National Geographic : 1947 Jul
From South American Jungles IT SCARCELY would be expected that the South American jungles could have any thing to offer in the way of plant materials for our northern gardens; one would think that our climate is not suitable. The plant ex plorer sometimes has difficulty convincing others that the temperatures and humidity he encounters in the jungle usually are no greater than one sometimes endures with only minor discomfort in a midwestern harvest field or in a suburban back yard along the Atlantic coast in July or August. Actually, our northern summers may be quite as "tropical" as much of the South American jungle; one sometimes is inclined to think even more so. And that is why a goodly number of our common garden plants, especially among the "annuals," come from there, as-alas!-do some of the pestiferous weeds which vie with them for space along our garden paths. SPIDER FLOWER (Cleome spinosa): This increasingly popular garden plant is a member of the Caper family; its common name is de rived from the spidery appearance of its wide spreading stamens. Spider Flowers usually come in light, rosy-purple shades, but white and pink forms are now fairly common. The pungent foliage suggests just a little of the primal and earthy odors so characteristic of its jungle home. MORNING GLORY (Ipomoea, various spe cies): There are, around the world, about 400 species of wild Morning Glories, a large num ber of them being native in the American Tropics. In their native haunts many of these are rampant weeds, or soon become so if agri culture is attempted where they grow. All of the true Morning Glories belong to the genus Ipomoea; in color they range from red (rarely) through purple and blue to white, with occa sional mottled and striped forms. Many of the wild species at one time or another have been brought into cultivation and have been used by hybridists in the production of some of our modern garden types; yet the two most often grown are the common Ipomoea pur purea, usually seen in purplish-blue shades, and the light blue garden form of I. tricolor. Although we commonly grow another "Morning Glory" in our northern vegetable gardens and fields, it seldom is recognized as such; this plant is Ipomoea Batatas, the com mon Sweet Potato. It rarely flowers in the north, but in its home in the South American jungles the pretty blue flowers on long trailing vines are abundant and unmistakable. CYPRESS VINE (Quamoclit pennata): This dainty scarlet-flowered, finely cut-leafed climber has long been a garden favorite, but it is now somewhat less common than the Cardi nal Climber. The Cardinal Climber is a hybrid between the species shown here and another with coarse and undivided leaves, Quamoclit coccinea. Both of these parent species are now found in our southern States, probably as escapes from gardens. The Quamoclits are close relatives of the Morning Glories. NASTURTIUM (Tropacolum majus): There are some 50-odd species of wild Nasturtiums ranging throughout tropical America from southern Mexico to Chile. Various of these have been hybridized, usually just enough to bring in the red and orangey colors, for both a rapid growth and an early, free-flowering habit - s o necessary for success in our northern gar dens-have been obtained primarily from the wild, yellow-flowered Tropaeolum majus an cestor. Double flowered forms are now ob tainable in various colors. VICTORIA WATERLILY: Although gener ally sold under the botanical name of Victoria Regia, the plant usually turns out to be an other species, Victoria Cruziana; both of these are South American. Although the bloom is showy, this tropical waterlily is grown more for its enormous leaves with their curiously up turned margins than for its flowers. With leaves up to 6 feet across, the Victoria Water lily admittedly is scarcely a subject for "tub or half-barrel culture" or even the usual lily pool in a suburban back yard; with ample space it will provide quite a show. CANNA: Growing along streams or at the edge of the forest, as shown here in the picture, wild Cannas-of which there are quite a few species, some with red and some with yellow flowers-often form a characteristic part of the American jungle scene. The old Indian Shot (Canna indica, not from India but actu ally an American species), with its bright-red but small flowers and coarse "leggy" growth, is now passing out of our gardens, and its place is being taken by the newer large-flowered hybrid forms with their more compact growth habits. The floppy flowered Canna flaccida, wild in the Florida Everglades and the Georgia coastal swamps, in combination with other more tropical American species, has contrib uted much to the development of the modern "orchid-flowered" hybrid garden Cannas. The large parts of the Canna flower which look like petals are sterile, petal-like stamens.