The Tucker Greenhouse has a very nice collection of ‘Air plants’….Air plants sort grow in the air. More accurately they kind of attach themselves, or hang on to other plants (epiphytes), and they get their water from rain, or humidity in the air. They are members of the Bromeliaceae family, otherwise known as Bromeliads. A well known epiphytic air plant is Spanish Moss. It is found in the South Eastern US and often grows on Live Oak trees. Bromeliads can be epiphytic, or terrestrial (grows in soil). An economically important terrestrial bromeliad is the pineapple plant The flowers of bromeliads are typically very colorful and showy, and their leaves are arranged in basal rosettes to ‘capture’ more water. Leaves are often stiff, leathery and have serrated or saw-like leaf margins.
Bromeliads are native to the forests, deserts, and mountains of Central and South America.
Manilkara zapota, commonly called Sapodilla or the Chicle Tree is found in the Sapotaceae family. This tree can grow to heights of 9 to 30 meters. When cut into, the bark of the Sapodilla tree oozes a sticky, white, gummy sap called ‘chicle‘, a substance from which chewing gum is made.
Tucker Greenhouse’s ‘Chiclet Gum tree’ is located in the tropical greenhouse on the west side of the room, right next to the pond. Our specimen is a very small tree, with inconspicuous flowers. The flowers were so inconspicuous that I never even saw the blooms. What drew my attention to this tree were the large kiwi-like fruits hanging from its upper branches. The Chicle Tree/Sapodilla is native to Mexico and Central America. The kiwi-like fruit is a berry containing five seeds. The fruit flesh is pale yellow to brown and tastes a lot like a pear.
The history of the harvesting of ‘chicle’ is very interesting, and people have been harvesting it for hundreds if not thousands of years. Mayan and Aztec Indians harvested chicle in pre-Columbian times. I was curious about how this was done, so I found this video of a ‘chiclero‘ or chicle harvester
The two photos below are of sapodilla fruit and leaves. Unfortunately, no pictures of flowers though.
The Tucker greenhouse has lots of Amaryllis bulbs that produced healthy, strong leaves months ago. Just two weeks ago, a bloom stalk emerged on one plant, then another. Today these blooms have opened…..The flowers have six ‘tepals’, six stamens, and a three-lobed stigma. They smell good too!