One of the things I brought back with me from our month-long Caribbean trip (did that really happen?) was a renewed enthusiasm for some of the tropicals we grow here at home as houseplants and annuals. Seeing them in their natural habitat provided new, helpful insights into their growth habits and needs, and an appreciation for what they are capable of.
I returned home eager to grow cosmos again, with a respect for caladium (although I will never grow them), and a wish to expand beyond African violets and into growing other Gesneriads (African violet family plants).
The first gesneriad that caught my interest was the episcia shown above. I spotted it growing out of a wall at Papillote Gardens in Dominica. I recently acquired a little cutting of a different episcia and boy do I wish I could grow it in the crack of an old wall like this one. But alas, while our summers are sometimes hot and steamy like the tropics, the rest of the year is not. Mine will be living life in a pot.
Several plants in the peperomia genus are grown as common houseplants here in North America, but have you ever seen one like this?
I was first introduced to this particular plant in Dominica, where it goes by the local names JiwonflÃƒÂ¨*, JonflÃƒÂ¨, or Giron Fleur**. It is most often found in very damp and dark places, and as a result most of my photos were lousy. Last month I found it again (as seen here), on display in the Tropical Rainforest Conservatory at the Montreal Botanical Gardens and was able to get a better photo.
JiwonflÃƒÂ¨ is a tiny trailing succulent that grows as an epiphyte, hanging from the branches of trees, most commonly cocao and grapefruit. In Dominica, the plant is brewed into an herbal cold remedy but what’s most fascinating is the smell. When you crush the leaves, it emits a soft green peppercorn aroma. I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising since peperomia is in the same family as black peppercorns (Piperaceae).
This morning, I set out to post a different photo until I was reminded that it is St. Patrick’s Day, a day I most often associate with clovers. Technically oxalis and clovers aren’t the same thing, but they are often mashed together around this particular holiday. In truth, I’m going through a rather rabid oxalophile phase (am I the first to coin this term?) and don’t really need an excuse to post a photo of anything oxalis, or clover for that matter.
I found this particular oxalis growing in an area of Dominica called Giraudel, right beneath the nipple fruit, in fact. The plant is used locally as an herbal tea for sore throats and has the local name ‘Malgoj.’* I saw it several times throughout the island, and later in St. Lucia as well.
This is what the leaves look like.
* Source: “Caribbean Wild Plants and Their Uses” by Penelope N. Honychurch.
I took this panoramic photo in Dominica as we were just beginning our descent down into the Valley of Desolation, the most incredible place I have ever been in my entire life. Worth all of the pain it brought my body.
Three hours into the hike and I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring death metal to play as our soundtrack.
It’s hard to tell by looking at this photo, but a great many of the plants here are bromeliads. I realize after the fact (with no chance to recheck) that what looks like grass covering the sides of the path might be some kind of grass-like bromeliad. I saw something similar in St. Lucia a few weeks later and it was identified as a bromeliad. All I know is that it was very useful as something to grab onto for leverage.
I took this photo in Dominica on an organic farm tour in an area called Bellvue Chopin. Our tour was with Roy Ormond. If you ever get a chance to do a tour I encourage you to seek him out specifically. The farm specializes in traditional herbal medicines and Mr. Ormond was very knowledgeable and generous in sharing that knowledge.
That morning, including these adorable little tortoises, was one of the highlights of my trip.