Exotic flowers are typically tropical by classification. Today, they thrive all over the world wherever growing conditions suit them. This is thanks to the efforts of early botanist explorers who introduced them worldwide. But it is the diversity of exotic flowers, their individual histories and unique features that define them.
The case of the night blooming cereus orchid cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) is a source of fascination and mysticism. In Sri Lanka, a belief surrounding this plant (common name: Dutchman's-pipe cactus) is that when it blooms, the Celestial Nagas descend to Earth to offer the "kadupul" flower to Buddha on the holy mountain of Sri Pada.
The 7,000-foot mountain, also called Adam's Peak, is in central Sri Lanka. It is a place of pilgrimage for Sinhala Buddhists. The Dutchman's-pipe cactus blooms only at night, when its petals open to about 7 inches in diameter. The plant has long, leathery, sword-shaped leaves with thorns. It is native to South America.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, botanist explorers were as brave as they were adventurous when they set foot into the Amazon rain forest in search of the unknown. This is how they discovered the Victoria amazonica (formerly Victoria regia), a giant Amazon water lily platter. This amazing plant can span about 50 feet, and its leaves are about 9 feet in diameter. Its flowers are usually pink or red, depending on the plant.
A Bohemian botanist named Tadeo Haenke first spotted the Victoria in 1801 but died without recording his find. English botanist Dr. John Lindley named the genus and species for Queen Victoria.
Seeds sent to England flowered in 1849. Queen Victoria received one of the earliest flowers. The structure of the plant inspired Sir Joseph Paxton to incorporate it into the architectural design of the Crystal Palace for the Great Industrial Exhibition in London in 1851.
Unusual Flowering Pattern
The tropical plant known as flaming beauty (Carphalea kirondron) is native to Madagascar. It is a lush, green evergreen bush with a most distinctive flowering pattern.
The flaming beauty exhibits red calyx lobes. Interspersed within these red clusters are delicate, four-petaled white blooms that appear intermittently and capture the eye. The flaming beauty flowers throughout the year, creating a talking point and a very pleasing garden vista.
The pata de vaca (Bauhinia forficata) has leaves shaped like a cow's hoof and drooping white flowers. It is indigenous to the rain forests and tropical areas of Brazil and Peru, Paraguay and Argentina.
Herbal medicine utilizes the leaves of the plant. Clinical studies evaluate the effectiveness of the plant's chemicals in lowering blood sugar levels.
The lipstick palm or sealing wax palm (Cyrtostachys lakka, Cyrtostachys renda) is indigenous to Malaysia and Indonesia and also flourishes in other tropical locales.
The trunk of this exotic feather palm grows bright red as it develops. The lipstick palm creates a dramatic effect against a sheltered outdoors landscape, or indoors where it enjoys warm temperatures and moist soil.