17 Jun

Calamondin: Easy to Grow, Easy to Love

Calamondin is a very adorable plant for indoor as well as outdoor gardening. Its shiny green leaves, miniature orange fruit and symmetrical growth make it a perfect ornamental plant. This beautiful and versatile plant is good for container gardening as well as a small tree for your garden. Besides its ornamental value, Calamondin is extensively used for its culinary and medicinal value. It is used extensively in Philippine cuisine as well as in many household remedies for cough, acne and insect bites. Calamondin is also an important ingredient in cosmetic products like hair conditioners and body deodorants.

Calamondin, Citrus Fruit Plant

Calamondin - Citrus Fruit Plant, Image © DocTony Photography

Calamondin is seldom without its tiny fragrant flowers or miniature fruits – both add to the beauty of this small plant.

Calamondin is actually a hybrid of Mandarin orange and Kumquat and is believed to have originated from China. That is why, it is also known as Chinese Orange. Fruit of Calamondin is used in many forms – it is frozen and used as ice cube for ice tea, crushed to use in marmalade, or squeezed for its juice which is used in lemonade or to season fish and other Asian dishes. Taste of Calamondin fruit is sour but the peel is sweet.

How to Grow Calamondin

Calamondin is easy to grow at home. It can be grown as ornamental plant in containers or as small tree in gardens. When grown in container, it has to be repotted every two or three years to give sufficient room to its roots that grow vigorously. Water only when the soil is dry and protect the plant from frost.

Calamondin thrives well as indoor plant provided that it receives bright sunlight during the day. As container plant, Calamondin hardly reached beyond 3 feet. However when planted in the ground, Calamondin would become a small shrubby tree reaching 6 feet or more.

13 Jun

Evergreen Ornamental Tree for Arid Climates: Nymania Capensis

Also known as Chinese Lantern for its beautiful, rose-pink and papery seed pods that actually look like Chinese paper lantern, Nymania Capensis is an evergreen shrubby tree. It is native of hot and arid regions of Africa especially the deserts of Namibia. This small tree bears small but green, leathery and stiff leaves. The plant blooms in late summer and flowers continue to appear till early winter. Flowers are usually pink, red or dark-red. The real beauty of this small tree is for its attractive seed pods that hang all over the branches. They are inflated like small balls and have papery skin of pink-red color.

Seed Pods of Nymania Capensis (Chinese Lantern)

Seed Pods of Nymania Capensis (Chinese Lantern), Image © Ori Fragman

How to Grow Nymania Capensis/ Chinese Lantern

Nymania Capensis requires very well drained soil and very little amount of water or moisture to thrive. Propagation is easy from seeds. For arid climates, Nymania Capensis is an excellent ornamental tree that would grow well even if neglected. It is a slow growing plant and takes about three years to reach a length of 1.5 m. Normal lifespan of Nymania Capensis  is more than twenty five years in habitat.

Nymania Capensis is a perfect plant for xeriscaping. It is also known as Little Karoo.

07 Jun

Old, Unusual Trees of Africa: Baobab

Baobab (Adansonia) is the most unusual of all the trees. Native of hot and dry regions of Africa especially in Madagascar, Arabian Peninsula and South Asia, Baobab grows as tall, voluminous and solitary tree. At first appearance, it seems as the tree has been plucked from the ground and pushed back with its head downwards and roots in the air. That is why it is also called Upside Down Tree.

Baobab Trees in Madagascar

Baobab Trees in Madagascar

Legend has it that Baobab was among the first trees on earth. When it saw tall and smart palm tree, it cried out and wanted to be taller. God granted his wish. Then Baobab wished to have beautiful flowers like the beautiful flame tree. His wish was granted. Baobab looked at the fig tree and wanted to have fruits as well. God became angry with Baobab, pulled it up by its roots and thrust its head in the ground to keep it quite.

Baobab remains leafless for most time of the year and lives on the supply of water (up to 450 liters) that it stores in its fibrous and corky trunk. This extremely drought tolerant tree can live for thousands of years. The biggest and oldest known Baobab tree is about 6000 years old and stands at Sunland Farm in Limpop province of South Africa. Popular Species of Baobab are Adansonia Madagascariensis, Adansonia Grandidieri and Adansonia Digitata.

Baobab (Adansonia) in South Africa

Baobab (Adansonia) in South Africa

Adansonia Digitata is known for its unusual flower and fruit. Typically, it bears big, white flowers that carry carrion smell. The fruit is 6 to 8 inches long and is rich in calcium, vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Seeds of Adansonia Digitata are used in Africa to extract edible oil whereas the fruit (separated from fiber and seeds) itself is used as nutritious food.

05 Jun

Ornamental Flowering Tree: Robinia

Robinia is a genus of deciduous flowering trees and shrubs that are grown widely in North America, Central America and Europe as ornamental plants. These beautiful trees bear charming flowers of white, pink and purple shades. Flowers are often fragrant and bloom in the form of drooping sprays just like the flowers of Golden Shower tree.

