Chicago Botanic Garden

What's in Bloom

What's in Bloom — Highlight 04.19.13

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Red-flowered passion vine (Passiflora vitifolia) is blooming in the Tropical Greenhouse.

[CC-BY-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons.

Passiflora vitifolia is a spectacular red-flowered passion vine native to a broad region stretching from Costa Rica to northwestern South America. The deeply lobed green leaves resemble those of grapes—the grape genus is Vitis—ergo the specific epithet referring to grapelike foliage. The leaves are an important food source for larvae of Heliconius butterfly species; the adults visit the flowers to obtain nectar. (Species of Heliconius butterflies can be seen later this year in Butterflies & Blooms.)

Pollinated flowers are followed by 5-inch, speckled, egg-shaped fruit with edible, juicy, whitish pulp. The fruit is very sour until fully ripened.

This is a large and fast-growing vine (to 20 feet) that requires a warm, humid greenhouse with bright light to thrive in the Chicago area.



PHOTO: Brunfelsia pauciflora

The Semitropical Greenhouse, with its Mediterranean climate, features Brunfelsia pauciflora — accurately named the yesterday, today and tomorrow plant for the transformation of deep purple flowers to lavender and then finally white as they age.

This fragrant shrub is a moderate grower, but it can reach a fairly large size in a nongreenhouse environment. In USDA Zones 9 to11 it will reach 3 to 8 feet tall, with a spread of 4 to 6 feet. When grown indoors, it can be pruned to a modest size as a specimen plant. Yesterday, today and tomorrow plant is known to contain poisonous alkaloids. The berries are especially toxic.

The yesterday, today and tomorrow plant (Brunfelsia pauciflora) is in the Subtropical Greenhouse.


Barbara Karst bougainvillea (Bougainvillea x buttiana 'Barbara Karst') is a strong, upright-growing, woody tropical vine that features masses of pink bracts tinted with apricot and red whenever the soil is relatively dry. Bougainvilleas are almost entirely pest-free and have very low watering needs, making them a great pick for a larger container plant. This plant can be kept in a container for years, rotating indoors during the winter months into a bright lighted window for continuing bloom.

Barbara Karst bougainvillea (Bougainvillea x buttiana 'Barbara Karst') is growing against the wall in the south section of the Temperate Greenhouse.


Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) is a rare find in U.S. botanical gardens. Aside from the Chicago Botanic Garden, only the Fairchild Botanical Gardens, south of Miami, Florida, and the Waimea Botanic Gardens in Hawaii have this interesting plant. The unusual color of the jade vine's blooms is the result of pigments in two different color classes being modified by high pH in the sap of the stems.

Native to the Philippines, only old, mature plants produce flowers. Jade vine is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) and is bat-pollinated in the wild. The brilliantly colored, oddly shaped flowers are adapted for bats to hang upside down and sip the nectar within.

Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) is at the entrance of the Tropical Greenhouse.

PHOTO: Pachypodium decaryi

Pachypodium of Madagascar (Pachypodium decaryi) is currently covered with 4-inch, heavily textured white flowers held in clusters at the ends of long, fleshy stems. Not particularly fragrant, the color suggests a moth or bat may be the pollinator. Unlike other pachypodiums, the stems of Pachypodium decaryi are not armed with spines. It is among the rarest of its species, due to difficulties with propagation.

Pachypodium translates to "elephant foot," a reference to the thickened lower trunks used to store up water for the prolonged droughts of its homeland. It is native to the island of Madagascar — one of the world's most threatened biological hot spots, due to conversion of the natural ecosystems into agricultural land to support a growing population.

Pachypodium of Madagascar (Pachypodium decaryi) is in the Arid Greenhouse.