What is a fiddlehead?

fern leaf

A fiddlehead is a young frond or fern leaf.  When it first emerges from the underground rhizome (horizontal root-like structure) of the fern, it is tightly coiled and resembles a fiddle.  

As the new fiddleheads continue to unfurl, the new fern fronds expand and grow.  Most ferns have compound leaves (leaf blade is divided into several leaflets).

The Tucker Greenhouse is filled with collections of many different types of plants collected throughout the years. There is a very nice collection of ferns located in the north Tropical room on the northern most bench. Ferns are seedless, vascular plants. They produce spores instead of seeds, and they have a vascular system consisting of xylem and phloem for water and nutrient transport.


Sori (clusters of sporangia) on the undersides of a fern leaf.  Each sporangium is filled with numerous spores.

More on ferns another day! Perhaps next year…….

Blooms, fruit, & color for a cold winter day

banana flower

Bananas are just starting to bloom!

Bananas are found in the genus Musa, and the family Musacaceae.  Check out these photos of banana plants just beginning to bloom in the north room of the Tucker greenhouse.

banana flower

Close-up of yellow bracts, male stamens, and baby green bananas

Also, the Tucker greenhouse now has a large Papaya tree (courtesy of Josh with the Campus Grounds Crew)….check out the large papayas hanging from the top of this tree.

Carica papaya found in the Caricaceae family

Carica papaya found in the Caricaceae family

The Tucker greenhouse also has a really nice Coffee plant.  Right now it’s filled with ripened coffee ‘beans’….It’s located in a shady area in the tropical room in the north east corner.

red coffee berries

Coffea arabica found in the Rubiaceae family

Also, the Tucker greenhouse has a beautiful yellow Hibiscus plant blooming most of the year.  In the photo below, the ‘Tucker greenhouse volunteer extraordinaire’, Natalie, is showcasing its beauty.

yellow flower

Natalie & Hibiscus bloom

The photo below is a close-up of the specialized pistil and stamens found on this beautiful Hibiscus flower.

yellow flower

Hibiscus sp. found in the Malvaceae family

And lastly, the two photos below are of two different types of Orchids found in the Orchidaceae family.  The first is a terrestrial orchid called Haemaria discolor. The second is a close-up of the gynostemiun of a Phalaenopsis orchid.  All orchids are located in the north room on the east bench.

whwhite and yellow orchid flower

Haemaria discolor or Ludisia discolor.  Commonly called jewel orchid


Chocolate Alert!

chocolate pods on a tree

Chocolate pods, forming on the trunk of a Theobroma cacao or cocoa tree in the north room in the Tucker Greenhouse

In case you weren’t aware of this, chocolate comes from a tree.  MU has its very own Chocolate tree too!  To see the young chocolate ‘pods’, visit the Tucker Greenhouse and head to the north greenhouse.  The chocolate tree, or Theobroma cacao is located in the NW corner of the middle bed.  This small tree (4-8 meters) bloomed earlier in the fall, then set fruit, and now at least three chocolate pods can be seen on the trunk of the tree.  Each pod is full of seeds or ‘beans’ that are ground to make cocoa, and ultimately chocolate.  Once these pods turn yellow and ripen, it’s time to pick them and make chocolate.

Theobroma cacao is found in the Malvaceae or Mallow family.  Theobroma cacao is native to tropical regions in Central and South America.  Learn more about how chocolate is made by clicking here.