Saturday, January 23

Winter in Madagascar: Darwin Orchids, Voodoo Lilies, and "Crack Plants"

It hasn't just been my own garden (and housecleaning!) that have fallen by the wayside this year.  I haven't been able to spend near as much time volunteering at the Botanical Garden as I would have liked.  So on Thursday, during a rare day off, I decided that I needed a little dirt therapy more than I needed extra sleep or time to vacuum... and I headed east to put in a few hours at the glasshouse.  Little did I know what excitement awaited me!

Before we get to that, though, I have to show another photo of the HUGE Bismarck palm that always leaves me a little bit in awe:

See the little window in the "cliff face" in front of the Bismarckia?  The glasshouse also includes some native denizens of Madagascar, like these two yellow plated lizards:

Okay, you're right, one photo of the Bismarck palm isn't really enough.  This second one shows how friendly it is... see it getting all touchy-feeling with its (sometimes prickly) neighbors?

Alright, alright.  I know.  Time to move on.  Let's go to another one of my other favorite areas of the Madagascar Glasshouse.  Here's the "reef" that Joe built for this past summer's feature on succulents:

I was a little surprised to see it still existed (sans a few large potted succulents that filled the two gaps you see in the front) but Joe said that it was pretty popular, so it will probably stay and just be reworked.  A few of  the plants in it are currently blooming:

Above the reef, you can see some of the many plant pockets that were built into the plateau/cliff faces.  When Joe leaves me directions to water these, he calls them the "crevice plants" or something else a little more proper, but I am amused to think of them as "crack plants" instead.  See the little square thing on the wall in the right side of the photo?  That's a moisture sensor of some kind... I'm not sure what they do, really, I just know that I have to be careful not to water them or they'll be ruined.

Some more crazy crack plants for you to enjoy:

Yes, those last four photos show the same pachypodium in flower.  I couldn't decide which photo I liked the best, so I posted  them all!  By the way, don't some of these "crack garden" succulents remind you of sea creatures, too?  This looks like a bunch of lobster claws all strung together:

I love the delicate beauty and varying colors of the euphorbia blooms.  Here are a few more, followed by a whole pot of them set out for Christmas decor:

Until you turn the corner, you might think that this gorgeous urn full of the Darwin orchid, angraecum sesquipedale (an-GRY-kum ses-kwee-PEE-dahl) must be the piece de resistance of the potted  plants in the glasshouse today:

This gorgeous orchid has a 12-inch-long nectar spur, which led Charles Darwin to theorize that it must have a pollinator with a 12-inch-long proboscis.  (Hence its common name of "The Darwin Orchid.")  Recently, this moth was discovered by humans, proving Darwin right.  But his orchid still isn't the most interesting potted plant in the garden.  These plants win that contest, if only by a nose:

 I know...  *groan*... but I just had to indulge my punny bone and go for the cheap laugh!  These are, of course, amorphophallus.  Also called corpse flowers, voodoo lilies, and all kinds of other interesting names, you definitely smell them before you see them.  But when you see them, you can't help but be fascinated by these Seussian beauties.  Here are a few more (fragrance-free) looks:

So how bad did they smell in person?  REALLY bad.  Like a whole sack of rotting potatoes with a little bit of country roadkill thrown in.  I kept thinking that I would get used to it while I was cleaning up these pretty blooming kalanchoe of a few mildewy leaves...

... but I didn't.  Just when I thought I was winning the "mind over matter" match, I'd get a fresh whiff of eau de rotting flesh and felt my nose wrinkle in reaction.  So let's just take one more closer look at the kalanchoe blooms (oops, the plant formerly known as a kalanchoe, I mean--I think that Joe said this one got shifted around on the botanical family tree recently) and then move on:

As I mentioned earlier, there are some creatures included in the Madagascar exhibit, and not all of them are behind plated glass.  Just past the tortoise enclosure is one of the bird feeders that starts out clean and full at the beginning of each day... and it was here that I finally--FINALLY--captured one of the tiny birds stealing a late afternoon snack:

A baby bird in the Costa Rican rainforest glasshouse had fallen out of its nest in the late afternoon and had to receive some attention from Joe.  But in a happier wildlife encounter... I got to water this girl today:

See her in the middle of the frame, facing left?  She's one of the chameleons on exhibit (they're switched in and out of the exhibit, one at a time) and while I was working, she had climbed down much closer to the pathway.  Joe let me water her--which basically involves spraying her with a fine mist until she either starts drinking the beads that form on her snout or walks away to let you know she isn't having any of this watering business.

