Information About Exotic Tropical Flowers

Overview

Exotic tropical flowers are native to places like South Africa, South America and Asia. They exist worldwide, though, thanks to the travels of explorers and botanists who discovered these plants and flowers in their native habitats and introduced them to new countries.

State and Island Flowers

Exotic tropical flowers abound in Hawaii, whose state flower is the yellow hibiscus or pua aloalo (Hibiscus brackenridgei). Other than a state flower, the individual islands of Hawaii also have their own flowers. For example, the yellow ilima (Sida fallax),is the flower of Oahu. The Big Island has the red ohia (Metrosideros collina polymorpha). Maui's flower is the only one that is not native to Hawaii, the pink cottage rose or pink lokelani (Rosa damascena). The white kukui blossom (Aleurites moluccana) is the flower of Molokai. It comes from the kukui tree which is of Polynesian origin.

Unusual Origin

Bauhinia blakeana is more commonly called the Hong Kong orchid tree. It has an interesting history dating to the 1880s, when a French missionary discovered it growing in the grounds of an abandoned house on Hong Kong Island. The Hong Kong Botanic Gardens subsequently welcomed the bauhinia, which flourishes there today. This lovely orchid is named for Sir Henry Blake, the governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903. Visitors will find the ornamental bauhinia blakeana flowering in various areas of Hong Kong in its capacity as the territory's official flower.

Religious Significance

Spanish Jesuit priests in South America discovered the passion flower (Passiflora). They gave it a name with religious overtones, "the flower of the five wounds." This alluded to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Each part of the flower symbolized a Christian element. The petals and sepals represented the 10 apostles, the corona filaments were the crown of thorns and the anthers were the five sacred wounds. The passion flower illustrated the story of Christ as the priests went about their work of trying to convert the native Indians to Christianity.

Protected Species

The Wild banana orchid (Myrmecophila thomsoniana) is the national flower of the Cayman Islands. According to Islands folklore, early settlers used the hollow pseudobulbs of the orchid as smoking pipe bowls. The pseudobulbs look like bananas, clustered below the flower. This exotic orchid is found only in the Caymans, where it grows on a host plant, mostly whitewood, mahogany or logwood trees. The wild banana orchid is a protected tropical species. This is because of a dwindling number of host trees caused by property development. The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, the Mastic Trail and the nature trail in the Bac Parrot Reserve are among the places where the wild banana orchid grows.

Royal Patronage

The bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) honors Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of England (1760 to 1820). The Queen was the duchess of Mecklenburgh-Strelitz. The bird of paradise is native to South Africa. Sir Joseph Banks, a renowned adviser to the king, introduced the bird of paradise to England in 1773.

Keywords: exotic tropical flowers, wild banana orchid, bird of paradise

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for over 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in Stanislaus Magazine, Orientations, The Asia Magazine, and The Peninsula Group Magazine, among others. She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.