you visit, there is always something new on display! We wanted to highlight a few of our favorites each month and challenge you to find them.
We are pleased to offer a plant of interest from each of the display houses. These may be rare, unusual, or exciting specimens, or simply have an interesting story to tell. Did you know that the leaves and nectar of the Azalea, including honey made from the nectar is highly toxic? Learn all this and more each month!
Photo Safari Challenge!
On your next visit, see if you can locate each of the five plants of interest below, and post your finds on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with the tags #Conservatory #VPCPOI
Strelitzia reginae ‘Mandela’s Gold’
Native to South Africa, this popular ornamental plant was first introduced to Europe in 1773, and has since been planted in many tropical climates including Mexico, Belize, Bangladesh, Hawaii, California, & Florida
Despite being planted by the millions world-wide since its introduction to European horticulture in 1773, no cultivars of Strelitzia reginae had even been contemplated before the yellow-flowered precursors of ‘Mandela’s Gold’ appeared spontaneously two centuries later. It was raised at Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in South Africa by inbreeding yellow-flowering plants over several generations. The result was a pure line of plants with yellow (instead of orange) bracts that comes true from seed. It was first named ‘Kirstenbosch Gold’ but then later changed to ‘Mandela’s Gold’ in honor of Nelson Mandela
Native to Asia, Europe & North America, first introduced to the United States as a greenhouse plant, they were soon planted into the garden estates of Antebellum Mansions of the SE USA.
The leaves and nectar, including honey from the nectar is highly toxic.
Cereus hildemannianus ‘Monstrose’
The name cereus is derived from Greek & Latin words for ‘Wax’ & ‘Torch’, as the plants produce a waxy sunscreen-like coating to protect them from sun.
These plants are native to South America, Cereus was first used to describe columnar cactus in Tabernaemontanus’s 1625 plant book.
Cereus typically have large funnel-form flowers that are usually white, sometimes pink, purple, and rarely cream, yellow, and greenish. These flowers open at night and are fertilized by a nocturnal pollinator, a bat or moth.
This ‘Monstrose’ cultivar has been developed from a sport of the normal C. hildemannianus, and is propagated by cuttings. Sometimes a monstrose plant will start to grow “normal” branches, reverting to its origin. These are usually removed to maintain the beauty of the monstrose form.
Aechmea ‘Little Harv’
This photo is taken from above, the green-gray leaves arching up and out from the center of the plant. The peachy-red sheath protecting the developing yellow flower spike is starting to open up as the flower spike emerges.
This pretty hybrid selection was introduced by Bullis Bromeliads in Princeton, Florida and is not as little as its name suggests, reaching up to 48” tall.