What's in Bloom
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Sources for "What's in Bloom: Bloom Highlights" listings include the Chicago Botanic Garden's staff and database, as well as the publications and records of other botanic gardens, institutions, and the scientific community.
Thunbergia grandiflora, commonly known as the blue trumpet vine, is native to northern India. Like other climbing vines, it needs space to attain mature size and habit. Hard pruning to control the size significantly reduces flower production. Flowers are more lavender than blue.
This genus was named in honor of Dr. Carl Peter Thunberg, who traveled and collected extensively in Java and Japan at a time when both of those countries were not friendly to outsiders.
Theobroma cacao, known as cacao (and as chocolate in the refined form) is a small tree that produces hard seeds encased in large yellow pods. The small, insignificant white flowers are produced all along the trunk and larger stems. A plant with historic roots, its seeds were used as currency by the Aztecs and other nations from Mexico extending south to the ends of the Mayan empire until the arrival of the Spanish. The Aztecs and the other ancient nations were very fond of a drink featuring whipped cacao (sometimes augmented with hot chili peppers, vanilla, or achiote). The Spanish found the drink too astringent, but exported some of the seeds to Europe, where the chili was replaced with milk and sugar.
Native to Bolivia, red powderpuff (Calliandra haematocephala) is an evergreen shrub or small tree included in the legume or pea family, Fabaceae, and the mimosa subfamily (Mimosoideae). It typically grows 10 to 15 feet tall in its native habitat and is a very popular flowering shrub in central and southern Florida, where it will survive year around in the ground. Bipinnately compound leaves (5 to 10 pairs of leaflets per pinna) open copper-pink but mature to dark green. Raspberry-like flower buds open to hemispherical red powderpuff flower heads to 3 inches across, consisting of masses of scarlet stamens. Red powderpuff blooms primarily in fall and winter, but sporadic additional blooms may occur throughout the rest of the year. Variations in flower color exist, with some pink and white forms available. The genus name,Calliandra, comes from the Greek words kallos (beauty) andros (stamen).
During what is winter in North America, spider aloe (Aloe × spinosissima) produces a profusion of unbranched spikes of brilliant orange-red flowers—a favorite of hummingbirds in its native growing region of South Africa. This hybrid will tolerate temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods of time, but it grows best in full sun, in frost-free environments with well-drained soils.
The specific epithet of this cultivar refers to the abundance of blunt-tipped spines along the leaf edge.
Silvery white spines cover this species (Mammillaria geminispina), a mounding cactus from Mexico, throughout the year. Brilliant hot pink flowers are produced in a ring around the apical meristem (growing point) from late spring through fall, attracting various pollinating insects, while the spines deter predation by herbivores. The small pinkish red fruit are often present at the same time as the flowers, if pollinators are present.