You won’t want to miss the Queen of the Night.
- Queen of the Night is a species of tropical flowering cactus native to forests in Mexico in southern North America; and the plant can also be found further south in Central and South America.
- The ‘Queen of the Night’ is also known as ‘Dutchman’s pipe cactus’, ‘fragrant orchid cactus’, ‘lady of the night’, and ‘night blooming cereus’, though the latter term can refer to a number of different plant species.
- The scientific name of the Queen of the Night is Epiphyllum oxypetalum and it is from the family Cactaceae, the family of cacti.
- Queen of the Nights typically have large white coloured flowers that are usually 12 to 17 centimetres (5 to 7 inches) in diameter, that bloom in summer.
- Each flower of the Queen of the Night usually opens during the evening, and will typically last until dawn, after which it is spent, though it can produce many flowers over a season.
- Queen of the Nights appear to have green ‘leaves’, but rather they are flattened stems that can grow quite long, with a plant height of 2 to 3 metres (6.6 to 9.8 feet).
- For optimal growing and flowering conditions, Queen of the Night plants are best grown in a spot where they catch the morning sun and are shaded in the afternoon.
- The flowers of Queen of the Night plants have a strong, sweet-smelling fragrance, and the flowers can be picked at night and brought inside to enjoy their perfume.
- Queen of the Night plants are commonly grown ornamentally, and they can be manipulated to climb, or can be grown in hanging baskets.
- New plants of Queen of the Night are easily propagated from cuttings that can be taken from the stem, and planted in soil.
Don’t bother searching for any traditional cucumbers on a cucumber tree.
- Cucumber trees are a species of tree native exclusively to Yemen’s Socotra, an island off the coast of the Middle East.
- The scientific name of the cucumber tree is Dendrosicyos socotronus, although it also known as Dendrosicyos socotrana, and it is from the family Cucurbitaceae, the family of gourds and curcurbits.
- Isaac Bayley Balfour, a Scottish botanist, was the first to scientifically classify the cucumber tree, doing so in 1882.
- Cucumber trees bloom small tubular flowers that are approximately 3 centimetres (1.2 inches) in diameter, and are a yellow to orange colour.
- The small green leaves of a cucumber tree are edged with spines that reduce in sharpness as they age and the leaves usually reach a diameter of 4 to 8 centimetres (1.6 to 3.1 inches); while the trunk is a mostly white to light grey colour and can reach 1 metre (3.3 feet) or more in diameter.
- Cucumber trees grow to be 3 to 6 metres (10 to 20 feet) in height and have a large trunk compared to the small canopy.
- The cucumber tree is the only species in the Cucurbitaceae family that is a tree, as most others are vines; and the plant can only be propagated by seed.
- Cucumber trees have fleshy fruit that are somewhat ovoid with pointy ends; and they are an orange-red colour, with similar coloured flesh, when ripe.
- The trunk of a cucumber tree stores water, rendering it a relatively drought resistant plant; and the plant has been used as a traditional medicine by native locals, to treat a variety of illnesses.
- Cucumber trees are considered a vulnerable species, threatened primarily for their overuse in supplying feed for livestock during periods of drought.
Socotra Cucumber Tree (Dendrosicyos socotrana): Isolated Isle’s Weird Fantastic Vulnerable Tree, 2014, Wizzley, https://wizzley.com/socotra-cucumber-tree-dendrosicyos-socotrana/
The sacred lotus will spice up your aquatic garden.
- Sacred lotuses are an aquatic species of perennial plant, native mostly to tropical and warm temperate climates of Asia and north to north-eastern Australia, and while they have a similar appearance to water lilies, they are unrelated.
- The ‘sacred lotus’ is also known simply as ‘lotus’, as well as ‘sacred water lotus’, ‘Indian lotus’, ‘sacred water lily’, ‘rose of India’, ‘lotus lily’, ‘pink lotus lily’, ‘pink water lily’, and ‘bean of India’.
- The scientific name of the sacred lotus is Nelumbo nucifera and it is from the family Nelumbonaceae, the family of lotuses, and it is one of two living species in the family.
- The sausage-like tubers of sacred lotuses grow from seeds deposited at the muddy bottom of bodies of water, and they grow stems of leaves, 1 to 2.5 metres (3.3 to 8.2 feet) in height to reach the surface of the water, and the diameter of the leaves ranges from 20 to 70 centimetres (8 to 27.6 inches).
- The flower head of the sacred lotus sits above the water and is 15 to 25 centimetres (6 to 10 inches) in diameter, and can be coloured pink, to white sometimes with a reddish tint, and they have a sweet scent.
- Seeds of sacred lotuses grow in a receptacle that is originally the centre of the flower head, while the head turns downwards as the seeds mature; and seeds of ancient specimens have been known to be still usable centuries later, while one seed, estimated to be almost 1300 years old at the time, was germinated in 1994.
- Sacred lotuses are considered symbolic in a number of religions including Buddhism and Hinduism, and are said to represent creation, purity, incarnation, and beauty, among other things.
- Much of the sacred lotus plant, including the flowers, is edible, with the tubers being able to be used like a vegetable by boiling, frying, baking, and steaming them; while the seeds and leaves can be eaten both raw and cooked; and the leaves can also be used as a food wrapper.
- The sacred lotus is a fundamental plant in traditional Asian medicine with all parts of the plant being utilised; and a wide variety of illnesses are treated with the plant, including nausea, fever, diarrhoea, and mushroom poisoning.
- The temperature of sacred lotus flowers will remain at a constant 30°C to 35°C (86°F to 95°F), even despite changes in the temperature around them; while the leaves are extremely water repellent and as such are self-cleaning, with this phenomena being described as the ‘lotus effect’.
