Stepalia hirsute ‘Zebra’, Carrion Plant
Strelitzia reginae, Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise is grown for its stunning flowers. The 4 foot tall flower stalk holds a long, horizontal, red-rimmed, beak-shaped bract. The 6” orange sepals with three blue fused petals look like the feathered head of an exotic bird. This plant blooms only after it is at least five years old. The root systems grow well when tightly enclosed and being pot-bound encourages blooming. This South African native is attractive to birds for nectar and water held in the bracts, and is popular in florist shops as an exotic cut flower.
Ananas bracteatus, Pineapple
Pineapple gets its common name from the resemblance between its fruit and pine cones. Pineapples originated in South America and are cultivated in many tropical regions, including Hawaii. Pineapple bromeliads are short, stocky, herbaceous perennials which grow on the ground. The tough, waxy leaves are sword shaped with sharp toothed margins.
The flower stalk grows out of the center of the leaves and produces about 200 flowers. Individual fruits develop from each flower and then join together to create a pineapple fruit, a collection of fused fruits (a syncarp). Because pineapples are seedless and sterile, the plants are propagated from baby offsets or the coma, which is the tuft of leaf-like bracts on top of the pineapple fruit. Pineapples take 12-18 months to fruit from a rooted coma or offset. Pineapples are fairly easy to grow if they receive plentiful sunlight and regular moisture.
Psidium littorale, Strawberry Guava
Guava trees are native to Brazil and cultivated throughout Tropical Americas, SE Asia and Africa. The woody tropical trees have ornamental exfoliating bark and thick dark leaves. Guavas are often marketed as superfruits due to their high fiber, antioxidant, vitamin C, and vitamin A contents. Guavas’ phytonutrients (flavonoids) help modify the body’s response to allergens, viruses, and carcinogens. Common guavas have 4X the amount of vitamin C as a single orange. Guavas are consumed in juice drinks, desserts and sauces. Guavas have a high level of pectin, which make it a favorite fruit for preserves, jellies, and candies.
Carica papaya, Papaya
Papayas originated in the tropics of America and were first cultivated in Mexico. The plants thrive in climates with temperatures above 60 F. Papaya trees grow up to 33 feet tall. Their trunks have attractive scars in a decorative spiral pattern from detached older leaf stems. The sweet smelling, small white flowers are clustered around the main stem in the leaf axils.
Papayas can also be grown in containers; the size of papaya fruits and leaf stem length are proportionate to size of the pot. Papaya plants can begin to fruit when they are 4 feet tall. Some cultivars are fast growing and can set fruit 10 months after planting.
Papaya fruits are a staple crop in much of the tropics. The fruit is ripe when the peel turns yellow. The sweet, soft, ripe flesh is either salmon/orange or yellow; it tastes like a cross between cantaloupe and watermelon. The ripe fruit is high in A carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin B.
Papayas have many uses. The unripe green fruit is popular in Asia for making curries and salads. The stem is used to made rope. Green fruit and the tree’s latex contain papain, a protease, which acts as a meat tenderizer.
Coffea arabica, Coffee
The coveted coffee bean starts as a star-shaped white flower with a sweet fragrance. The flowers grow in the leaf axils – where the leaves join the stem – on evergreen shrubs. The coffee beans start off green and ripen to red.
Coffee plantations primarily exist in Africa, Madagascar, South and Central America. In the United States, coffee can only be grown in Hawaii. It has long been thought that coffee is native to Ethiopia, but research is leading to the Sudan as the source of native coffee. Coffee is grown under shade trees in the legume family, which fix and enrich nitrogen in the soil. Traditional farms are being replaced with sun-tolerant selections for high-intensity production. The unshaded plantations cause a loss of habitat for migrating birds, low economic return, overproduction of lower grade coffee and job loss.