Glorybower (Clerodendrum sp.)

November 9, 2010 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

Even when it’s frosty outside, the Wings of the Tropics exhibit still must act as a habitat for over a thousand tropical butterflies.  This means that our plants have to be somewhat manipulated, via additional light, heat and humidity, into growing in an eternal summer.  Even with the climate control, however, visitors may notice seasonal changes in the tropical rainforest.  Some plants begin a period of relative inactivity in winter; others burst into bloom, just in time for the holidays.  The glorybowers fall into the latter category.

In order to provide nectar for our butterflies even as sunlight decreases, we have included many members of the genus Clerodendrum in our rainforest.  Many species are just starting to bloom in late fall and will provide color and nectar throughout the winter.  The genus Clerodendrum includes over 150 species of trees, shrubs and vines, native to temperate and tropical parts of the world, esp. tropical Africa and southern Asia.  Many of these species are often cultivated for their showy clusters of flowers and colorful fruits.  Some plants in the genus Clerodendrum were thought to possess medical properties, reflected in their scientific name, which translates roughly as “tree of chance” in Greek.

 Some of the Butterfly Pavilion’s standout species include:

Clerodendrum bungei (rose glorybower):  This small shrub grows to 4-6 feet in height, culminating in dense pink clusters of narrow tubular flowers.  Our larger swallowtail butterflies love to rest on the flower cluster and sip.  When grown in warmer parts of the United States, this plant has been known to become invasive, but in our conservatory, we keep it contained.  When the leaves of this plant are rubbed, they may give off a metallic scent.

Clerodendrum wallichii, syn. C. nutans  (bridalveil, nodding glorybower):  The time to admire this elegant blooming shrub is now.  Nodding glorybower, from India, has glossy green foliage for much of the year, but in the fall, develops hanging panicles of delicate white flowers.  The cascading effect of white against dark green is magical.  

Clerodendrum splendens (glorybower):  This vine is supposed to bloom all year, but seems to have a particular peak in our conservatory from October – March, just when our butterflies need it the most. Indeed, this west African native is one of our most visited nectar source across many species of butterfly.  Look for  scarlet clusters of flowers about 4 inches across, growing in the northeast corner of the conservatory.

All in all, the Wings of the Tropics includes seven different species of Clerodendrum.  Some bloom like fireworks and others smell like Crest toothpaste.  If you need a pick-me-up as winter approaches, think like a butterfly and pay them a visit!

Posted by Amy Yarger

Butterfly Pavilion Horticulturist

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Entry filed under: Gardening. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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