Colors of the season

Tuesday, December 22, 2009



 Maybe it’s just me, but I keep noticing red and white flowers this month that resonate with the holiday season.

White candles.

Just beyond the visitors Center in Plot 50 is a shrub that holds up charming white flowers,  a Whitfieldia, or white candles. It hails from the rainforests of Africa but makes a lovely guest in South Florida. Dark green leaves set off the panicles of flowers that are held upright, resembling candles. The flowers are tubular, emerging from fuzzy white bracts.

 Whitfieldia likes some midday shade, particularly in our summers, and can develop bleached out leaves if it gets too much exposure. Otherwise, since it originates in seasonally wet forests, it takes to our climate nicely. Use controlled-release palm fertilizer three times a year, and if yellowing occurs that is not due to too much sun, apply chelated iron.

Also near the Visitors Center are several lovely specimens of

Flame of Jamaica.

Flame of Jamaica, Euphorbia punicea, holding up what might be holiday bows on their branches. Strategically planted in full sun next to white candles in one instance and little Christmas flower (Euphorbia leucocephala) in another, the red bracts surround small yellow flowers. The Euphorbia punicea bracts, which vary in color from pinkish-red to deep red, are fewer in number than on a poinsettia, and not as large, but this is a tidier plant that can reach tree-size and so produces a larger, if more subdued, display. It was a Fairchild 2008 Plant of the Year, and with good reason. It takes well to our limestone soil and doesn’t require special care. Plus, it attracts warblers and honeybees. Always a good thing.