Thursday, December 9, 2021

Nature WOWs at the Naples Botanical Garden


Photos by Maria Lamb
| Members of the Sunshine Sisters of Marco enjoying Steve Tobin’s Red Root structure – favorite attraction all over the Garden.


 

Spring arrived on March 20 and already Marco’s landscape is bursting with early spring bloomers. Members of the Sunshine Sisters of Marco headed out to the Naples Botanical Garden as their first group outing since COVID and they couldn’t wait to celebrate the joys of spring at the garden!

In Southwest Florida, most of the early spring bloomers are at their peak such as the Golden Trumpet Tree with their showy yellow trumpet-like flowers blanketing its canopy. With a slight breeze, a shower of yellow tubular flowers falls to the ground.

The Golden Trumpet (Tabebuia aurea pronounced Tah-beh-boo-yah) is a very showy tree and showing abundantly at the Naples Botanical Garden. It is a native of Brazil and the official flower of Brazil – they come in pink or light purple, golden is the most stunning while in bloom. They are also referred to as the “silver trumpet” tree for the color of its leaves, but definitely it’s the flowers that makes you stop and snap a picture.

The Floss Silk Tree (Chorisia speciosa) or Silk floss or Kapok Tree is another tree with a very big WOW factor though not in bloom during this visit. This tree is considered to be one of the top ten most beautiful trees in the WORLD! And almost all visitors to the Garden are drawn to its trunk! 

The Floss Silk Tree is an ultimate attention getter from top to bottom. At first glance, you are drawn to its thick trunk studded with large gray thorns and you want to touch it! And to the young imagination, it may have been used as a medieval weapon.

Why does the Floss Silk Tree have thorns all over its trunk? It is nature’s way of protecting the tree. According to experts, in their native South America, monkeys and other animals find the flower buds and young fruits a tasty treat and the large thorns serve to discourage animals from climbing the tree or to prevent animals from chewing on its bark. Though monkeys with prehensile tails would just swing from the branch of a neighboring tree to reach the fruits, thus avoiding the thorns.

 


Showy pink hibiscus shaped flowers cover the tree in late October-early November.


 

But nature intended the thorns as a protection to the trunk and thin bark of this amazing tree. It probably is not a good choice to build a tree house on it!

The Floss Silk Tree is covered with large thorns from top to bottom.

Its second WOW factor is the large showy pink flowers that covers the entire canopy – and just like the Golden Trumpet, the Floss Silk Tree drops most of its leaves just before it blooms, which makes for a very dramatic display. From a distance, you are drawn to this tree for its large hibiscus shaped pink blooms.

The third WOW factor is the pear-shaped seed pods it produces after it blooms which dangles noticeably from its bare branches. The pods are filled with fluffy white silk embedded with seeds, which makes it unique in nature – and which gives this tree its namesake of Floss Silk or Silk Floss.

The fluffy silk floss inside the seed pod was once used to stuff pillows, parkas and even mattresses before the advent of synthetic fill materials. During a windy day, you’ll find tufts of silk floating down from the tree.

The fourth WOW factor is that the Floss Silk Tree is a conversation piece for all visitors to the Garden. Whether in bloom or not, the spiky trunk, bare tops with dangling seed pods move people to stop, touch its trunk, look up and ask questions. 

This tree is native to Argentina and Brazil but is grown in many tropical areas such as Southern California and Florida. On Marco Island, we have several of the Floss Silk Trees at the Calusa Park. The Floss Silk Tree blooms in the Fall around October and November.

A visit to the Naples Botanical Garden delivers WOW factors of plants from around the world in different sizes including an amazing collection of orchids and bromeliads.

At the Garden: “Through Nature God Speaks,” by Danielle Suzanne Rust.

 


After blooming, pods are filled with fluffy white silk floss.


 

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