Friday, May 10, 2013

A Morning in the Los Angeles Botanic Garden, Followed by a Museum Chaser.

(If you read this title in a certain way, it implies that someone was trying to catch us in the botanic garden....but read on.)

Los Angeles Botanic Garden

Los Angeles Botanic Garden

Los Angeles Botanic Garden

Pinus pinea at Los Angeles Botanic Garden

Haruko with Pinus pinea at Kew Gardens

Day 2 in southern California began with a mediocre motel breakfast, but improved enormously with a visit to the Los Angeles Botanic Garden. I parked the car and just a few steps away was a planting of Pinus pinea, the "Italian Stone Pine," with their amazing plated trunks. These were mere teenagers, however, compared with the fantastic old specimen I enjoyed at Kew Gardens in London a dozen years ago. Also known as "Umbrella Pine," the Kew tree was planted in 1846. Pine nuts, or technically the seeds, have been eaten for thousands of years, and Roman soldiers considered them to be a delicacy.

Squawking peacock

We made our way to the garden entrance, but I was somewhat annoyed (that happens frequently) by loud squawking coming from within. It turned out to be a few rambunctious peacocks, left free to roam the grounds. In some cases they would block the path by turning around and wiggling their rear ends and fanning their feathers. I'm not sure if I was being invited to mate, or warned to get the hell out of their territory.

Tabebuia impetiginosa

Tabebuia impetiginosa

Sidestepping the peacocks, I went to investigate a lilac-pink cloud in the distance. It proved to be a huge "Trumpet Tree," Tabebuia impetiginosa. The genus is evergreen; then sometime in spring all of the leaves suddenly drop off and it bursts into bloom, after which new leaves again appear. I'm familiar with Tabebuia, as I've housed one in GH20 for nearly twenty years, but I must prune mine heavily to keep it bounds. It's a big nuisance in my space-short greenhouse, but I keep it in memory of dear Sandra K., a Japanese-Brazilian intern who sent me seed when she returned to Brazil. I think I sent her some Japanese maple seed, but we lost touch and I'm not sure how they fared.

Tabebuia chrysantha

Tabebuia chrysotricha

Tabebuia 'Apricot'

My Tabebuia is the species chrysantha, which is derived from two Greek words and means "golden flower," but I don't know how it differs from the LA Botanic Garden's chrysotricha. Both are known as "Golden Trumpet Trees," while chrysantha is the national tree of Venezuela, and called aravanei by the Caribes. Additionally, an interesting hybrid was Tabebuia 'Apricot'.

Podocarpus latifolius

I was not surprised to encounter a number of Podocarpus species. The genus name is from Greek podos meaning "foot" and karpos meaning "fruit," and all species are evergreen coniferous trees or shrubs. Most were endemic to the ancient supercontinent Gondwana which broke up into Africa, India, South America and Australia (ok, New Zealand too) millions of years ago. I love the soft, luxuriant foliage, and once even kept a couple of species as house plants. LA Arb's Podocarpus latifolius is commonly known as the "Real Yellowwood" – I guess there are some "fakes" out there – while latifolius simply means "wide-leaved." By the way, it has been declared the national tree of South Africa, which is surprising when you consider the amazing floral treasures of that country.

Podocarpus elongatus 'Icee Blue'

Podocarpus elongatus is another South African species of "Yellowwood," and features elongated blue-gray leaves. The cultivar 'Icee Blue' is similar to the type, and probably received cultivar status merely as a marketing ploy. The company in question also went on to market a Juniperus horizontalis 'Icee Blue', and perhaps they have dozen's more 'Icee Blues' for all blue coniferous species.

Podocarpus henkelii

Podocarpus henkelii

Podocarpus macrophyllus

Podocarpus macrophyllus

Sciadopitys verticillata
Also from South Africa, Podocarpus henkelii is grown for its neat drooping foliage and dense pyramidal shape. The species is named for Caesar Henkel (1839-1913), an eastern Cape forester. Podocarpus macrophyllus is not of Gondwana origin; it is the northern-most species and is native to southern Japan and southeastern China. It is commonly called the "Buddhist Pine," and is one of the species I used to grow indoors. Kusamaki is the Japanese name, and of course it is not a "pine" at all. To some degree the leaves resemble Sciadopitys, the "Umbrella Pine," which is not a true pine either. Interestingly maki is the Japanese name for Sciadopitys.

