When you attend Radiant Nature — on display now through February 25, 2024 — be sure to watch for the informative signage that accompanies many of the installations. Here’s a quick sample of the kind of interesting plant information you’ll learn, courtesy of members of the Garden’s horticulture staff.
Mum’s the Word
Chrysanthemum incidum, which is technically a flowering herb, has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. In addition, the flower heads of “mums,” as they are often known, can be pickled in vinegar as a side dish, while the flowers themselves make an aromatic herbal tea. The petals also appear in various dishes and recipes in Japanese cuisine. Traditionally golden, mums are now available in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Symbolically, Chrysanthemum flowers serve as signs of devotion, love, and longevity.
A Sacred Giant
Two lotus species make up the Nelumbonaceae family—American lotus (Nelumbo lutea), native to North America, and the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), which hails from Asia. Both perennial hydrophytes are fully edible and set themselves apart from aquatic lilies by shooting stalks high above the surface. The pink to rose-colored flowers of the sacred lotus can tower nearly 7 feet above the water! Lotus flowers provide food for pollinators, and the seedpods provide shelter for many insects.
Pretty and Powerful
Passiflora incarnata (purple passionflower) is a climbing vine native to the southeast U.S. Its showy 3-inch pink, blue, and purple flowers bloom from March to November, providing nectar for many pollinator species and serving as a host for native butterfly larvae – Calycopis cecrops (red-banded hairstreak) and Agraulis vanilla (gulf fritillary) – among many other species. Indigenous people groups have used the orange-yellow berry, roots, and leaves to make poultices, ease insomnia, sooth nerves, and reduce inflammation.