Bird of Paradise - Liberty

Bird of Paradise meanings: Liberty, magnificence, good perspective

Strelitzia is a genus of five species of perennial plants, native to South Africa. The genus is named after the duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, birthplace of Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom. A common name of the genus is bird of paradise flower, because of a supposed resemblance of its flowers to the bird of paradise. In South Africa it is commonly known as a crane flower.

The species S. nicolai is the largest in the genus, reaching 10 m tall, with stately white and blue flowers; the other species typically reach 2 to 3.5 m tall, except S. caudata which is a tree of a typically smaller size than S. nicolai. The leaves are large, 30–200 cm long and 10–80 cm broad, similar to a banana leaf in appearance but with a longer petiole, and arranged strictly in two ranks to form a fan-like crown of evergreen foliage. 

The flowers are produced in a horizontal inflorescence emerging from a stout spathe. They are pollinated by sunbirds, which use the spathe as a perch when visiting the flowers; the weight of the bird on the spathe opens it to release the pollen onto the bird's feet, which is then deposited on the next flower it visits.

Source, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strelitzia

Bellflower - Thinking of you

Bellflower meaning: “Thinking of you”

Campanula is one of several genera in the family Campanulaceae with the common name bellflower. It takes its name from their bell-shaped flowers—campanula is Latin for "little bell".

The genus includes over 500 species and several subspecies, distributed across the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest diversity in the Mediterranean region east to the Caucasus.

The species include annual, biennial and perennial plants, and vary in habit from dwarf arctic and alpine species under 5 cm high, to large temperate grassland and woodland species growing to 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) tall.

The leaves are alternate and often vary in shape on a single plant, with larger, broader leaves at the base of the stem and smaller, narrower leaves higher up; the leaf margin may be either entire or serrated (sometimes both on the same plant). Many species contain white latex in the leaves and stems.

The flowers are produced in panicles (sometimes solitary), and have a five-lobed corolla, typically large (2–5 cm or more long), mostly blue to purple, sometimes white or pink. Below the corolla, 5 leaf-like sepals form the calyx. Some species have a small additional leaf-like growth termed an "appendage" between each sepal, and the presence or absence, relative size, and attitude of the appendage is often used to distinguish between closely related species.
The fruit is a capsule containing numerous small seeds.

Campanula species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Common Pug (recorded on Harebell), Dot Moth, Ingrailed Clay (recorded on Harebell), Lime-speck Pug and Mouse Moth.

Cultivation and uses
Well-known species include the northern temperate Campanula rotundifolia, commonly known as Harebell in England and Bluebell in Scotland, and the southern European Campanula medium, commonly known as Canterbury Bells, which is a garden plant in the United Kingdom. As well as several species occurring naturally in the wild in northern Europe, there are many cultivated garden species.

The species Campanula rapunculus, commonly known as Rampion Bellflower, Rampion, or Rover Bellflower, is a biennial vegetable which was once widely grown in Europe for its leaves, which were used like spinach, and its parsnip-like root, which was used like a radish. The Brothers Grimm's tale Rapunzel took its name from this plant.

In the UK the National Collection of Campanulas is held at Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire and the National Collection of Alpine Campanulas at Langham Hall in Suffolk.

Source, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campanula

Begonia - Beware

Begonia meanings: Beware, a fanciful nature

Begonia is a genus in the flowering plant family Begoniaceae and is a perennial. The only other members of the family Begoniaceae are Hillebrandia, a genus with a single species in the Hawaiian Islands, and the genus Symbegonia which more recently was included in Begonia. "Begonia" is the common name as well as the generic name for all members of the genus. The genus name, coined by Charles Plumier, a French patron of botany, honors Michel Bégon, a former governor of the French colony of Haiti. It was adopted by Linnaeus. As a member of the order Curcurbitales, begonias are relatively closely related to such food crops as pumpkins / squash, gourds, cucumbers, and melons.

