Field of Science

February tropical greens for winter blues

The wind is howling outside, making temperatures just below freezing seem very cold indeed.  And the temp is predicted to drop to 0 F tonight, which is cold.  So to help my readers (and TPP) keep sane during the February winter doldrums, here's a bit of tropical greenery and scenery, Pouhokamoa falls on Maui.  This is a pretty lush looking view, and if you look closely, there are several African tulip trees (orange flowers) in the image, sorry.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bracts II

Seems to be a theme among the  images TPP accumulated while in Hawaii, and with few exceptions, none of them are natives.  Lots of things got imported for the cut flower business, and this "flower" is no exception.  This is the genus Protea, but not sure about the species.  Wonderful symmetry exhibited by this big inflorescence where the outer parts are all punkish bracts just not quite as colorful as the ginger.  The much smaller individual flowers are just beginning to open starting at the top and continuing around the spiral in a clockwise direction.  This will continue until they are all open.  Again proteas are a great favorite of the cut flower business because they are fairly spectacular and last a long time once cut.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bracts part I

Bracts are a type of modified leaf associated with a flower.  Some times bracts are responsible for both protecting and advertising flowers, and in such cases they are both colorful and long lasting.  No wonder some of these attractively bracted plants are big favorites of the cut flower business.  In tropical areas some of these plants are planted as ornamentals, mostly gingers, heliconias, and spiral gingers.  This is called a red wax ginger (probably Tapeinochitos ananasse).  A somewhat less conspicuous yellow flower is associated with each bract, but clearly the whole inflorescence functions in attraction of bird pollinators. The look waxy because of a heavy cuticle, which also means they last for a long time. So this is not a flower, but a whole cluster of flowers, and yes, this is one of the things that makes TPP's blog a great flower blog, so some dubious correspondent suggested, one which the ever suspicious blogger never responded to, but already people know the FFF (no matter what day it comes out) is a quality product given away free.  

Good timing is important

OK, the Phactors decide to escape as much winter as possible by going to Hawaii for 3 weeks (Maui and Kauai).  During that time we escape the polar vortex, although we fully expect to see the ravages of extreme cold when spring arrives.  Arrived back on Feb. 5th and 3 days later a freaky winter storm hits Hawaii, and Maui even gets snow!  Went up fairly high on the volcano to see some native vegetation and birds the subject off this blog just a few days ago.  And they got snowed on, and the Phactors missed it.  Usually our timing is not that good.  Much better to remember our lodgings on Kauai without any high winds or snow in the picture.  This was great.  

Bleak and cold

TPP is home after a bit more than 24 hrs of travel.  Hard to believe how bleak and cold the upper Midwest can be especially having left a fairly lush tropical place.  The air is so dry.  The kitty girls are certainly glad the Phactors are home; it will take them awhile to get less clingy.  Several little things need attention, that's entropy for you.  Fortunately the polar vortex came and went while we were enjoying much warmer weather in Maui and Kauai. Arriving home last evening the temperature was about 30F, but it was very damp, and being most inappropriately dressed it seemed much colder.  Snuggling cats were determined to keep us close and warm.  The ultimate price of the extreme cold weather will await an evaluation of the damage come spring.  TPP already has a long list of plants that might be rather susceptible to such cold and no one else is at fault for having planted some not quite cold hardy in zone 5 plants. It has been nearly 40 years since the area has experienced near, or beyond, rock bottom zone 5 temps (around -20 F).  This is an interesting temperature barrier for freeze avoiding plants. TPP has blogged about this several times.  

Fruit ID revealed

Well, nobody suggested nuthin'.  This doesn't surprise TPP because it was not easy to find online, but out of a long list of tropical fruits grown on Kauai, the first name that was unknown was googled and it turned out to be correct.  That would be the caimito or star apple, Chrysophyllum canito (Sapotaceae).  This means the caimito is related to the sapote and several other fruits in the same family, none of which are high on TPP's list of favorites.  But a new fruit is a new fruit, and it grows on a large handsome tree.  If you cut this fruit in half you can avoid the outer fruit wall and skin where most of the latex is located by spooning out the central pulp, which has a sweet, creamy taste.  This is a neotropical fruit that is grown in Florida, and probably Costa Rica, but had escaped TPP's attention.  

Friday Fabulous fruit

 OK it hasn't happened in a long time, but TPP encountered a new and unfamiliar tropical fruit.  As you might image TPP's list of tropical fruits that he has tried is quite extensive.  So here TPP is, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, at an extremely nice rental (Fern Grotto Inn) -  note TPP seldom gives endorsements, so you might consider how good this place is to deserve a tip of the hat.  At any while the beer in the fridge and the macadamia chocolates and the flowers every where might be enough for most people, there was also a fruit bowl that had this interesting item in it.  It was about 3" in diameter, green with a purple blush, soft in a ripe fruit sort of way, and it had a pinkish flesh with 10 of so slots for flat seeds covered with a translucent aril or fleshy seed coat.  It was quite sweet.  So what does the TPP reader brain trust think?  TPP will post the answer in a day or two.  Last time this happened TPP was dissecting mangosteens in hotel lobby in Thailand.