Robinia Pseudoacacia, Flase-Acacia

Robinia Pseudoacacia (Flase Acacia), Image from bilisimtoplulugu.com

How to Grow Robinia

Robinia is easy to grow in almost all climatic conditions except tropical and subtropical. They tolerate frost and grow well in full sun and rich soil. Propagation is done from seeds and cuttings.

Popular Varieties of Robinia

Robinia Pseudoacacia: As the name suggests, Robinia Pseudoacacia resembles Acacia but is not related to it. A deciduous tree and spring bloomer, Robinia Pseudoacacia reaches about 6 meters in cultivation and bears white flowers in dense clusters. Branches often have small spines on them. Other names are False Acacia, Black Locust, and Valsakasia.  Robinia Pseudoacacia is prized for its hard and durable timber. Seeds are considered poisonous.

Robinia Hispada: Also known as Rose Acacia, Robinia Hispada makes a small tree up to 3 meters. It bears small rose-pink flowers in spring and summer.

02 Jun

Beautiful Autumn Foliage Plant: Rhus

Rhus is a genus of about 150 species of evergreen and deciduous plants. Distributed in North America, Africa and Mediterranean regions, Rhus includes trees, vines and shrubs. These plants are usually grown for attractive foliage and for their ability to withstand drought and resist tough wind. However, not all species of Rhus are suitable for gardens as some of the species are known for severe allergic reaction.

Rhus Glabra Tree

Rhus Glabra, Image from missouriplants.com

How to Grow Rhus

Provide Rhus plants with plenty of light and moderate watering. Most species can be grown from seeds and layers.

Popular Varieties of Rhus

Rhus Pyroides: Also known as Common wild currant, Rhus Pyroides makes a small tree up to 5 meters that bears small yellow flowers in summer. Fruits are nutritious and attract many birds and insects.

Rhus Viminalis: This is a fast growing plant that makes a very attractive small tree up to 5 meters. Rhus Viminalis is hardy and can adapt themselves to many climatic conditions. Rhus Viminalis is also known as White Karee or Wit Karee.

28 May

Lovely, Fruity Trees and Shrubs: Syzygium

Syzygium is a large genus of evergreen, ornamental trees and shrubs. Widely grown for their beautiful foliage, fluffy flowers and edible fruits, the genus of Syzygium comprises of some 1100 species. Most species grow natively in tropical regions of Asia, Africa, Australia and the Pacific. Fruits of some species are edible and are used in preparation of salads, jams and jellies. Growing conditions vary among species. Although most species would grow in tropical climate, there are some species of Syzygium that grow in temperate zones.

Syzygium Luehmannii, Leaves and Fruits

Syzygium Luehmannii, Image from SydneyGreenRing blog

How to Grow Syzygium

Syzygium makes robust trees and shrubs that require pruning to make good ornamental plants. They can be propagated from seeds and softwood cuttings. These plants require constantly moist soil and bright sunlight. With suitable climate provided, Syzygium can be grown outdoor as well as indoors. Grown outdoors in gardens, Syzygium attract bees, butterflies and birds. They are good candidate for bonsai experiments.

Popular Species of Syzygium

Syzygium Paniculatum: Commonly known as Bush Cherry, Syzygium Paniculatum makes a nice ornamental tree that bears glossy green leaves and very attractive edible fruits of pink color. Young leaves are red and flowers are very attractive. With regular pruning, Bush Cherry can serve as an excellent hedge and neat specimen plant in lawns with regular pruning.

Syzygium Malaccense: Native to Asia, Syzygium Malaccense is a nice ornamental tree that grows as tall as 5 meters. Commonly known as Malay Apple or Rose Apple, this specimen plant bears large edible fruits that resemble the fruits of pear. It bears very attractive purple-red flowers in spring.

Syzygium Aromaticum: Known as Clove plant, Syzygium Aromaticum is grown commercially for its flower buds that are dried and use for culinary and medicinal purposes. Dried buds are known as Clove. The plant grows natively in Pakistan, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Local name of Clove in Pakistan is Laung where it is used as spice and as cure of dental pain.

26 May

Ravenala Madagascariensis, The Traveler’s Tree

Ravenala madagascariensis commonly known as Traveler’s Tree (Buy seeds online) is a unique, evergreen and ornamental tree. Being only member of its genus, Ravenala madagascariensis is closely related to the family of Bird of Paradise (Strelitziaceae). The tree grows as tall as 20 meters or more in its natural habitat and produces several clustered trunks. Each trunk bears a crown of long and broad leaves that resemble the leaves of banana tree. Ravenala madagascariensis produces small white flowers covered by bracts.

