Thursday, July 29, 2010

Plant of the Day: Lilium michauxii

Lilium michauxii, the Carolina lily, is named for the French Botanist Andre Michaux, who studied plants in the southeastern US. Its beauty among dry woods is rare, and one of the traits that make this such as special plant in our collections. The state wildflower of North Carolina, this lovely creature is native to the coastal plains as far north as Virginia and south to Florida, reaching as far west as Louisiana.

The filaments with brown anthers protrude from reddish to yellow-orange reflexed petals spotted with brown specs. The flowers bloom in July and August, but sometimes all the way through October. These photos were taken today in the Kaul Wildflower Garden here at The Gardens. If you want to see for yourself, grab your camera, a bottle of water, and hike up to the Kaul Wildflower Garden (we'll be happy to show you the way if you need help)!

-Katie King, Summer Intern


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Plant of the Day: Platycodon grandiflorus

This neat-looking guy can be found at The Gardens in the Ireland Iris Garden. Platycodon grandiflorus, balloon flower, is from Japan and China. It gets its name because the unopened buds look like inflated balloons, clearly. They gently open wide in blue, but are also found in white and pink forms; great for kids, but they will want to to pop them and are always bummed they don't make any noise! They are excellent in the heat of the South with some afternoon shade and long-lived here, but a bit on the floppy side. Shorter cultivars do exist, but this isn't one of them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Plant of the Day: Phlox paniculata

An unknown Phlox paniculata, but very likely the cultivar 'Common Purple' introduced by Goodness Grows Nursery in GA.  Probably won't find that name in any catalogs, but it is available at local nurseries because it flowers its head off here in the Ireland Iris Garden and is heat- and mildew-resistant – which cannot be said about most other selections of this plant, of which there are many. Called tall phlox, or garden phlox, this selection blooms for almost two months in mid-summer. The species has broad range, north to New York and west to Mississippi, and has been recorded as native in AL (two counties).

-Fred Spicer, Executive Director

Friday, July 23, 2010

Plant of the Day: Ricinis communis

Seedlings of a bronze-red Ricinis communis, or castor bean. It's not a true bean, but it is a sometimes re-seeding annual relative of poinsettia and other Euphorbia. And yes, it is the source of castor oil once forced on youngsters to treat various maladies (ask your grandmother!) and still used in paints and varnishes.

Oil comes from the bean-like seeds, but the seed coat contains ricin, a poisonous aklaloid, and the leaves cause contact dermatits in sensitive individuals: this plant is one bad dude! It's harmless if you don't touch don't touch it and definitely don't eat it! For heaven's sake, don't eat any plant at The Gardens! The harmful ones aren't labeled, so as not to scare the public off!

-Fred Spicer, Executive Director

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Plant of the Day: Hibiscus coccineus

Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator, John Manion, found this
Hibiscus coccineus in the Bog Garden here at The Gardens.
As you can see, it's flower is quite large! More pictures below!

Hibiscus coccineus, is called swamp hibiscus, scarlet rosemallow, scarlet hibiscus, or Texas star; native to extreme southern US, including a few counties in AL. Must have wet soil and sun for good flowering like in this location in the Bog Garden at BBG; in my garden I have to mark its location because it is so late emerging (28 Apr this year).

Allan Armitage (Herbaceous Perennial Plants) writes: "The leaves are palmately lobed and look like those of Japanese maple or marijuana, whichever you happen to be most familiar with." Really an eyepopper when 5' tall and in flower, almost a see-through plant when not.

-Fred Spicer, Executive Director

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Plant of the Day: Strobilanthes dyerianus

Strobilanthes dyerianus, is Persian shield, or Bermuda conehead, and is from Burma (Myanmar): go figure!  The genus name means cone-flower, hence the second part of the second name. A purely tropical shrub but a knockout foliage annual or tender perennial (roots might overwinter here, might not) with leaves that look like purple foil etched with green variegations. Best with morning sun and afternoon shade and plenty of moisture and fertilizer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Keeping Cool Among the Water Lilies

by Katherine King, Intern

Katie was recently chosen from eight finalists as our 2010 intern, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Shades Valley. From Bristol, Tennessee, Katie is a recent graduate of Samford University with a B.S. in biology--she has even studied botany in Belize (are you as jealous as we are?)! The internship gives a rising senior or recent college graduate hands-on experience with greenhouse production, planting, grounds maintenance, arboriculture, pest management, curatorial aspects of plant collections and garden display/design.

The contentment I find in watching the dragonflies zip from one water lily blossom to another in the Kayser Water Lily Pool of the Hill Garden at  Birmingham Botanical Gardens can almost make me forget about the sweltering heat I’m baking in, and you can bet I’ve thought about dipping my toes in the foot-deep pond a time or two. 

Water lilies are in the family, Nymphaeaceae, distributed worldwide, consisting of about seventy species in eight genera. In the Kayser Pool, all species are of the genus Nymphaea. Specifically, the pool contains the following cultivars (a cultivar is a plant variety selected for certain characteristics, such as form and flower color): ‘Pink capensis,’ ‘Director George T. Moore’ (pictured above), ‘Antares,’ ‘Green smoke,’ and ‘Albert Greenburg.’