With around 1,500 species, Begonia is the sixth largest angiosperm genus. The species are terrestrial (sometimes epiphytic) herbs or undershrubs and occur in subtropical and tropical moist climates, in South and Central America, Africa and southern Asia. Terrestrial species in the wild are commonly upright-stemmed, rhizomatous, or tuberous. The plants are monoecious, with unisexual male and female flowers occurring separately on the same plant, the male containing numerous stamens, the female having a large inferior ovary and two to four branched or twisted stigmas. In most species the fruit is a winged capsule containing numerous minute seeds, although baccate fruits are also known. The leaves, which are often large and variously marked or variegated, are usually asymmetric (unequal-sided).

Because of their sometimes showy flowers of white, pink, scarlet or yellow color and often attractively marked leaves, many species and innumerable hybrids and cultivars are cultivated. The genus is unusual in that species throughout the genus, even those coming from different continents, can frequently be hybridized with each other, and this has led to an enormous number of cultivars. The American Begonia Society classifies begonias into several major groups: cane-like, shrub-like, tuberous, rhizomatous, semperflorens (or wax begonias), rex, trailing-scandent, or thick-stemmed. For the most part these groups do not correspond to any formal taxonomic groupings or phylogeny and many species and hybrids have characteristics of more than one group, or fit well into none of them.

The different groups of begonias have different cultural requirements but most species come from tropical regions and therefore they and their hybrids require warm temperatures. Most are forest understory plants and require bright shade; few will tolerate full sun, especially in warmer climates. In general, begonias require a well-drained growing medium that is neither constantly wet nor allowed to dry out completely. Many begonias will grow and flower year-round except for tuberous begonias, which usually have a dormant period. During this dormant period, the tubers can be stored in a cool and dry place. Begonias of the semperflorens group (or wax begonias) are frequently grown as bedding plants outdoors. 

A recent group of hybrids derived from this group is marketed as "Dragonwing Begonias"; they are much larger both in leaf and in flower. Tuberous begonias are frequently used as container plants. Although most Begonia species are tropical or subtropical in origin, the Chinese species B. grandis is hardy to USDA hardiness zone 6 and is commonly known as the "hardy begonia". Most begonias can be grown outdoors year-round in subtropical or tropical climates, but in temperate climates begonias are grown outdoors as annuals, or as house or greenhouse plants.

Most begonias are easily propagated by division or from stem cuttings. In addition, many can be propagated from leaf cuttings or even sections of leaves, particularly the members of the rhizomatous and rex groups.

The cultivar Kimjongilia is a floral emblem of North Korea.
The Grateful Dead wrote the popular song "Scarlet Begonias".
Begonia Blossom Herbert is also a contemporary American artist from San Francisco.

Source, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begonia

Balsamine - Impatience

Balsamine meaning: Impatience

Impatiens is a genus of about 850–1,000 species of flowering plants, widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere and tropics. Together with the puzzling Hydrocera triflora, this genus makes up the family Balsaminaceae. Such a situation is highly unusual, and phylogenetic studies might reveal that Impatiens needs to be split up; some of its species might be closer to Hydrocera than to their presumed congeners.

Common names include impatiens, jewelweeds, and, somewhat ambiguously, "balsams" and "touch-me-nots". As a rule-of-thumb, "jewelweed" is used exclusively for Nearctic species, "balsam" is usually applied to tropical species, and "touch-me-not" is typically used in Europe and North America. Some species commonly planted in horticulture have altogether more fanciful names, such as "Busy Lizzie" (the well-known I. walleriana).

Some species are annual plants and produce flowers from early summer until the first frost, while perennial species, found in milder climates, can flower all year. Regardless of their lifespan, the largest impatiens grow up to about 2 meters (c. 7 ft) tall, but most are less than half as tall. The leaves are entire and shiny; their upperside has a thick, water-repellent cuticula that gives them a greasy feel. Particularly on the underside of the leaves, tiny air bubbles are trapped under the leaf surface, giving them a silvery sheen that becomes pronounced when held under water. The name "jewelweed" possibly refers to these shiny leaves, particularly obvious after rains when water drops reflect the sunlight like a prism. However it is more likely that the name is derived from the robin egg blue of the surface of the seed beneath the dark brown aril, or seed coat.

