CURRENT FEATURE PLANT


The Pineapple Plant

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The Pineapple plant (Ananas comosus) is the source of pineapple fruit. This herbaceous perennial is native to Central and South America. These rosette plants have long, narrow, waxy leaves with sharp edges. It takes approximately two to three years for this plant to mature and produce a fruit because it undergoes crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). CAM is a CO2 fixation pathway for photosynthesis that maximizes water use efficiency.

The plant produces an inflorescence, with many small purple-red flowers that are  at the center of the rosette. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and butterflies. The fruit is multiple berries but the ovaries have fused together. There is never more than one fruit present on a plant at a time. Pineapple fruit requires about 6 months to mature and ripen on the plant before it can be eaten.

Did you know that you can grow your own pineapple plant at home? Next time you are at a grocery store, pickup a pineapple and cut off the crown of the fruit (the green leafy part). Remove all the flesh of the fruit and the bottom few leaves until you see roots exposed. Place the base of the crown in a container of water and in a few weeks to a few months, roots will grow. At that point, your pineapple can be planted in a pot with potting soil and in about 2-3 years, you might have a pineapple fruit that was homegrown.

To see our pineapple plant in fruit and our other exotic plants, visit the McMaster Greenhouse!

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The Pink Quill

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The Pink Quill plant (Tillandsia cyanea) is an epiphytic air plant in the bromeliad family that is native to rainforests of Ecuador.  It gets its name from the bright pink plume of up to quill-like bracts (modified leaves) that emerge from the center of a rosette of arching green leaves.  The pink quill plant produces fragrant violet-blue flowers that appear one or two at a time, emerging from the notches of the bracts in the spring and autumn.

Epiphytic plants have minimal root systems and do not require soil to grow.  Instead of obtaining water and nutrients from soil, epiphytes use their leaves to gather moisture and nutrients from the air (hence air plant).  The small root system epiphytes produce serve as a way to anchor the plant to trees.  This epiphytic relationship is not usually parasitic as the plant is not deriving any nutrients from the tree, only support.  Interestingly, the pink quill plant is the only species in the Tillandsia genus that can grow in peat moss or orchid soil.

Not only is Tillandsia cyanea visually appealing, it also has medicinal uses!  The plant contains an ingredient that is used in herbal supplements to help treat pollen allergies.

To see our collection of blooming Pink Quill plants and our other exotic plants, visit the McMaster Greenhouse!

The Moon Cactus

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The Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii) is a commercially grown ornamental plant. This plant is actually a combination of two succulent species. This extraordinary partnership does not exist in nature, it is a product of plant grafting. This technique is used to artificially fuse two species together in order to combine desirable traits.

The bottom portion of the cactus is known as Hylocereus undatus. This section produces chlorophyll which allows it to actively participate in photosynthesis. This provides essential nutrients and sugars for the growth both plants. The chlorophyll is what gives the bottom section a green colour. The top portion of the cactus does not produce chlorophyll, instead the underlying yellow, orange or red pigmentations show through. This is the section known as the Moon Cactus. Therefore, grafting is essential to the survival of the Moon Cactus as it cannot live without the essential nutrients and sugars provided by the other species.

The average lifespan of the Moon Cactus is shorter than the average succulent plant. This is due to different rates of growth of the two species, often the grafting will only last for a few years.

To see our collection of Moon Cacti and other exotic plants, visit the McMaster Greenhouse!

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The Telegraph Plant

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This is a telegraph plant (Codariocalyx motorius) which is found in tropical Asia. It is one of a few plants that are capable of rapid movement. It has two small lateral leaflets at the base of each large leaf that constantly move, sampling the intensity of light along their path. This information is then transmitted to the larger leaves which will move, repositioning themselves into high light areas. It was even described by Charles Darwin in his book The Power of Movement in Plants back in 1880.

To see this plant in action, come visit the Greenhouse during one of our tour hours to learn more about it and the other plants in our collection!

To watch a video of this plant in motion, check out http://youtu.be/J-fIKlcCbSU.