Tecoma stans is a yellow flowered shrub or small tree that blooms throughout the warm months of the year. The trumpet-shaped flowers are two inches in length and nearly two inches across. Branched flower spikes are clustered on the ends of new growth, and hold several dozen buds that open in succession. The blooms have a light fragrance up close, and attract Sulphur butterflies.
Leaves are pinnately-compound with serrated margins.
This species comes in several different varieties. Tecoma stans var. stans, known as common yellow elder, grows up to 25 feet tall with multiple trunks. It is native to Central and South America, and is evergreen or semi-deciduous, depending on the winter temperature. It is reliably hardy to around 28°F, but will come back from the roots after temperatures in the low 20s F. This is the variety pictured here. At 26°F, mine are semi-deciduous, with no dieback in slightly sheltered locations. The plant has a somewhat open growth habit, but shrubs can be kept pruned for a fuller appearance.
Arizona yellow bells (T. stans var. angustata) comes from the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas and New Mexico. It is a deciduous shrub that grows to 10 feet in height, and is hardy to 10°F. It can be grown as a perennial as far north as USDA Zone 7. 'Gold Star Esperanza' is a cultivar that is grown as an annual and reaches three to four feet in height.
Flowering of all varieties is best in full sun, and the plants prefer a well-drained location. In South Florida, T. stans will sometimes naturalize in dry areas. It is considered invasive on some Pacific islands.
The sturdy twigs are used to make hunting bows and the wood of thicker trunks is used in construction. The leaves are used in folk medicines to treat diabetes, stomach pain, syphilis and intestinal worms.
Aechmea cylindrata is a bromeliad that typically blooms in mid-spring. The vivid blue flowers tightly pack an upright spike. The petals only open slightly. Foliage is bright green, and without markings. The plant reaches from one to one and a half feet wide.
Aechmea cylindrata grows well in dappled sunlight and tolerates temperatures to the mid 20°F range without damage as long as no frost settles on the leaves. The inflorescence shows good color for about a month.
Neomea 'Strawberry' is an intergeneric hybrid resulting from a crossing of Neoregelia carolinae x Aechmea recurvata var. benrathii. The plant tolerates more sun than Neo. carolinae and has more colorful foliage than Ae. recurvata. Leaves are a bronze color, blushing red in the center when ready to bloom. A mature plant can be over two feet across. As bloom time approaches, a red "strawberry" forms in the center.
The plant pictured here was grown in late afternoon sun. Foliage is stiff with small spines on the leaf edges. Neomea 'Strawberry' survives temperatures in the mid 20s F without damage as long as frost is kept off the leaves. Flowering usually occurs in the spring on this plant.
Aloe zebrina is just one of the many species of spotted aloes. It is very similar in appearance to Aloe saponaria, with which it is often confused. The main difference is that the spots on the leaves in this species tend to be in rows. The pattern of spotting is variable, even on a single plant.
The plant grows to be fairly large, getting up to 2 1/2 feet across. Flowering occurs repeatedly during the year at any season. An established planting consisting of several plants will be in bloom nearly every day during the warm months of the year.
The flower spike emerges from between the leaves and grows up to three feet in height, branching near the top. The reddish tubular flowers barely open at the tip.
Even when not in bloom, the rosette of spotted leaves makes Aloe zebrina an attractive specimen in the landscape.
This native of southern Africa grows in a wide range of conditions in its natural habitat and there is considerable variation within the species. It is recommended for USDA Zones 9b to 11. The roots are a source of golden-yellow dye.
Hummingbirds love the flowers of Aloe zebrina and will make repeated visits to the blooms throughout the day.
Today's featured creature is the honeybee. Without this vital insect, life on earth would be entirely different. The honeybee is responsible for the pollination of large amounts of fruit crops around the world, and some plants would not produce fruit at all without the help of honeybees. Interestingly, pollination is accomplished accidentally as the bee forages for nectar and pollen to take back to the hive.
There are four different species of honeybee around the world, all belonging to the genus Apis. Cave paintings indicate that people have been harvesting honey from bees for at least 8,000 years. The honey we eat is produced as the bees refine and concentrate the nectar they collect.