Strelitzia reginae (Strelitziaceae) Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise flowers are native to South Africa – named after the Princess Charlotte Sophia von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of the British King George III. Charlotte Sophia was fond of plants and generously supported the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens – her nickname “Queen of Botany“ testifies to her devotion.

Its common name alludes to its resemblance to a bird’s head. Nectar collects in the green spathe surrounding the flowers. The contrasting colors of blue and orange attract sunbirds which serve as pollinators. Strelitzias are popular cut flowers, but are also cultivated as container plants. Here they bloom in winter – actually summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Eranthis hyemalis (Ranunculaceae) Winter Aconite

The name reveal it as a winter bloomer, in fact one of the first in January or February, when the pretty yellow flowers push through the snow. Originally from southern Europe it has been cultivated in Central Europe since the 16th century and has become regionally naturalized.

Some of the plants on the market are collected in Turkey from their natural habitats. The nectar glands at the base of the flowers produce abundant rewards for the pollinating bumble bees which don’t seem to mind the low temperatures. You will find the winter aconite in various locations throughout the Palmengarten, the earliest ones appear next to the stage of the music pavilon.


Erica carnea (Ericaceae) Winter Beauty

The Winter Beauty is native to the Alps and foothills. In contrast to most other ericas, it thrives well on calcareous soils, where it is often associated with pines.

Its early flowering makes it an ideal bee fodder plant. The plant is a popular ground cover in Germany and is often used on graves. There are many different varieties flowering in white, pinkish, and red-purple hues.

Helleborus orientalis hybrids (Ranunculaceae) Lenten Rose

The Lenten Rose is native to Turkey, northern Greece, and the Caucasian. It has been cultivated in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The flowers last through the winter into the early spring. The Lenten Rose is poisonous, as all members of the buttercup family.

The various hybrids with white to dark-red, often red-speckled flowers have been derived from combinations of different species. The Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) with its light-green flowers is a native of the Rhine-Main area.


Sarcococca saligna (Buxaceae) Sweet Box

The genus Sarcococca comprises eleven species from Southeast Asia. In winter and early spring the shrub produces tiny, white to pink, intensely fragrant flowers.

Male and female flowers occur separately on one and the same plant. The female ones develop into spherical, mucilaginous, black berries.

Hamamelis ’Orange Beauty’ (Hamamelidaceae) Witch Hazel

The genus comprises North American and Asian species with many hybrids and varieties bearing yellow or orange to red flowers. Some, such as Hamamelis mollis and its hybrids, are intensely fragrant.

These winter-bloomers protect their colorful, tender, long and slender petals by coiling; the sepals are tiny and red-brown. Their golden autumn foliage has led them to become popular ornamental shrubs. Hamamelis leaves are used as an astringent, anti-inflammatory, and local hemostatic and extracts are applied in cremes and ointments. The flexible twigs may have been used as divining rods, which could be one reasons for the plants’ popular name, but other explanations do exist.


Camellia japonica 'Desiré' (Theaceae) Japanese Camellia

This genus comprises about 200 species, including the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and the garden camellias which are all native to Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and India.

In 1866, Frankfurt along with Hessen-Nassau became part of the Prussian Empire and so the Duke Adolph of Nassau was forced to relinquish his properties in Wiesbaden-Biebrich with an extensive collection of exotic plants, including many valuable camellias. Eventually his collection was purchased and transferred to Frankfurt to become the basis for the newly founded Palmengarten. Today the camellia collection of the Palmengarten comprises about 450 individual plants belonging to about 300 varieties. These are generally kept in the nurseries, but are displayed every year for the annual “Camellia Show” in January and February.

Cochliostema odoratissimum (Commelinaceae) Fragrant Spiderwort

The Fragrant Spiderwort is a perennial plant native to the tropical rainforests of Central America. The genus name is derived from Greek: kochlias = snail.

This is because the blossom’s styles are elongated and form a hood around the spirally twisted anthers. The plant usually grows as an epiphyte (airplant) in its native habitats, but it can easily be grown in soil or in pots. Some unusual white albino varieties have been cultivated. You will find the fragrant spiderwort in the Lowland Rainforest of the Tropicarium.


Heliconia humilis (Heliconiaceae) Lobster Claw

Heliconias comprise about 100 species and they are related to the gingers, bananas, and bird-of-paradise plants. The low-growing Heliconia humilis is native to the tropical rainforests of South America. The bright-red color of the flower’s bracts is attractive for birds which are rewarded with copious nectar. The hard drupes are intensely blue.

Most heliconias are considerably larger in size with “pseudostems” formed by the leaf sheaths, just like in bananas. The huge colorful flower clusters are occasionally cut and dried for ornamental arrangements in floristry. You will find Heliconia humilis in the Lowland Rainforest of the Tropicarium.

Bulbophyllum lasiochilum (Orchidaceae) Orchidaceae

Bulbophyllum with its more than 1000 species is one of the most diverse genera in the plant kingdom. The majority of species are from Southeast Asia, while some species occur in Africa and South America. Sizes range from a few centimeters to more than one meter.

The plants either bear single flowers or long flower clusters. Bulbophyllum lasiochilum is an epiphyte native to Southeast Asia with flowers that attain a diameter of 3–4 centimeters. This species is pollinated by flies. Some Bulbophyllum species have a pleasant scent, while others emit a putrid and fetid odor. It is said that when B. beccarii flowered for the first time in Europe, the person who was going to draw the plant, fainted due the unbearable smell.


Syzygium jambos (Myrtaceae) Rose Apple

The Southeast Asian “jambu” is related to Eucalyptus. The flower’s sepals are reduced and the numerous yellow stamens produce a spectacular display. Any pollinating bird will be powdered when searching for nectar inside the flower.

Cloves also belong to the genus Syzygium – the aromatic, entire flower buds, resembling little nails, are a precious spice. The Java apple or wax jambu (Syzygium samarangense) has juicy fruits which are a popular refreshment in the tropics.

Crinum purpurascens (Amaryllidaceae) Starry Crinum

The genus Crinum comprises more than 100 species occurring along tropical and subtropical coastlines. Crinum purpurascens is native to Cameroon to Angola and across to Kenia. The umbel-like flower clusters bear huge white to pinkish flowers whose six petals are free at the tips, but narrow into a long tube, with abundant nectar forming at the base.

An evening moth with its long proboscis is able to reach deep into the flower for nectar, thus pollinating it. The plant is located in the Mangrove House of the Tropicarium.


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