Plant Particulars January 2013

When it is cold outside one of the best places to be is in the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing. It’s warm, humid, colorful and enchanting! While the butterflies are the main “act” in the Wing, there are some very interesting plants that cannot be found anywhere else at Reiman Gardens.

The starburst plant (Clerodendrum quadriloculare) is in full bloom right now. This tropical plant has long tube-shaped white flowers that resemble Q-tips, which is why many people just simply call it the Q-tip plant! The flowers are arranged in clusters that give this plant a dramatic fireworks-looking display.

The pitch-apple (Clusia rosea) is also unique to the Butterfly Wing. This plant has medium green thick, large, leathery, stiff leaves shaped like a small paddle. This small tree often flowers and fruits throughout the year, and the leaves sometimes hide the flowers and fruit so look closely for them. The fruit is notable in that while not edible, looks similar to a small apple. When mature, it splits open into four wings revealing bright red seeds.

Also noteworthy and dramatic is the traveler’s palm (Ravenala madagascariensis). This plant is actually not related to palms at all, but is instead a cousin to bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia). The stem sheaths hold water which supposedly could be used as an emergency source of water for a traveler, but it is often dirty and murky, so you would have to be pretty thirsty before resorting to this source of water. Outdoors the wind typically rips the leaves into narrow strips giving it a much more palm-like appearance. With no wind in the Butterfly Wing, however, we can enjoy the large (3’ long) leaves in a paddle shape.

Plant selection in the Butterfly Wing is very purposeful. USDA regulations prohibit any butterfly host plants from being permanently planted in the Wing. This prevents butterflies from laying eggs. A small caterpillar would have a much easier time escaping than an adult butterfly.

Next time you stop by the Butterfly Wing have a seat and enjoy the butterflies and look at all the beautiful plants they are flying around!

Prepared by Aaron Steil, Education Coordinator