It’s happening! The first blooms of our two Alcantarea imperialis have started showing the tips of their stamens. Their successive blossoming will make it possible for all of us to enjoy this natural spectacle for several weeks, or even for a few months.
Remember that this past December, two plants began to show signs of imminent flowering. Since then we’ve been following their evolution with great interest, since this is a first for the Jardin botanique de Montréal.
Six centimeters a day
From December to March, the flower spike (the stem bearing the blossom buds) developed discreetly at the center of the rosette of leaves. Then, on March 20, it emerged above the foliage. And since then it’s been making a dazzling ascent, extending upwards at the rate of six centimeters a day, very much like a telescoping antenna. If the specimen in the Tropical Rainforest greenhouse continues at that pace, it may prove necessary to remove one or two panes of glass from the ceiling so that it can continue growing unimpeded.
Flowering and offshoots
The slightly perfumed inflorescence rises as a narrow pyramid above the foliage. On this slender flower spike, lateral branching appears. Each branch bears between 10 and 50 flower buds. The red bracts showcase the curved yellowish petals. And the long stamens lend a delicate beauty to the whole picture. The flowers open in a precise order, the first ones being those located close to the vertical axis.
Once they’re pollinated, the flowers produced dry berries, called capsules, containing seeds equipped with silky hairs like those of dandelions. A lone Alcantarea can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds during its single flowering.
When the last blooms wilt, the leaves will gradually dry out. That could be the end of things, but in fact, young pup offshoots, identical to the parent plant, will emerge from the base of the stem. Meaning, the plant doesn’t completely die ! Nevertheless, we’ll have to wait another 15 years or so to see this new generation in bloom.