Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Lloyd Jones

A Hint of Vanilla

Posted in Around the Garden on April 16 2019, by Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones is an Assistant Gardener in NYBG’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Photo of a vanilla orchid
Vanilla planifolia

Within the Lowland Rain Forest house of the NYBG’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory exists the only orchid genus from which a culinary product is derived. Native to the tropical Americas, it is widely cultivated in tropical climates throughout the world. Vanilla planifolia is an orchid of unusual orchid characteristics, but provides a popular, gratifying flavor. The opposite and alternate foliage is flat, thus the specific epithet “planifolia.” It is classified as an epiphytic/terrestrial tropical vine with aerial roots for support and to collect nutrients and water. This plant thrives in moist, humid, and warm conditions with filtered light. The name vanilla comes from the Spanish word vainilla, meaning small pod.

This year I have personally counted 13 clusters of flower buds, which are now unfolding one bud per cluster, per day. The flower color ranges from light green to pale yellow, and, because the native pollinator is not present outside the orchid’s native range, it must be hand pollinated during the morning of the first 24 hours when they flowers are receptive. For both educational and collections purposes, we plan on hand pollinating the flowers as they successively open. If pollination is successful, we expect to see the familiar vanilla pods forming over the next few months. Come visit and witness the origin of one the world’s favorite flavors!

Into the Lowland Rain Forest

Posted in Gardens and Collections on March 14 2019, by Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones is an Assistant Gardener in NYBG’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Photo of Osa pulchra
Osa pulchra

In the heart of the Bronx remains hidden an unlikely treasure, an oasis of lush vegetation untouched by the city. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory houses one of the world’s most diverse living collections of plants. As one of the gardeners who cares for this green paradise, I’d like to invite you to stroll through the Lowland Rain Forest, home to many plants with extraordinary characteristics.

One of the world’s rarest plants is Osa pulchra. Sadly, only 30 known specimens exist in the wild in Costa Rica and Panama. However, it is cultivated in several botanical gardens, including NYBG. The Garden’s specimens have been growing here since 2006 when we received them in an exchange with The Huntington Botanical Garden in San Marino, California. The delicate trumpet-shaped flowers, similar to those of Brugmansia, are quite a sight to enjoy, and I’ll share with you an insider tip: the best time to experience the flowers is when the sun passes overhead and you can see the flowers from underneath. You will find Osa pulchra blooming in the lowland rain forest, midway down the path on the courtyard side of the building.

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