This winter has been incredibly mild and largely snowfree. We sure can’t complain. Still, the damp, the grey, the boots and coats, it all gets a little wearing, even so. For a break from the February Blahs, a trip to a greenhouse works wonders. So this week, RailGuy and I journeyed out to the Montreal Botanical Gardens for some leafy therapy. Although we have visited the gardens in summer, we have never toured the greenhouses before. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit from the moment we stepped inside and got that first whiff of warm soil. The greenhouses are linked in a series of themed gardens. Here are some of the tropical plants.
I love the Spanish Moss, dripping from these branches. Spanish Moss is native to the southeastern United States and south to Argentina. It hangs from trees in dense masses, sometimes several metres long. It’s an epiphytic plant, which means it is rootless. Its stems are covered in greyish scales called trichomes, which allow the plant to absorb water and minerals and protect it from excess evaporation.
Check out this adorable croc, situated by one of the many water features. His covering of leaves really does impart a scaly appearance.
These two big heron-like birds were stunning, standing before a tall waterfall and wreathed in mist rising from the water.
Here’s a selection of bromeliads. The Bromeliaceae family is diverse and includes plants as different as Spanish Moss and pineapples. Some bromeliads are adapted to store rainwater and dew. Their tightly overlapping leaves form a reservoir known as a tank. The water, plant litter and decomposing animal waste captured in the tank provide a complete diet for the plant. Some amphibians lay their eggs in the bromeliad tank. The hatchlings have a food supply of mosquito larvae and other goodies.
One greenhouse is devoted to bonsai plantings. The tree in the photo below is a 70-year-old Chinese Sweetplum (Sageretia thea).
Here’s a view of the cactus display. Cactus are mostly succulents, and are xerophytes, adapted to living in hot, dry environments. The variety of forms includes everything from the weird to the wonderful.
I especially liked these Golden Barrel cactus.
Another interesting collection featured the Begoniaceae and Gesneriacaea families, which share similar tropical and subtropical habitats. The latter includes a common houseplant, the African Violet. The former includes begonias. I didn’t realize that begonias can be epiphytes, climbers and even shrubs. They are all characterized by asymmetrical leaves.
Some of the begonias had eye-catching foliage. Here’s an Iron-Cross begonia, above, and the aptly named Begonia Rex-cultorum ‘Escargot’ below.
That’s just a smattering of the interesting sights. We also enjoyed the orchid display, the fruit and spice plants, and of course, the butterflies that fly free in the winter. I’ll save them for another post.