Several important additions have been made to the Garden’s plant collections over recent months. Six species of flowering trees have been added that were not previously represented. Three specimens of the rare Golden Gardenia (Gardenia sootepensis) from Thailand were planted along the Boardwalk entry to the Garden. The flower of this tree opens a creamy, pale yellow that turns dark gold a day or two after opening. In addition to the heady scent and great beauty that these trees will add to our visitors’ experience, this species is also of medicinal importance in Thailand for its sesquiterpine lactone content that has antimicrobial and anti-tumor properties. Research into its possible use in Western medicine is only just getting under way.
On a hill bordering the Visitor Center parking lot, Colville’s Glory (Colvillea racemosa) has been planted. This highly ornamental tree is a member of the Legume Family and is native to Madagascar where it has been categorized as “Threatened” in the wild due to its increasing scarcity. During autumn this tree develops long, drooping racemes of orange-yellow flowers from the branch tips just as the tree is losing foliage for the winter, creating a very spectacular display.
Two forms of the lovely Gustavia superba, a member of the Brazil Nut Family as are our famous Cannonball Trees, have been planted along the entry Boardwalk. The large and showy flowers of this medium-sized tree are borne along the thicker branches and trunk, and the bright red fruits are edible, with the oily seeds tasting very much like peanuts. It is the fruit that give the tree its common name of “Monkey Fruit” in its native Panama, as monkeys adore the fruit. In addition, a decoction of the tree’s leaves is said to have saved many conquistadores wounded by poisoned arrows. Jacaranda brasiliensis, a tree that produces exquisite purple flowers, has been added to the plants along the entry Boardwalk.
Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, the staff had the great pleasure of a day-long visit with the Founder’s granddaughter, Nataja, a delightful young woman who planted two trees in the Garden: one for herself and another for her little sister, Samantha. The two will enjoy watching their trees grow for many years to come. The Red Saraca Tree, Saraca declinata (possibly the same as Saraca indica, but further studies are needed), was planted in honor of Taja. When mature, the tree will burst into masses of richly colored red flowers. A native Hawaiian member of the Aralia Family, Munroidendron racemosiim, was planted in honor of Samantha. The species is listed as “Endangered” and is endemic to the Island of Kauai with very few individuals remaining in the wild. It is the sole representative of the genus, which is remarkable as the only member of the Aralia Family that bears flowers in racemes rather than umbels or heads arranged in panicles. As the fruit develops, the large drupes crowd together to form a dense hangling cylinder. It grows as a straight-trunked tree to 15-25 feet in height. It was wonderful and a real joy to have our Founders’ granddaughters spend a day with us and we hope she returns often to enjoy and explore the extraordinary place her grandparents created.