Friday, June 15, 2012

Late Floridian Spring

Cassia fistula "Golden Shower Tree"
Passiflora incarnata "Maypop"
Flamboyant Tree
Cestrum nocturnum goes by lots of English names such as Night Blooming Jasmine, Queen of the Night, Night Jessamine, Lady of the Night and Bastard Jasmine. Despite all the references to Jasmine, Jasmine is something else entirely, in the Olive Family not the Nightshade. I've settled on the name Lady of the Night just because that's the mood you get in when you smell it.
Many scented plants bloom exclusively at night. These plants typically have white, or light-colored flowers and are pollinated by moths. Some of these nocturnal flowers actually open during the day but don`t release their fragrance until after the sun sets.

Aromatic and Fragrant Plants
Many plants are aromatic; the scent emanates from the essential oils contained in their foliage or flowers. Apparently, strong scents protect from browsing animals; they also attract insects for fertilization. Strength and character of the scent, however, can vary depending on time of day and year, exposure to sun, wind, and temperature. Scent can also vary with different specimens even among the same species. For that reason, it is advisable to buy plants while they are in bloom.

Most plants with aromatic leaves are evergreen and many are grown both for the effect of their gray-green or silver foliage and their smell. However, some leaves have to be rubbed or crushed underfoot to release their perfume; a practice used during Elizabethan times when leaves and aromatic herbs were strewn over floors.
Cestrum Nocturum "Queen of the Night"
 I have returned from vacation where the end of the South Floridian Spring was visible in blossoming tropical trees and other flora. Strolling through my family's back yard I discovered wild Passion Flower vines twisted through the long needles of the tall Australian Pines. At closer inspection I saw a thick cape of Night Blooming Jasmine behind it! With little restrain I clipped a few heavily laden vines and immersed them in hot water and placed them in a cool room. The Jasmine was dense with open and closed blossoms and had no scent in the daytime but at night the entire house was flooded with its fragrance. I was surprised to discover that the closed buds ceased to open as opposed to the passionflower vine whose buds continued to develop and blossom.