Bloedel Conservatory welcomes new, big, blossoming plants
Endangered Canary Island plants nearly 5 metres tall
For a short time only, Vancouver's Bloedel Conservatory is home to a stand of endangered tree echium, or snow tower flower. The plants, native to the Canary Islands, have a two-year lifespan culminating in a four-and-a-half metre high tower of flowers.
Echium pininana looks like a tower of flowers
Echium pininana, also known as pine echium, tower of jewels and giant viper's bugloss, is a variety of echium native to La Palma in the Canary Islands, where it has become an endangered species.
Readers will be forgiven for comparing this giant, phallus-shaped, plant to the Bloedel Conservatory's last flowering sensation — the titan arum or corpse flower.
The two plants' actual similarities (one smells like rotting meat while the other's flowers are mild and fragrant) are few except for being difficult to grow in the cold.
They grow natively only on the island of La Palma
Snow towers smell pleasant. Corpse flowers don't
"Tree echium are quite different from that plant [titan arum] but they are similar in that they're rarely cultivated in Canada. They don't do well with snow and ice," said Emily Schultz of the Vancouver Park Board.
In Vancouver's climate, gardeners hoping to grow snow towers will require winter protection or plan to bring them inside to defend against snow and cold.
Though rare, a Victoria gardener and plant blogger does appear to have grown several outdoors in that city's somewhat milder climate.
The Bloedel's snow towers were grown from seeds
In their first year of life, tree echium grow their first silver, hairy, spear-like leaves. As they reach maturity in their second year, the plant's signature flowering spike of small, white, bell-shaped flowers can reach upwards of four-and-a-half metres in height.
Exciting News! We have 5 rare tree echium (Echium pininana 'Snow Towers') over 10 feet high blooming now. They're subtropical plants native to the Canary Islands, rarely cultivated in Canada. Visit soon to see them. They won’t last long! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/vancouver?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#vancouver</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/ParkBoard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ParkBoard</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CityofVancouver?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CityofVancouver</a> <a href="https://t.co/1iiOpp4Ov2">pic.twitter.com/1iiOpp4Ov2</a>—@BloedelConserv
Snow towers are biennial
The Bloedel's specimens began blossoming on April 12. Their flowers signal that they are nearing the end of their life cycle.
"They'll bloom for up to four weeks before scattering their seeds and dying," Schultz said.
If you can't make it to the Bloedel Conservatory in time, the Vancouver Park Board has planted more tree echiums outdoors in Morton Park, VanDusen Botanical Garden and Queen Elizabeth Park. They are expected to flower in May.