Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Madagascar Spiny Forest Of Arcadia California

Uncarina grandidieri in bloom

Our recent visit to the LA Arboretum included wandering slowly through one of my favorite areas, the Madagascar spiny forest.  In Madagascar, the plants of the spiny forest areas are severely endangered by the impoverished human population, who burn the plants for fuel, and clear the native plants to grow corn.

To give you an example of "impoverished", at a talk given by Aloe expert Kelly Griffin, he mentioned a trip he took to Madagascar with another plant expert, who started the trip with very well-worn hiking boots.  A little too worn.  Kelly advised him to go with a better pair of boots.  His companion said, "Oh, I'll buy some there if I have to."  On arrival in Madagascar and soon after their hikes into rough and rocky country, a new pair of hiking boots was needed.  The man discovered he couldn't buy hiking boots in Madagascar.  He couldn't buy shoes in rural Madagascar--because there were not any for sale.  Kelly said to his companion, "Look around at the people here.  Do you see anyone wearing shoes?"  Indeed no one was wearing shoes--no one could afford shoes. The man finally was able to find the only pair of shoes for sale--a pair of women's pink plastic bedroom slippers that did not quite fit, which he wore on their rocky hikes as best he could.

But to Arcadia.  We've enjoyed watching the Madagascar area develop over the past several years.  It occurred to me wandering that path that a Southern California resident could create their own fantastical garden composed entirely of endangered Madagascar plant species with little difficulty.  So many are available here, even at big-box stores. 

The Madagascar Garden entrance:
 Two palms are well-represented.  One is Bismarkia noblis, native to open grasslands in western and northern Madagascar.  (The metal thingy was part of a sculpture exhibition):
 There was one beginning to flower:

 I believe this tree in the center is a Moringa, possibly M. drouhardii:
 The Arboretum has recently been able to add several specimens of the rare Aloe suzannae.  Aloe suzannae is a solitary rosette that blooms only occasionally--not every year.  (See a suzannae blooming in Denmark(!) here.) Thus availability is limited, and the Aloe is in severe danger of extinction in the wild.

Behind the Aloe suzannae are two flowering plants often found in any big-box store,  Euphorbia milli (red flowers), and Catharanthus roseus (pink), an annual bedding plant sold as "Vinca" or "Madagascar periwinkle". 

 In the next photo, the bright yellow flowers belong to Uncarina grandidieri.  According to a garden sign, people in Madagascar use the seed pods as mouse traps.  The lushness, even of a xeric thorn forest, can be seen beyond--quite amazing plants.
 Another palm, this one found in rainier southern Madagascar, Dypsis decaryi:
 In the foreground is another Madagascar Aloe, Aloe vaombe.  A Pachypodium to the Aloe's upper right:

Aloe vaombe, stately.  To its lower left, little pink-flowered Kalanchoe pumila.  

 Many Alluaudia procera specimens, these in bloom:
 At the feet of these exotic small trees are Euphorbias and Kalanchoes, including K. beharensis, K. pumila with its pink flowers, and K. tomentosa, all now frequently seen at big box stores.
 A mass of Kalanchoe:
The garden is a well-crafted tribute to Madagascar's endangered plants, and it is satisfying to see it continue to grow and mature. 
Excellent article about the garden here;  thanks to alert reader Nell.  Thanks, Nell! 

As we left, one of the Arboretum's peacocks gave us a goodbye show.

20 comments:

  1. So many gorgeous plants! Bismarekia nobilis is such a spectacular palm which, unfortunately, isn't hardy here. Interesting that you can find so many of these things at your box stores. Must visit California with a vehicle one of these days! Still smiling at the image of a plant explorer wandering around Madagascar in women's pink plastic bedroom slippers.

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    1. Those amazing plant explorers who bring back our treasures. Gotta love them.

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  2. What a fantastic post! I've never seen so many plants from Madagascar in one garden--from the smallest to the largest. No wonder Madagascar is on the bucket list for so many plant lovers.

    The L.A. County Arboretum is now at the top of my must-see list for my next SoCal trip, together with the Huntington.

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    1. Many good things to see at the Arboretum. Lots of Aloes, too.

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  3. Wow. Just wow.

    I'm wondering now about who is the head horticulturist, etc. It's a phenomenal collection.

    [The metal sculpture says 'Babar' to me.]

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  4. Here's an article on the arboretum's Madagascar spiny forest by James Henrich, curator of living collections:
    http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/the-madagascar-spiny-forestat-los-angeles-county-arboretum/

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  5. What an amazing collection of plants. It's so delightfully prehistoric looking! Or other-worldly. Imagine the animals that might live in place like this given a few turns of evolutionary wheel of fate.

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    1. The animals of Madagascar are just as rare and amazing! See: http://www.wildmadagascar.org/wildlife/animals.html

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  6. A few seeds from my Dypsis decaryi germinated, incredibly slow growing, but I'm determined to keep them going. I need to get up to the arboretum much more often! Wonderful post thanks.

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    1. Happy you found it of interest. The Inter-City CSS is in August there. :^)

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  7. Great timing! I posted on the first part of my LA Arboretum visit today and was able to link to your, more informational, post as well as the Pac Hort article mentioned by Nell. Thank you!

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  8. I love plants from Madagascar. I am putting this on my gardens to visit list. I have my own tiny Madagascar garden in pots : ) It might be an interesting place to visit someday.

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    1. If you like plants, it is a very interesting place!

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  9. Such a beautiful collection of plants, certainly looks like a very interesting place. All of the plants look as if they are hardy, I love Kalanchoes and Aloes. For many years I had a Madagascar Jasmine (Stephanotis Floribunda), it's flowers and fragrance were delightful.
    xoxoxo ♡

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    1. I have a Stephanotis also--the fragrance!

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  10. Between you and Loree, we were treated to quite the traipse through exotica this morning.

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