Chicago Botanic Garden

What's in Bloom

What's in Bloom — Highlight 02.15.13

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Cameron's Magnetism dwarf cattelya orchid (x Potinara Cameron's Magnetism) can be found low on the westernmost orchid tree (not in the banana belt), near the path.

Cameron's Magnetism dwarf cattelya orchid (x Potinara Cameron's Magnetism) is a member of the Orchidaceae family. Potinara is a manmade genus created from several species of cattleya-type orchids. The genus consists of grandparents from Brassovola, Cattleya, Laelia, and Sophronitis. These varieties seem well suited for home culture, due to hybridization and their small size. It can easily be imagined that a combination of desirable qualities from a hybrid would be an outstandingly handsome thing, and many lovely combinations do occur in Potinara crosses. The beautifully colored Cameron's Magnetism is produced from the aurea form of Guarianthe aurantiaca; it blooms with lovely yellow-orange flowers.

Potinara orchids prefer the same general conditions as cattelya orchids, including partial sun in an eastern or western exposure, and high humidity. They are susceptible to root rot, so make sure to allow the potting medium to almost completely dry between waterings.

PHOTO: Clivia miniata

Bush lily (Clivia miniata) is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family native to damp woodlands in southern Africa, where they grow in the forests of Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, and Swaziland. They do not occur naturally anywhere else. Their habitat ranges from subtropical coastal forests to ravines in high-altitude forests, where they thrive in dappled shade in well drained, humus-rich soil. In their native habitat, they are often found in large colonies and sometimes growing in the fork of a tree.

The world's love affair with Clivia began in the 1800s, when specimens were sent back to England from Kwazulu-Natal. The plant was named after the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who first cultivated and flowered the specimen in England. Bush lilies grow to a height of about 18 to 24 inches with orangey/peachy, trumpet-shaped flowers that emit a faint, but very sweet, perfume. The foliage of this clump-forming perennial with its dark green, strap-shaped leaves arises from a fleshy underground stem, forming a perfect foil for its masses of beautifully colored flowers. Unfortunately, in many areas of its natural habitat, colonies of wild bush lilies have been destroyed by harvesting for traditional medicine; the plants are extremely toxic but are used medicinally for various purposes.

Bush lily makes a spectacular indoor plant, due to its tolerance of low light levels and need for little to no water during the winter. Although it is one of those rare plants that actually blooms best if slightly potbound, its roots are perennial, and the plant resents root disturbance (which usually displays as a skipped flowering cycle).

Bush lily (Clivia miniata) is in the Arid Greenhouse, by the southernmost door.

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Cape jasmine (Tabernaemontana divaricata 'Flore Pleno'), a member of the Apocynaceae (dogbane) family, is a showy tropical shrub with extremely fragrant, nocturnal, double white, 1.5-inch flowers with crimped or wavy corollas. Its glossy 6- by 2-inch leaves are elliptic and wavy-margined, colored mid- to dark green above and pale green beneath, and its many-branched foliage tends to grow almost parallel to the ground, giving the shrub an attractive horizontal aspect.

The species name, divaricata, means "at an obtuse angle." A fast and easy grower, it reaches a height of 6 feet and a width of 5 to 8 feet. Native to parts of India, China, and Thailand, this plant thrives in full sun or partial shade, where temperatures are above 50 degrees in moist and fertile soil. Somewhat drought- and heat-tolerant, the cape jasmine is grown for its ornamental features and grows very well in containers. Like many members of the Apocynaceae family, the stems of cape jasmine exude a milky latex when broken.

Cape jasmine (Tabernaemontana divaricata 'Flore Pleno') can be found in the Semitropical Greenhouse near the south door.

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Ecuador angel's trumpet (Brugmansia versicolor) is a large shrub or small tree that grows up to 15 feet tall and wide, bearing immense (12- to 20-inch), pendulous, peach-colored, heavenly scented flowers. A member of the Solanaceae (potato) family, it is a native of the Guayaquil Basin in Ecuador. It thrives in sun or shade with moderate watering and flowers perennially with the largest bloom of all the Brugmansia.

This genus was initially grouped with Daturas by the famous botanist Carl Linné (who documented them in 1753 from a drawing and not from live plant material). In 1805, South African taxonomist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon created a separate genus for Brugmansia, but it was not until 1973 that Tom E. Lockwood created a final division between the two genera.

Like the closely related Datura, Ecuador angel's trumpet is exceptionally poisonous if ingested in large quantities. It contains various alkaloids that have toxic properties which affect the mind and body. Some of these alkaloids include atropine and scopolamine. Whether swallowed or inhaled, the flowers, leaves, and seeds will most likely cause symptoms of hallucinations, dry mouth, muscle weakness, increased pulse and blood pressure, fever, dilated pupils, and paralysis. So enjoy this beautiful plant, but don't eat the flowers!

Ecuador angel's trumpet (Brugmansia versicolor) can be found in the Tropical Greenhouse just east of the Palm Allée.

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Fantasy Valley Starburst epidendrum orchid (Epidendrum Fantasy Valley 'Starburst') is a reed-stem orchid with very showy, delicate, bright orange flowers. A member of the Orchidaceae family, it is native to the Western hemisphere, found from South Carolina to Argentina, where it grows in all sorts of locations, including humid jungles; dry tropical forests; sunny, grassy slopes; cool cloud forests; and sandy barrier islands. Many of this genus are relatively easy to grow in rich humus compost. In nature, species can be epiphytic (growing on tree trunks), terrestrial (growing in very loose well drained disturbed soils), or lithophytic (growing on rock).

Fantasy Valley Starburst epidendrum orchid (Epidendrum Fantasy Valley 'Starburst') is planted in the soil on the west side of the Tropical Greenhouse.