Aloe vaombe

Aloe broomii

Aloe porphyrostachys

The Aloes are impressive, and the genus consists of about 500 species, all native to South Africa, Madagascar and the Arabian peninsula. We're all familiar with Aloe vera, used as a skin treatment, and it was used by ancient Greeks and Romans to treat wounds. Aloe vaombe is the "Madagascar Tree Aloe," and it is attractive for its large, smooth green leaves edged with white teeth. Aloe broomii is native to rocky slopes and mountainous areas in South Africa, and is commonly known as the "Snake Aloe." Aloe porphyrostachys is the northernmost species, from southwestern Saudi Arabia, where it is fairly rare. There are over 2,000 floral species in Saudi Arabia, but Aloe porphyrostachys is perhaps the first I have ever personally seen. The Aloe name is thought to be derived from the Arabic word alloh, meaning "shining bitter substance."

Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata

Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata
(Are you getting dizzy?)

In the past Aloes were considered to be members of the Liliaceae (lily) family, but recently they have been moved to Xanthorhoeaceae. Another genus in that family is Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata, a fantastic grass-like plant which sends out white flower spears. It can flower to continue its own existence, which is important, but I think its higher purpose is to impress me, and staring into the plant's interior accomplishes that. This slow-growing species is known as the "Australian Grass Tree," but a more apt name is "Square-Leaved Grass Tree," as you can see, and specimens can live to 600 years! Aborigines would soak the flower spikes in water to make a fermented drink, and always remember that these people are more intelligently connected with nature than you or I.
P.S. I feel compelled to recommend a wonderful movie about Aborigines, called The Sapphires, which I saw earlier this week, although it has absolutely nothing to do with this blog's subject. Go see it, but of course finish the blog first.

Puya venusta

I saw only one Puya at LA Botanic Garden, and though I supposed there would be more, Puya venusta was most impressive in flower. This Chilean species is in the Bromeliaceae family, and features serrated, silvery Pineapple-like leaves which taper to a sharp point. Flowers are...what color?, I guess: purplish-blue. The Puya name was derived from the Mapuche (Indian) name for "point." The Mapuche people (from mapu, "earth" and che, "land") occupied Chile and Argentina, but were horribly abused by the divinely-inspired Spanish Catholics, which sadly was the occurrence in most of the Americas.

Kalanchoe tetraphylla

Kalanchoe tomentosa

Kalanchoe tomentosa

Last week I described a Kalanchoe from South Africa, species thyrsiflora, that I saw at the University of California @ Riverside Arboretum, but today I was impressed with the species tetraphylla and tomentosa. Kalanchoe is in the Crassulaceae family, and the tetraphylla species name is a combination of two Greek words, tetra meaning "four," and phylla meaning "leaf," but for some unknown reason (to me) the genus is commonly called the "Widow's Thrill." I should find a widow to ask. The species tomentosa produces attractive fuzzy leaves, as the name implies, but remember that all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.

Musella lasiocarpa

Musella lasiocarpa is the "Chinese Dwarf Banana" or the "Chinese Yellow Banana" or the "Golden Lotus Banana," and one was in bloom today; but that's no big deal as the blossoms can last up to six months. Musella was endemic to southwestern Yunnan in the mountainous regions, but is thought to be extinct in the wild. Surprisingly it is hardy to -10 degrees F, USDA zone 6. The large blue-green leaves can add a most tropical appearance to the landscape.

Eucalyptus ficifolia

Eucalyptus maculata

Eucalyptus robusta

Eucalyptus sideroxylon

Eucalyptus flower

As expected there were numerous Eucalyptus species planted throughout the garden. I absolutely hate the "Gums" for their crappy foliage, but I give them their due for interesting flowers, and confess that I admire their trunks as much as any tree. In 1777, on Captain Cook's third voyage, the botanist David Nelson collected a specimen in Tasmania and delivered it to the British Museum in London. There it was analyzed by the French Botanist L'Heritier, who coined the genus name from the Greek roots eu, meaning "well" and calyptos, meaning "covered," referring to the protective covering of the flower bud during its development. Subsequently, over 500 species have been identified, and their classification is now based on inflorescence structure, bark habit, leaf venation and other characteristics. Originally native to Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea, Eucalyptus is now the most widely planted timber species in the world.

