What’s in Bloom

27, Jun, 2012 Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

Our organically maintained landscape provides shelter and food for many organisms. We have observed a plethora of pollinators enjoying our plant material already this year, and we have also encountered our fair share of pests and disease, but we have been pleased to see evidence of our cultivated environment working to protect itself. Our commitment to organic land care has given us a great appreciation for beneficial insects. We were very excited to spot Ladybug larvae in several locations of the park this week, and most importantly in areas where we have observed significant aphid activity. These tiny beetle larvae have a voracious appetite for aphids, which cause damage to plants by feeding on leaves and shoots. Here is a Ladybug larva sitting on a cultivar of native Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’):

Larva of Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)

The ‘Husker Red’ Beardtongue is currently flowering with panicles of white to pale-pink tubular flowers atop maroon-tinged foliage. The Perennial Plant Association named this cultivar the 1996 Perennial Plant of the Year, and we have found it to be a wonderful addition to our gardens. In the Fort Point Channel Parks it’s dark foliage and light flowers look lovely beside purple-flowered Catmint and Allium ‘Firmament’, and it grows in sturdy stands amongst our native plantings in the Wharf District.

Husker Red Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’)

If you are enjoying a summer day in the North End or the Fort Point Channel Parks, take a moment to admire our Hydrangeas, all of which are beginning to bloom. The pink, purple, and blue ‘mophead’ flowers are the ever-popular Endless Summer ® Hydrangeas, which will bloom continuously for months, but we also have some lesser-known varieties which are just as lovely. Last year we highlighted another one of our favorites, the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’), which is starting to bloom in the Fort Point Channel Parks. This year we have been delighted to see the stunning blooms of our Oakleaf Hydrangeas in the North End and the Michael Dirr-introduced ‘Lady in Red’ Hydrangea in the Fort Point Channel Parks just North of Pearl Street.

Last summer we planted two varieties of Hydrangea vines in the Urban Arboretum between Oliver and High Streets, a Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) and a Japanese Hydrangea Vine (Shizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’). ‘Moonlight’ is a lovely cultivar of Japanese Hydrangea Vine that bears creamy white lacecap-like flowers and foliage with a silvery, ‘moonlit’ tinge. This vine does very well in shaded areas and attaches to hard surfaces with adhesive rootlets from its stems. Japanese Hydrangea Vine may look the part, but it is not technically a Hydrangea. Schizophragma is a genus within the Hydrangea family of flowering plants (Hydrangeaceae), and is discernible from typical Hydrangeas because instead of sterile florets with four sepals, Schizophragma hydrangeoides has single, heart-shaped sepals. The flower heads of Hydrangeas and Schizophragma both are called ‘inflorescences’, which bear both sterile and fertile florets. The fertile florets are typically not showy, and the sterile florets have the colored sepals that give the flower a decorative value. The four-sepaled Hydrangea florets are obvious on true Hydrangeas like the ‘Lady in Red’, and by comparison the Schizophragma is clearly different!

‘Moonlight’ Japanese Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’)

‘Lady in Red’ Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lady in Red’)

The biggest botanical story in Boston this week was the flowering of Morticia, the Franklin Park Zoo’s 200 pound Corpse Flower. The Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanium) just so happens to be in the same family of flowering plants as one of our new and very exciting bulbs, the Dragon Arum (Dracunculus vulgaris). This plant, like the Corpse Flower, has a characteristic ‘rotting’ odor, which in this case only lasts for the first day of its bloom. The odor attracts flies to pollinate the Dragon Arum’s inflorescence, a spike known as the ‘spadix’ sheathed by a large petal-like bract called the ‘spathe’. If this doesn’t sound particularly charming, give Dragon Arum a second chance and behold its striking purple flowers between Congress and Pearl Streets in the Fort Point Channel Parks before it withers away until next year.

Dragon Arum (Dracunculus vulgaris)