Tropical Flowering Plants - A Guide to Identification and Cultiv

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THE NATURAL FUNCTION of tropical flowers, with their luminous colors and ingenious designs, is to lure pollinators within the boundless green of the rain forest or during a brief rainy season in arid regions. We humans respond to the aesthetics and exotic allure of their fecund natural beauty. Nurseries vie for new and exotic species to quench the collectors' thirst. The floral business imports flowers from around the globe. In the United States, tropical plants are grown outdoors year round in Hawaii, California, Florida, and along the Gulf Coast. They are grown indoors, at least in winter, from Maine to Alaska. They appear on the pages of glossy magazines, in ads, television studio sets, homes, and work places. It is evident that the pleasure derived from having tropical plants around us is a passion shared by many.
The wild habitat of tropical species is disappearing at an alarming rate. It is calculated that literally thousands of species have become extinct without our ever having had a glimpse of them, and untold thousands more seem likely to be exterminated within the next few decades.
Only a relative few species make it into cultivation because of their aesthetic, medicinal, or utilitarian value. Others with unknown value are lost every day to the saw, bulldozer, and fire.
This volume illuminates many species saved through cultivation. Tropical gardens and conservatories not only exhibit but also protect plants as zoos protect animal species. It is hoped that this volume will help impart a deeper appreciation for tropical species through plants in cultivation and, by extension, the need to preserve their wild habitat. Gardeners help maintain diversity by seeking out, growing, and sharing unusual species.
When I began to study tropical botany in the 1950s, the books on tropical plants were usually densely scientific. Illustrations, if present at all, were black-and-white drawings or stylistic color paintings. For a young Northerner freshly transplanted to the subtropics, it made learning about this intriguing flora especially challenging. Dry herbarium specimens did not relate very well to the verdant green that surrounded me. Available collections were limited. Little was available on tropical plants from distant regions.
 
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