I have to say that was the highlight of my Thursday afternoon at the Botanical Garden!  All in all, the time spent volunteering did me good on a great many levels.  It will be a couple of weeks before I have a day off again... but when the next day off comes, I pretty much know where I will be.  :)


Ewa in the Garden said...

Kim, thanks for this beautiful tour among drought loving plants - the older I am, the more I like them at home - so my collection expans. It is nice to see some of them blooming.
My love got stronger after visiting botanic garden in Wroclaw/Poland - they have remarkable collections and displayed also nice.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I can see why you love to go there. It is like taking a vacation in a foreign land. I just love succulents. The crack plants are most interesting.

Meagan said...

Matt and I finally got to the garden a few weekends ago (it was my first time there). I forgot my camera, which annoyed me. We enjoyed it, but I am forced to admit I'm just not a plant fanatic: all I could keep thinking was that THIS texture would be perfect skin for a creature I was working on, or THESE flowers could totally have faeries inside, and hey THOSE thorns would have been a much better model for my Sleeping Beauty drawing.

Oh well, maybe when I ever start a garden I'll be inspired by more than shapes and textures...

Unknown said...

Absolutely mindboggling, Kim! It was like Dr. Suess meets Avatar/Pandora meets a prehistoric and undersea world. Glad I could appreciate the amorphophallus from a distance...

Unknown said...

Ewa, it really is the display that makes a difference, isn't it? I've come to realize that with quite a few of my houseplants anymore!

Greenbow Lisa, it IS kind of like that! With the added bonus that you can watch other people's reactions to what they're seeing, too.

Meagan, you and Matt HAVE to go back when the children's garden is open--you would love it! It's seriously my favorite part of the garden. (And I think I get a couple of friend tickets each year as a perk for volunteering, so let me know when... :)

Jodi, you'd better not move next door to me, then! lol. I have some of those 'Konjac' amorphophallus bulbs... mine are a few years away from blooming, though, so the neighbors are safe for a while yet!

kris at Blithewold said...

"Crack Plants" had me thinking you were going to talk about addiction - not plants growing in cracks! But probably for the likes of us it's one and the same... Some of our kalanchoes (don't tell me the name's changed - gah.) are about to bloom - I've got my camera poised and ready too. Thanks for showing off all of that crack - I mean - those crack plants!

Gail said...

Thanks for the winter treat~but, the garden can keep it's Voodoo Lily! gail

Unknown said...

Blithewold Kris, good point that it's basically one in the same! I don't think that ALL of the kalanchoes have changed, just that particular one... maybe it looked too comfy or something, and the botanists decided it needed a shakeup? ;)

Gail, awwww... thanks for stopping to leave a comment, but SAVE UP THOSE 15 MINUTES FOR POSTS INSTEAD, girl! We miss you when you don't post as much, even though we know your hands need the R&R!

joey said...

Weren't we blessed by your day off, Kim! Thanks for tour and sharing your lovely photos. (Glad passing the amorphophallus that my smell-a-vision was on the blink!

Kylee Baumle said...

What fun, Kim! I'd be making a nuisance of myself if I lived close to the gardens. I'm always amazed at the beautiful blooms of cactus-type plants. Mom and I went to the Ft. Wayne Botanical Gardens a few years ago to catch a whiff of their Amorphophallus, but it was on its way out, so it didn't smell much. Probably a good thing!

Christine said...

Hello Kim, I've just encountered your blog and have been enjoying your posts. Especially this one, as it was written on my birthday!
Have a great weekend.

IlonaGarden said...

I enjoyed the vicarious tour, too- your pictures gave me a winter's day "lift".

lisa said...

Fun! I'm envious...I'd love to have a paying job doing that stuff! (Actually I'd volunteer anyway if there was a place like that near my home :)

Pam said...

Those voodoo lilies are just crazy - I've seen photos of them, but haven't ever met one 'in person' (sounds like that might be a good thing!).

Hope all has been going well in your world - I've only been sporadically out and about, and am behind! But I must say when I heard of the foliage day, after garden bloggers bloom day, I first thought of you!

Zanarison Zephyrin said...

I am Zephyrin Z ( Jeff ) from Madagascar /Mada3 Trip .As I collect endemic plants from Madagascar ;I'd just need to stress that you've done a very wonderful job Kim !If one day you come to Madagascar ,I will be glad to show you my small 'Madagascar Exotic Garden '.


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