On Saturday my family and I visited the Botanical Center at Providence’s Roger Williams Park. Here are some of the more interesting plants we saw:
To begin, here’s the fluffy flower of Calliandra haematocephala, also called the powderpuff tree or stickpea:
Next up: the elephant cactus, Pachycereus pringlei, can apparently reach almost 20 meters tall! The Roger Williams Park cactus is so tall its top is tied to a ceiling rafter, but I was still more impressed by its spines:
Cactus spines deserve their own post someday, but until that day here’s some fun reading on what spines are, exactly.
Aha! Here we have some species of sundew (Drosera) cohabiting a lovely little bog with some species of bladderwort (Utricularia — perhaps U. livida)! Sundews capture insects and other small prey that lands on their many sticky tentacles. Utricularia, you might recall, suck small animals into bladders and eat them. Both are tremendously impressive:
For good measure, here’s a carnivorous pitcher plant too — I believe it’s a species of Sarracenia.
Now here’s something new — a Begonia rex of the “Escargot” variety. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a leaf take this form before. It looks like it crawled out of the sea:
Before finishing up, let’s take a moment to marvel. Cactus spines are likely modified leaves. Sundews, bladderworts, and pitcher plants all developed traps — some active, some passive, all capable of capturing and digesting prey — that are highly modified leaves. And the above Begonia rex “Escargot” sports leaf modifications of a different sort. Perhaps that spiral shape is practical in some way I haven’t thought of, but regardless of utility it is quite beautiful. All these structures are leaves, and wow! how different they are.
I started with a flower and I’ll end with a flower. This hibiscus stood out to me mainly because it made such a contrast to the cold, snowy outside visible through the greenhouse panes behind it.
Ah, the promise of summer.