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Tree echium at Bloedel Conservatory

Spectacular flowering ‘Snow Tower’ plant now at Bloedel Conservatory

"We expect this exotically beautiful tall plant will cause a lot of excitement among plant lovers,”

Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon

April 18 2019 –

A plant native to the Mediterranean and rare to Canada is now flowering at Bloedel Conservatory, but only for a few weeks.

The Vancouver Park Board acquired tree echium ‘Snow Tower’ seeds two years ago. Staff sowed the seeds and nurtured them into a spectacular plant that produces white flowers on its flower spike, which can reach up to fifteen feet high.

Giant of herbaceous plant world

The tree echium (Echium pininana) is commonly known as tower of jewels, pine echium, and giant viper’s bugloss. An endangered species native to La Palma, part of the Canary Islands, it is one of the true giants of the herbaceous plant world.

“We expect this exotically beautiful tall plant will cause a lot of excitement among plant lovers,” said Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon. “Flower buds will continue to unfurl and expand over the bloom phase, making the flower stalk wider and more impressive over time. It should flower into June before completing its life cycle and dying.”

In addition to the Bloedel Conservatory, tree echiums with blue flowers are also growing in the large Quarry Garden in Queen Elizabeth Park, in Morton Park, and at the entrance to VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Park Board staff have acquired more seeds, about six varieties, that will be germinating shortly. These varieties aren’t all tall. Some are shorter or mounded, but all are beautiful. They include:

  • Echium amoenum
  • Echium boissieri
  • Echium candicans
  • Echium hybrid ‘Pink Fountain’
  • Echium pininana
  • Echium russicum

Two of these species, Echium boissieri (from northern Iran) and russicum (from Eastern Europe), are shorter varieties that are much hardier and are able to survive our climate.

Biennial plants

Most echiums require winter protection or need to be brought inside to protect them against snow damage. They are biennial, meaning that it takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle.

During its first year, the tree echium forms a rosette of silver, hairy, spear-like leaves. In its second year, the tall flower spike grows and produces small bell-shaped flowers that attract bees and other pollinators. After flowering, it scatters its seeds and dies.

Last summer, Bloedel Conservatory was home to another rare plant, the corpse flower or titan arum, which is notorious for smelling like a rotting carcass during its brief 48-hour blooming period. Corpse flowers are very rare and unpredictable, and generally need seven to 10 years to store enough energy to bloom for the first time.

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By City of Vancouver

 

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