The flowers, up to 2–3 cm, around 1 inch long, in most species are made up by a shoe- or horn-shaped spur for the most part, with at least the upper petals insignificant by comparison; some have a prominent labellum though, allowing pollinators to land. Others, like the Busy Lizzie (I. walleriana), have flattened flowers with large petals and just a tiny spur that appear somewhat similar to violets (Viola), though these are unrelated eudicots. A few Impatiens species have flowers quite intermediate between those two basic types.

These plants derive their scientific name Impatiens (Latin for "impatient") and the common name "touch-me-not" in reference to their seed capsules. When the capsules mature, they "explode" when touched, sending seeds several meters away. This mechanism is also known as "explosive dehiscence".

Ecology and uses
Balsams grow both in and out of direct sunlight; they prefer moist, rich soils, like roadside ditches, reed beds, fens, river banks and forest edges, and many are well able to colonize disturbed ruderal locations.

Impatiens foliage is used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species (e.g. Dot Moth, Melanchra persicariae), as well as other insects, such as the Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica). The leaves are toxic to many other animals, including the Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), but this popular pet will eat balsam flowers eagerly and as it seems it is not harmed by them. The flowers are visited by bumblebees and certain Lepidoptera, such as the Common Spotted Flat (Celaenorrhinus leucocera).

In the 19th and 20th centuries, humans transported the Orange Jewelweed (I. capensis) to England, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Finland, and potentially other areas of Northern and Central Europe. For example, it was not recorded from Germany as recently as 1996, but since then a population seems to have established itself in Hagen at the Ennepe river. These naturalized populations persist despite the plant not being grown in gardens on a regular basis. The Orange Jewelweed is quite similar to the Touch-me-not Balsam (I. noli-tangere) – the only Impatiens species native to Central and Northern Europe – and utilizes similar habitats, but no evidence exists of natural hybrids. Small Balsam (I. parviflora), originally native to southern Central Asia, is even more extensively naturalized in Europe.

More problematic is the Himalayan Balsam (I. glandulifera), a high-growing species which displaces smaller plants by denying them sunlight. It is an invasive weed in many places, and tends to dominate riparian vegetation along polluted rivers and nitrogen-rich spots. Thus, it exacerbates ecosystem degradation by forming stands where few other plants can grow, and by rendering riverbanks more prone to erosion as it has only a shallow root system.

The starkly differing flower shapes found in this genus, combined with the easy cultivation of many species, have served to make some balsam species model organisms in plant evolutionary developmental biology. Also, Impatiens is rather closely related to the carnivorous plant families Roridulaceae and Sarraceniaceae. Peculiar stalked glands found on balsam sepals secrete mucus and might be related to the structures from which the prey-catching and -digesting glands of these carnivorous plants evolved. Balsams are not known to be proto-carnivorous plants however.

Impatiens have become one of the most popular garden annuals. Hybrids, typically derived from "Busy Lizzie" (the well-known I. walleriana) and New Guinea Impatiens (I. hawkeri), have commercial importance as garden plants with a yearly business volume of about US $230 million. I. walleriana was originally collected from Costa Rica (where it grows as a weed), and bred through selection by Claude Hope. The original series of impatiens bred by Hope was the 'Elfin' series of cultivars, which was subsequently improved as the 'Super Elfin' series. Double-flowered cultivars also exist. But in tropical islands, such as Hawaii, Busy Lizzie can also become a noxious weed.

Other Impatiens species, such as I. auricoma, Garden Balsam (I. balsamina), Blue Diamond Impatiens (I. namchabarwensis), Parrot Flower (I. psittacina),Congo Cockatoo (I. niamniamensis), Ceylon Balsam (I. repens) or Poor Man's Rhododendron (I. sodenii) are also often seen as ornamental plants. Note that insecticidal soap, commonly used against insect pests as it is less harmful to the environment and to most beneficial insects than halocarbon insecticides, is very toxic to some balsams. When controlling insect pests on Impatiens, insecticidal soap should be avoided.

Source, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impatiens