Two Great Locations, One Organization

Now blooming in the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, the q-tip plant performs more sleight of hand than its name alone suggests.
Two striking plants are in bloom in the tropical house of the conservatory (late January 2013). One, the powder puff tree (Calliandra haematocephala) looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss tale with its airy, brilliant flower sprays. The other, the Q-tip plant (Clerodendrum quadriloculare), resembles, you guessed it, Q-tips, except that Clerodendrum’s are washed with purple and arranged in a starburst or fireworks-like pattern. Both plants figure into human horticultural affairs mostly because they make good landscape plants in tropical areas.

On the q-tip plant the male part of the flower—the stamens—elongates and sheds pollen first.

Beneath its pretty face, however, the q-tip plant has another story to tell: protandry, in which male function precedes female function, allowing the flowers of a q-tip plant to avoid self-pollination. In other words the male part of the flower—the stamens—elongates and sheds pollen first. Once that’s finished the stigma elongates and is receptive to pollination from other flowers of the same species.
Visit the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens soon and take a break from the winter drear. And don’t miss the q-tip plant and the powder puff tree.
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