Dragon blood trees are a reality of another fantasy.
- Dragon blood trees are an evergreen species of tree, endemic to the woodlands of the Socotra islands of Yemen, located in the Arabian Sea near western Asia.
- The scientific name of the dragon blood tree is Dracaena cinnabari and it is from the family Asparagaceae, a family of plants that flower, and in the subfamily Nolinoideae.
- ‘Dragon blood trees’ are also known as ‘Socotra dragon trees’, and they can reach a height of 5 to 10 metres (16.4 to 33 feet).
- Dragon blood trees grow in a shape that resembles that of a mushroom, with branches that are shaped like large sausages and form in a dense structure; while sturdy long, narrow leaves form on the ends of the branches in clusters, and they can be as long as 60 centimetres (2 feet).
- Moisture is absorbed by dragon blood trees from mist or low cloud cover, and often the moisture trickles down cracks in rocks to the roots below.
- Dragon blood trees generally bloom in February, and they produce many small flowers that grow in groups, and are coloured a creamy white to green colour.
- Numerous berries form on dragon blood trees after flowering, and they have a diameter of approximately 1 cm (0.4 inches); are of an orange to red colour when ripe; and contain from 1 to 3 seeds.
- Dragon blood trees are listed as a vulnerable species as reproduction has noticeably declined, likely due to a changing climate, over-harvesting and human interference.
- Dragon blood trees are known for excreting a blood red resin that has been used as dye or varnish, as well as a form of traditional medicine since ancient times in Rome, Greece and Egypt, and the resin is still used in modern times.
- Many young dragon blood trees of present times have failed to grow branches in the dense canopy typical of older specimens, and this has caused conservation concerns, as the canopy allows new plants to grow in its shade, and prevents moisture loss around the base of the tree.
At Socotra, you can take a trip out of this world and still remain in this world!
- Socotra is a group of four islands, found approximately 355 kilometres (220 miles) off the coast of Yemen of western Asia, in the Arabian Sea, and the archipelago also consists of two islets; and while it sits closer to Somalia, Africa, it comes under the jurisdiction of Yemen.
- Socotra’ also has the spellings ‘suqotra’ and ‘soqotra’, and there are various theories about the origin of the name, though it is generally thought to be derived from the Arabic words meaning ‘market of dragon’s blood’ or from the Sanskrit words meaning ‘island of bliss’.
- The largest island, which is also called Socotra, has caves, mountains, dunes, and sandy beaches, and is 132 kilometres (82 miles) in length, while the total archipelago has a land area of approximately 3824 square kilometres (1476 square miles).
- Socotra is known for its exotic flora numbering over 800 species, with more than a third of these species being endemic to the islands; and there is a diverse range of fauna, with at least 34 reptile and 96 land snail species, almost all of which are endemic; along with 730 fish, 300 crustacean, 4 bat and 192 bird species.
- In 2008, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention listed Socotra as a World Heritage Site, thus making it a protected area, due to the islands’ unique biodiversity and species that are threatened.
- Socotra was an ancient hub for trading with people from Rome, Greece and Egypt, selling exclusive medicines; frankincense; and a special red resin known as ‘dragon’s blood‘ that was used as a dye and for medicinal purposes; all extracted from various endemic plants.
- The first sealed road to be constructed on Socotra was built in 2006, and there are only a few roads on the island, in part due to their negative impact on the environment, though transport methods such as bikes, 4WDs and minibuses are used, while an airport also exists.
- The ruins of an ancient city were uncovered on Socotra in 2010 by Russian archaeologists, and there are many caves, as well as nearby shipwrecks, that can be explored.
- As of 2004, Socotra had a population of approximately 44,000 individuals, most of these being indigenous and of Arabian descent living on the main island, and only two of the other islands were inhabited, and housed approximately 550 people between them.
- Industries in Socotra include date growing, pearl harvesting, and fishing; while ecotourism is becoming popular, with an increased number of visitors over recent years, and activities for tourists may comprise of diving, fishing, sailing and other water sports, as well as hiking.
Yemen, The Socotra Archipelago, 2016, Socotra, http://socotra.info/
Miracle fruits are marvellous game-changers.
- Miracle fruits are berries of a species of shrub-growing plant, that is native to western Africa.
- ‘Miracle fruit’ are also known as ‘sweet berries’, ‘miracle berries’, ‘taamis’, ‘miraculous berries’, and ‘agbayuns’.
- The scientific name of the miracle fruit is Synsepalum dulcificum and it is from the family Sapotaceae, a family of evergreen flowering trees and shrubs.
- Miracle fruits are small and are an ovoid shape, and they are roughly 2 to 3 centimetres (0.8 to 1.2 inches) in length.
- While the miracle fruit does not have much flavour itself, a protein named miraculin found in the fruit’s flesh, causes sour foods to taste sweet when the flesh is consumed.
- The shrubs that bear miracle fruit grow to a height of 1.8 to 4.5 metres (5.9 to 14.8 feet), and the fruit is produced throughout the year.
- The impact of the miracle fruit on one’s sense of taste lasts for around 30 minutes, or occasionally longer, and the fruit is eaten raw, typically immediately before sour tasting food.
- Miracle fruits have a bright red skin colour and they have flesh that is a translucent white colour, which includes one seed.
- To maintain the flavour alterating properties of miracle fruit, berries must be eaten promptly after picking, as their effectiveness decreases the longer they are stored.
- Miracle fruit has been designated as a food additive in its history; and while research has been undertaken to determine the possibility of the fruit being used to change the taste of food to make it sweeter, as yet, it has not been a commercially viable option.