Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jatropha multifida.......Coral Plant

 Originating in Mexico, Brasil and the West Indies and belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae, Coral plant is a fast growing, semi-succulent  shrub or small tree with a single trunk, a loose, spreading crown and a typical height of 6-10ft but can be pruned to a desirable height.

The distinctive 7 to 15 lobed, finely divided leaves grow up to 12" wide and are reminiscent of Cannabis leaves. They are dark green above and lighter beneath. 

 It's preference is for full sun and slightly moist soil but it does require good drainage in the cooler months here on the south coast of Spain.

The flowers are bright coral red and borne in flat-topped clusters on short upright stems. 

 Coral plant blooms on and off all year long, and especially during hot weather. 
Most Euphorbias have a milky sap that flows from broken stems, but that of the coral plant looks more like cloudy water.

The fruits are yellow when ripe, round and nut like.

Perhaps not renowned for it's beauty,  it certainly is a curiously attractive plant and extremely generous with it's seedlings which spring up all around the mother plant.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata'......variegated Shell Ginger

 Growing happily in the Jungle Corner at Cortijo Azahar is one of the most striking of all variegated plants.

 In its native habitat and here on the south coast of Spain, it produces pendant racemes of fragrant pink/white flowers which  are rarely seen in cultivation in the UK unless grown in a very warm greenhouse. 
However, as a foliage plant alone, Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’ is undoubtedly extremely garden-worthy and prefers a position in sun or part shade in rich, fertile, moist but well-drained soil.

From the Family Zingiberaceae and originating from tropical areas of India, this evergreen rhizomatous perennial of the Ginger family has leathery leaves up to 2 ft long and 6 inches acrossm long, variegated with bands and stripes of cream and yellow.
The Shell Ginger grows to around 7 ft under a Chirimoya tree here in the Cortijo Azahar garden.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Parkinsonia aculeata........Jerusalem Thorn

 Jerusalem thorn is a small tree growing to 25 ft tall with a short trunk and a graceful, spreading, crown. 

The splendid specimen in the garden at Cortijo Azahar was grown from a seed some eight years ago now. 
The slender branches and twigs have green bark, and are armed with spines.
It has peculiar straplike, twice compound leaves that look like long, feathery streamers. Each leaf is modified into 2 or 4 strips about 10-16 in long and less than an 1 in wide.
 Each strip has 22-30 pairs of tiny opposing leaflets less than 0.33 in long.  
The leaves appear shortly after rain, they fold up at night, and usually within a few days the tiny leaflets drop off, leaving the persistent rachises (midribs) to flutter like streamers in the wind. Eventually these fall off too, and accumulate like pine needles beneath the tree. 
The brown pods are about 3-4 in  long and constricted between the seeds.

  A spectacular display of clustered pealike, yellow-orange, fragrant flowers in spring makes the whole tree look like a giant yellow bouquet. 

The genus name Parkinsonia honors the English botanist John Parkinson (1567–1650), while the species Latin name aculeata refers to the thorny stem of this plant.  It belongs to the  Fabaceae family.

 There are five species in the genus Parkinsonia: four in North and South America and one in South Africa. Jerusalem thorn is native to desert grasslands and canyons in Mexico and the SW US. .
It is grown as an ornamental in tropical and subtropical climates and has escaped cultivation and established in Florida, California, the West Indies, and in Australia where it is regarded as one of the most troublesome invasive weeds in the Northern Territories

Jerusalem thorn has been used to revegetate desertified regions in Africa and Pakistan. 
It is highly adapted to life in the desert. It has largely done away with leaves that lose water through evaporation and transpiration, producing its food instead within the photosynthetic tissue of the bark. 

 Jerusalem Thorn is well suited to informal landscapes and looks well in a cactus and succulent garden. Its lacy foliage and slender twigs contrast with the solid  shapes of the succulents. 
Unaffected by heat, it makes a fine street or patio tree and provides a delicate, filtered shade.

Native Americans harvested the seeds of Jerusalem thorn which they sun dried for storage and parched over dry heat before eating.

An infusion of leaves, flowers and fruits is an alternative remedy to reduce fever, prevent malaria and ease rheumatism

 The raw and cooked seeds are rich in proteins.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Clerodendrum ugandense......Blue Butterfly Bush

Growing in the Botanic Garden, Cambridge, England

 As its name suggests it is an East African native, from Kenya & Uganda and belongs to the family Verbenaceae.

Other common names are Butterfly clerodendrum, Blue Glory Bower or Blue Wings.

Although cultivated in Botanical Gardens for over 100 years it has only recently become popular as a flowering pot plant.

This evergreen, fast growing, show stopper has  lovely irregular shaped two shades of  true blue flowers which bloom almost continuously from early summer to late Autumn and this Autumn,  will see it planted in its well deserved special place in the Cortijo Azahar Garden.