by guest blogger, Evelyn Grant
A Life saving flower, How exotic is that?
Who knew that exotic flowers and plants could stand accused of being bullying invasives? Apparently Japanese honeysuckle is on the long list of escaped exotic plants continuing to live independently in Virginia according to a new book reviewed by The Washington Post. Exotic flowers could be alive and well in a forest near you and they are a lot more interesting than you might think with some unexpected health benefits. Ironically exotic flowers are more likely to bloom because development such as road building disrupts native habitats and practically invites exotics to take up residence. North Virginia and other parts of the Washington area have seen non-native species doubling from 18 percent in 1919 to 36 percent today.
Exotic flower invaders on the at-risk list
Unfortunately many exotic flowers are becoming endangered so you probably won’t encounter many of these in your state’s natural habitat. It’s a shame that some of these flowers are so rare because they are really quite unusual to look at, some might even say ugly, but still a sight to behold. It’s not only how they look that makes them unusual, the Rafflesia for example is said to be remarkably ugly and to smell quite strongly of meat. It’s not all bad though, the black bat flower is very beautiful reaching over 12 inches in diameter but is extremely rare. The dendroseris nerifolia flower is so rare that there is only one left in the world on Robinson Crusoe Island where dozens of rare species exist on the cusp of extinction.
Finding an exotic cure
It is not news that exotic flowers and plants have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Yet it is quite amazing that they are still prevalent in this field despite constant medical advances. The Missouri Botanical Garden works in 35 countries worldwide to protect plants that are potentially invaluable for medicine. They are very much aware of the importance of preventing the extinction of many exotic flowers and plants as they “might be losing a cure for cancer, HIV/AIDS or even the common cold!”. Our British friends who fancy taking in the positives of the outdoors can go for a stroll in their very own Pharmaceutical Garden and then finish off their constitutional with a walk through The Garden of World Medicine. You don’t even have to visit London to feel these benefits because some of the exotic flowers on display are used in drugs across the world. The Catharanthus roseus or Madagascar Periwinkle contains alkaloids used in anti-cancer drugs and the Digitalis lanata or Woolly Foxglove contains a cardiac glycoside used to strengthen the heart beat.
Can you grow your own exotic flowers by invitation only?
You can certainly try according to the exotic flower experts at Kew Gardens in London, and they should know. Apparently you can grow just about anything in a nice warm glasshouse if you try hard enough. Some people aren’t happy just filling their gardens with natives and would rather sweat it out in the temperate environment of a glasshouse and attempt to surround themselves with exotic plants which offer so much in terms of form and colour.
If your gardening skills are not your strong point then you can enjoy exotic flowers and plants from a safer distance with much less work. With exotic flowers forming a large part of the flora in the wild nowadays you never know what you might come across as you leave your garden behind and discover what your local forest has to offer. With many exotic flowers at risk of dying out across the world now is the time to make the most of some of these beautiful and downright strange plants if you are planning any travel overseas.
More than just a pretty arrangement in a vase
Exotic flowers do make for some of the most striking arrangements but they are definitely a lot more interesting than their pretty exterior gives them credit for. It seems unfair to call them a pest in the US but they do sound strangely appealing when referred to as uninvited invaders. These interlopers should be ignored at our peril as they could hold the key to many health problems and potential cures. You may not want to grow your own but they are definitely worth discovering.