Warm Temperate Greenhouse
In this greenhouse are more plants that have played, and still do play, important roles in human life. We are dependent upon plants for food, shelter, brilliant dyes, industrial chemicals, useful oils, helping cure illnesses and the oxygen we breathe.
Upon entering the greenhouse you will pass under an arbour over which the edible passion vine is growing, Passiflora edulis. It is native to southern Brazil and Argentina, and is the most widely cultivated passion flower. It is grown for its fruits. To the immediate left are papyrus plants (Cyperus papyrus). Without papyrus, many important scrolls of ancient Egypt and the works of some Greek and Roman scholars might never have been written.
Along the southern part of the greenhouse are different lavenders which are found growing naturally in dry stony or rocky sites throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Canary Islands, India and the Middle East. All parts of the plant contain essential oils which, in the wild, provide the plants with defense mechanisms against the hot, dry summer in which they grow.
Lemon grass, Cymbopogon citratus, is an aromatic tropical grass in the same grass family as citronella; it has a lemon flavour when crushed. Lemon grass oil is a yellow or amber liquid that is antiseptic; it can be used to treat athlete’s foot. The stem and leaves are used for cooking, an insect repellent and in the cosmetic industry (in soap and hair care products). Other members of the grass family important as grain crops are also present (e.g., sorghum, corn, Amaranthus).
Aloe vera has a long history as a multipurpose folk remedy. Aloe vera gel is the leaf pulp and contains carbohydrate polymers, such as glucomannans or pectic acid, plus various other organic and inorganic compounds. Aloe gel has been used for topical treatment of wounds, minor burns, and skin irritations. American consumers are most familiar with aloe’s use in skin-care products, but aloe can also be used as a beverage. Aloe vera latex, ‘aloe juice’, and is used as a laxative.
The Fall Crocus/Meadow Saffron (Colchicaceae: Colchicum autumnale) is also present. This is the source of colchicine; an important drug once used to treat gout and has been used in biological research. Meadow saffron is the source of the world’s most expensive spice, saffron.
Members of the nightshade Family (Solanaceae) are also represented (e.g., tomato, tobacco, chili pepper, thorn apple, angel’s trumpet). These plants produce drugs e.g., atropine, hyoscaymine and scopolamine. Hot peppers dried and crushed yielded cayenne pepper, and sweet peppers are used to make paprika. Fiery chili peppers get their heat from capsaicin.
Also found are the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’, whose beautiful orange flowers are followed by lovely edible fruits; Indogifera dosua from southern India; a young specimen of the slow growing, evergreen, cork oak, Quercus suber indigenous to Portugal, and grown commercially for the thick cork bark used for producing corks for wine bottles and other products; the common fig, cotton, several members of the citrus family; Carob or St. John’s Bread Tree, and Ceratonia siliqua, native to the East Mediterranean.
Thorn apples, Datura spp. can be seen with their lovely upturned flowers, along with Annona cherimola or custard apple or cherimoya from South America, and Vitis vifera which climbs over the abour.
Peppers, celery and tomatoes will also be found in the greenhouse, coffee plants, several bamboos, an avocado tree, Persicaa americana, the pygmy date palm, Phoenix roebelenii, a clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum), and a banana, Musa textilis, commonly known as Manila hemp or abaca. The hemp is obtained from the leaf stalks and made into ropes.