Friday, March 4, 2011


Is it possible that we are all so over roses that we look around at what else is available? Thinking about it, it would seem logical. I will get back to roses in due course, but for today I present a rather new item that arrived from Holland this week.
It seems that every summer, at least one customer but usually several come in and ask for flowers and foliages to recreate an underwater panorama. I imagine this is played out over and over for themed parties across the USA. Well here is a flower that fits the bill perfectly, resembling a bright orangey-red coral frond, with flowers, bracts and stems that resemble the skeletal structure of some coral growths. Along with the readily available supply of succulents, the creation of an undersea arrangement has never been easier, especially when you add in some leptospermum, lycopodium fern and lepidium.
The flower in question is a cultivar of Jatropha podagrica, a rather ancient plant in terms of cultivation by humans, but very new as a cut flower. It has several rather colorful names including "Guatemalan Rhubarb"; "Buddha Belly" and "Gout Plant", each of which refers to an attribute of this tropical plant.
This type of Jatropha is originally from Colombia, where it was used extensively by the indigenous peoples for its medicinal properties. It was collected by the Portuguese who then proceeded to disseminate it throughout India and Indonesia, and today it is found from Malaya and Fiji to Colombia and throughout Central America. It was used by the Europeans to relieve fevers as well as for its purported ability to cure gout. The plant itself has massive palmate leaves vaguely resembling those of rhubarb, which I suppose gave rise to the name Guatemala Rhubarb; and the trunk has a pronounced bulge at the base, technically known as a caudex, leading to the name Buddha Belly! 
 The flower has a fairly good vase life, and at present is only available in 50cms, although the stem length may get longer in due course.
So the next time you have to do a Bar Mitzvah with a "Yellow Submarine" theme or a sophisticated marine-based arrangement, you will have another asset to use. "And the Band begins to play..."

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