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Plant-watching at San Diego's new rain forest.

A horticultural bonanza rewards visitors to the San Diego Zoo, and the new Tiger River rain forest only adds more treasures to enjoy. As explained on page 87, Tiger River's naturalistic groupings of plants and animals represent new thinking about zoos. The result, in San Diego's benign climate, is a jungle-like garden of more than 500 mostly tropical species.

Here you can see how some well-known plants behave in the wild. Lily turf creeps in and among other common plants, such as impatiens and leatherleaf fern. Observe how vines twine up trees and how ferns and orchids cling to trunks and branches.

Plants you shouldn't miss Many of the plants here are extremely rare; only about 50 are labeled. Here are brief descriptions of several of the most notable; those in bold type are also located on our map.

The seven tall feathery palms just past the entrance are kentia palms. These may be the tallest, at some 40 feet, you've ever seen. Also right near the entrance is a specimen of

Easter lily vine, commonly

planted here. In full sun, it bears hundreds of fragrant, white, 4-inch flowers.

Beside the trail's first resting bench is China lace tree. This one, at six years old, is about 8 feet tall. Nearby is one of the zoo's recent successful intro

ductions, Sykes coral tree. Of all the coral trees that are currently available, this one is probably best for home ardens. It's host to many plants. Gingers and liriope surround its base, a giant Burmese honeysuckle clambers up it, and several staghorn ferns are attached to it.

The exotic and familiar

A few steps down the trail, you might detect a scent reminiscent of jasmine tea. The source is a small vine, Arabian jasmine, growing at the top of the wall, just above some benches. In Hawaii, its sweet flowers are strung to make leis; in Asia, they add fragrance and flavor to tea.

One of the garden's most popular plants is among the least exotic. An angel-wing tree begonia grows 6 to 7 feet tall; it's loaded with flowers year-round. Look on the upper cliff face to see a large staghorn fern with a ficus seedling growing in the middle of it.

At about shin height in this area is another ficus, a drought-tolerant new hybrid unofficially dubbed F pumila carica. It is low and sprawling like the familiar creeping fig, but has larger leaves and doesn't climb.

Rambling over tree-stump supports is Saigon orchid vine, another vine worth attention.

Rauvolfia javanica is important in a different way. Tropical peoples use it for a variety of medicinal preparations.

One of the garden's most outstanding specimens, Mexican tree fern, is on the upper right side, just above the Marsh Aviary.

In truly jungle-like pandemonium, cymbidium orchid clumps arch out to almost touch branches of an Indian laurel fig with a honeysuckle growing in its midst. Below are Griselinia lucida, leatherleaf ferns, cast-iron plant, and lady palms.

Bamboos: golden, giant, dwarf.

Gingers to smell, to eat

A bamboo used extensively is Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata'. You can hardly miss its golden stems with green stripes. Behind the slender loris area, look for Java bamboo, the largest grown in the United States: full-size culms (stems) are 8 inches in diameter, and height passes 100 feet. The foot-high, grassy ground cover along the left side of the trail is Pygmy bamboo. It spreads fast and makes a dense cover. Next, look for red stamens contrasting with clear yellow petals on one of the hardiest ornamental gingers, kabili ginger Extremely fragrant, it grows about 8 feet high, with something of a bamboo look to it. Culinary or true ginger is also a native of Asian jungles; you'll find it near the exit on the left side.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1988
Words:630
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