All over the tropics you'll see:
Orchids! Members of the Orchidaceae, the plant family with more species than any of the other 400+ plant families, orchids have great diversity, from small pale flowers to large purple or red ones. People love them, so there are thousands of cultivated varieties. The vast majority of orchids require warm temperatures and high humidity so are easily grown in the warm tropics and less visible elsewhere.
|another orchid seen in Singapore|
Bougainvillea. Bougainvillea is a woody shrub with thorns. The plant can be hard to get established but, once growing well, it is tough and drought tolerant. In the Nyctaginaceae, it is related to four o'clocks (Mirabilis). Despite the fact you see it all over the world, it is native to Brazil. Bougainvillea likes hot temperatures and lots of sunlight (blog about it: link).)
|Bougainvillea in Spain|
|Hibiscus seen in Hawaii|
Plumeria, also called frangipani and Indian temple tree, is a symbol of immortality in Asia. It is the flower of choice for leis in Hawaii. The fragrance is absolutely marvelous. Part of the very large plant family Apocynaceae, plumerias are in the genus Plumeria, and, despite the name Indian temple tree, they are native to the Americas. Recent blog about plumeria: link.
Heliconias. These very striking plants with huge leaves and dramatic flowers are in the genus Heliconius from the Heliconiaceae, a New World family of plants. The flowers are actually small, forming inside the big colored bracts and one at a time protruding, so the big bracts stay bright for weeks or months while flower after flower within them develops, opens and wilts. If you live in the tropics, these big showy plants are easy to grow.
|Heliconias seen in Bali.|
|Spider lily, seen in Hawaii|
Morning glories. These are in the genus Ipomoea, in the bindweed family Convolvulaceae. They are vines that climb all over everything, with cheerful flowers that open in the morning, and have wilted by afternoon. Some will reseed themselves in temperate zones, but in the tropics they are perennial and the vines of a single plant can spread over a large area.
Of course not all tropical flowers are large and bright, but many are. Against all the green leaves that warm temperatures and ample rainfall produce, flowers often have to be dramatic for pollinators to pick them out from the green background. And once drawn to the attention of people, we've selected for variation and new colors, so all the plants mentioned have numerous varieties to delight visitors and gardeners.
Comments and corrections welcome
Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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