Eucalyptus deglupta

Eucalyptus deglupta

Eucalyptus deglupta, known as the "Rainbow Gum," is by far my favorite. Originally from the Philippine island of Mindanao, it is planted worldwide for pulp production, as it is a large tree which grows fast.

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco

It was a real treat to see a group of "Dragon Trees," Dracaena draco. They were impressive when seen at a distance, but even more so when examined from underneath. Some trunks were mostly white with horizontal markings, but others were richly colored with tan, brown, black-purple and mahogany-red. I could not locate a Dragon Tree expert to ask for an explanation, but I assumed the darker colors resulted when old leaves were removed.

My only previous familiarity with Dracaena was as boring little bushes sold as house plants in the box stores. The species is native to the Canary Islands and surprisingly is in the Asparaceae (asparagus) family. The largest and oldest tree of the species is venerated as "El Drago Milenario" (The thousand-year-old dragon), but since Dracaena is not truly a tree with annual growth rings, one can only estimate its age. If the bark is cut it secrets a red resin, a substance known as "dragon's blood," and can be used to stain wood, such as violins. After seeing the LA Arb's impressive collection I just might head to my nearest box store to purchase a Dragon Tree.

Bismarckia nobilis

Bismarckia nobilis

Bismarckia nobilis

I'm not a huge "palm guy," as I usually associate them with hot places where I would not want to live, but a notable exception is the remarkable Bismarckia nobilis. What the crabby Otto von Bismarck had to do with this palm I don't know, but then, like with the palm genus Washingtonia, maybe it was named just to honor a great man. The imposing silver-gray leaves can grow to ten feet across, and they are cut two-thirds into the center. Bismarckia is native only to Madagascar where it grows in savannas of low grass, and they are somewhat fire resistant.

Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue'

Agave tequilana 'Limeno'

Echium candicans 'San Bruno Pink'

Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire'

Strelitzea juncea

There were many more floral treasures to be sure, but I should be careful to not overstay your limit. The Arboretum was a veritable Disneyland for plant lovers, and we went on a great plant trip that was largely in the southern hemisphere. But enough! Stop reading now. I warn you: stop.

But if you can't stop, then continue, and I promise not to preach. Our afternoon destination was the Norton Simon Museum, where we saw some of the world's best art. It will speak for itself, and you don't need me to comment, so enjoy the "museum chaser."

Norton Simon Museum
Henri Matisse Odalisque with Tambourine (Harmony in Blue) 1926

Claude Monet Mouth of the Seine, Honfleur 1865

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Bathers Beneath Trees, Fehmarn 1913

Franz Marc Bathing Girls 1910

Edgar Degas Dancers in the Rotunda at the Paris Opera 1894

Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman 1927

Berthe Morisot In a Villa at the Seaside 1874

Pierre Bonnard Portrait of Leila Claude Anet 1930

Vincent van Gogh Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier) 1888

Amedeo Modigliani Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Jeanne Hebuterne 1918

Vincent van Gogh Portrait of the Artist's mother 1888

Pablo Picasso Still Life with Musical Instruments 1918

Henri Matisse The Black Shawl (Lorette VII) 1918

Diego Rivera The Flower Vendor 1941

Vincent van Gogh The Mulberry Tree 1889

Emil Nolde The Sea I 1912

Paul Klee Two Heads 1932

Paul Cezanne Uncle Dominique 1865

Vasily Kandinsky Unequal 1932

Jean-Frederic Bazille Woman in a Moorish Costume 1869

Pablo Picasso Woman with a Book 1932

Pablo Picasso Woman with a Book, detail 1932
Pierre-Auguste Renoir Reclining Nude 1892

I didn't know whether I would be dreaming about cactus or Renoir's reclining nude at night, but I certainly hoped the latter.


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  2. Hi can you seal me or change seeds fron tabebuia apricot and cristoricha pkz? I love ir i from colima mexico buy my brother live in long beach pLz contac to me