Giant Amazon water lily (Victoria amazonica) Named after Queen Victoria, this plant blooms at night in the warm, slow-moving waters of the Amazon basin. “Giant” is an apt descriptor: Each leaf can grow up to nine feet in diameter and the plant an span some 50 feet across. The elaborate network of air-filled veins on the leaf’s underside give it the structural strength to support almost 90 pounds on its surface.Photo:Jonathan Singer
Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobtrys) This large tropical vine is a member of the pea family. Clusters of more than 100 striking turquoise flowers hang down as much as three feet. In its native Philippines, bees pollinate the vine’s flowers.
Ginger family (Curcuma elata) This ginger plan is a bit of a mystery: Smithsonian scientists aren’t sure who donated it to the institution, or to which exact area it’s native. The plant’s vibrant green and magenta bracts certainly do, however, accentuate the variable colors among gingers.
Giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis) Linnaeus first published the botanical name for the giant granadilla in 1759 in Systema Naturae, his famous work on the classification of plants and animals. In its native tropical America, the plant is grown for its large, edible fruits and ornamental flowers. It’s now cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide. The square stems are the source of its Latin name.
Tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) The first records of cultivation of tree peonies date back to nearly 600 B.C., during the Sui Dynasty, when Emperor Yang reigned over China. The aromatic, silky flowers can measure nearly a foot wide.
Corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanium) Native to Sumatra, the corpse flower’s putrid odor attracts carrion beetles that pollinate the plant. After only three days, the flower collapses. Then the plant sends up a single leaf and 10-foot stalk pictured here. The plant stores energy for producing the bloom in an underground tuber that can weigh nearly 100 pounds.Photo:Jonathan Singer
Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) A member of the thistle family, this plant is native t the Mediterranean. Popular in ancient Green and Roman cuisine, today the plant is cultivated as an ornamental.
Goldfinger plant (Juanulloa aurantiaca) One glance at these tangerine-colored flowers and you might easily guess that hummingbirds pollinate the climbing plants in their native tropical forests in Central and South America. A member of the nightshade family, Saolanaceae, goldfinger is related to the tomato and the deadly belladonna.
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