Ravenala Madagascariensis, Traveler Tree

Ravenala madagascariensis (Traveler Tree), Image from wikipedia

As the name describes, the original home of Traveler’s Tree is Madagascar. However, it is commercially grown in most warn and subtropical regions of the world as an ornamental tree. It is an excellent choice for landscapes and gardens because of its bright, evergreen foliage. The common name, Traveler’s Tree, is given because it stores rainwater in the leaf base for emergency drinking and also because of its leaves that grow in east-west line thus serving as a compass.

Ravenala madagascariensis is sometimes referred as Traveler’s Palm though it is not related to the Palm family.

How to Grow Traveler’s Tree

The best way to propagate Ravenala madagascariensis or Traveler’s Tree is from offsets, tubers or divisions. The tree is tender to frost and prefers bright sunlight, rich soil and regular watering.

24 May

Beautiful Landscape Tree, Pandanus

Pandanus is a large genus of about 600 trees and shrubs from Asia and Africa. Most plants in this species have broad and dense leaves. These deciduous plants produce male and female flowers on separate plants. Fruits resemble the fruit of pineapple plant. Pandanus are a good choice for planting outdoors for their handsome foliage. They also make spectacular container plants for ornamental purposes.

Pandanus Utilis, Landscape Tree

Pandanus Utilis, Landscape Tree

How to Grow Pandanus

Since most species of Pandanus grow alongside coastal belts, they require humidity and generous watering. Most species can be propagated from stem cuttings, offsets, tubers, or by layering.

Popular Varieties of Pandanus

Pandanus Utilis: Commonly known as Madagascar Screw Pine, Pandanus Utilis turns into a medium sized tree of about 20 meters. The trunk is stout and bears a canopy of twisted, fan-like leaves. Leaves are usually 2 meters or long. This is a perfect plant if you are looking for a striking landscape design. Grown for its leaves that are used for many purposes, Pandanus Utilis is evergreen tree and can be propagated easily from root balls, cuttings, or offsets.

Pandanus Utilis Fruit

Fruit of Pandanus Utilis

19 May

Beautiful Betel Nut Palm Tree, Areca Catechu

Areca Catechu also known as betel nut tree or betel palm is a tall, slender and elegant tree that bears strong fragrant flowers and popular betel nut. Originally belonging to Philippines and Malaysia, betel nut palm grows in the long tropical belt of Pacific, Asia and Africa.

Betel Nut Palm Tree, Areca Catechu

Areca Catechu, Image © Bngishak on Flickr

Areca Catechu makes a graceful, tall tree with dark green leaflets. Normally, a betel nut tree gains a height of 20 meters or more (up to 30 meters) with a crown of beautiful trees on a slender trunk of just 45 cm. The grey stem of betel nut tree has ring formations caused by fallen leaves. White flowers are followed by orange drupes commonly known as betel nut (though it is not actually a nut). Dried nuts are used for fragrance and flavor in Paan. It is estimated that about 50,000 tonnes of betel nut are consumed annually for chewing with Paan all over the world. The extract from betel nut is supposed to have digestive and anti-depressant properties but could be addictive and toxic.

How to Grow Betel Nut Tree

Betel nut tree is extremely easy to grow in warmer climates. It requires regular watering (mostly moist soil) and bright sunlight but does not survive colder climates. Areca Catechu grows well as ornamental plant in containers or as indoor or outdoor landscape tree.  As an indoor ornamental plant, Areca Catechu grows slower and requires less water.

16 May

Liquidambar Styracifula, The Sweetgum Tree

Liquidambar, commonly known as Sweetgum, is a genus of deciduous trees majorly found in North America and parts of Asia. They are hardy trees and tolerate several climates from cold to sub-tropical.  The common name, sweetgum, is associated with the sap excreted from Liquidambar trees. It has been actually used as chewing gum and is believed to relieve sciatica and strengthen weak nerves.

Liquidambar Styracifula, Sweetgum Tree

Image from treesdirect.co.uk

Culture

Though Liquidambar is widely used in manufacturing of furniture, the tree itself makes an excellent ornamental plant. Leaves on a Liquidambar tree would change many colors throughout the year from green, orange, purple, red and yellow. The tree bears small, dense and attractive flowers followed by fruition. The bark is grayish and grooved vertically.

How to Grow Liquidambar

Most species of Liquidambar can be grown easily from seeds or grafting. They require rich soil, frequent watering, bright sunlight (in cold or mild climates), and ample room to develop their roots.

Popular Varieties of Liquidambar

Liquidambar Styracifula: Makes a medium sized shrub reaching about 1-2 meters and displays red leaves in autumn.

Liquidambar Styracifula, Canberra Gem: The most colorful variety of Liquidambar with yellow, green and red autumn foliage.

Liquidambar Styracifula, Golden Treasure: Excellent ornamental plant with variegated leaves of gold and green colors.