Thanks to the contributions of two energetic people who know plants, chavezpark.org is publishing a complete botanical inventory of the park. Jutta Burger PhD is Lead Scientist for the California Invasive Plant Council, and Bob Huttar is a certified arborist and a consulting field biologist specializing in botany generally and rare plants in particular. Together they are photographing and identifying everything that grows in the park, both common and scientific names. They’ve done the scientific heavy lifting. I’m adding some background blog-talk. We’re publishing the results in a series, with a new installment every Friday.
These two additions to the Chavez Park Botanical Census will be familiar to almost everyone. They’re common garden invitees and, in the case of the nasturtium, often volunteers. Both are growing on the southern edge of the park, near the Monterey Cypress trees alongside Spinnaker Way.
Naked Lady (Amaryllis belladonna)
The Naked Lady (Amaryllis belladonna) is said to be a native of Cape Province in South Africa. It has earned popularity in temperate climates almost worldwide, and is readily available in California commercial nurseries. It has the unusual quality of blooming late in the summer, and of producing flowers first, foliage afterwards. It tolerates extended drought. It’s easy to grow from bulbs. If you should feel tempted to eat the bulbs, flowers, or stems, don’t; all parts of the plant are toxic, not only to humans but also to other animals. The Khoi and San people of present-day South Africa used sap of the bulb as an arrow poison.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Unlike the Naked Lady, the Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is edible in all of its parts. You can buy the flowers in many produce markets as a salad ingredient. The flowers contain about as much Vitamin C as parsley, and also contain more lutein, a carotenoid, than spinach, kale, yellow carrots, or any other edible plant. There is evidence that lutein helps delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration and may slow the development of cataracts. The plant also has uses in pest control as a biological companion that protects crops from certain bugs.