A trip to MoBot

Last Friday, Cathy and I had a chance to visit the Missouri Botanical
Garden in St. Louis again. It's always a pleasure to see the gardens, look
around in the aroid greenhouse, and visit Tom Croat and Petra Malesevich,
who are wonderful hosts. This trip was at Tom's invitation for a special
treat, a chance to meet Peter and Jill (Gill?) Boyce before they traveled
to Miami for the fall IAS meeting, where Peter will speak. 

We arrived early Friday afternoon, and after a trip or two across the
gardens in pursuit, caught up with Tom and Peter in Tom's office. There we
had a chance to look at "Genera of Araceae", and I heartily second Dewey's
praise. The pictures are excellent and many are of seldom-pictured
species, the format is clear and logical, and I found it hard not to stop
and browse the text. 

>From there we went to a short seminar by Peter on Pothos and related
genera and some of the issues in the taxonomy of that part of the family. 
These are the true Pothos and close relations, rather than the pothos of
florists and garden centers, which is almost always an Epipremnum.

Jill joined us at the seminar, Tom's wife Pat arrived shortly after, and
we finished off Friday with dinner and a little sight-seeing.

Saturday morning Cathy and I had a chance to spend a couple of hours in
the aroid research greenhouse, which is always a treat. Living in USDA
zone 6, with limited greenhouse space myself, seeing all those aroids,
mostly very tropical, some huge, indoors and doing very well is
remarkable. The weather was excellent, cool enough that even with the high
humidity of the greenhouse it was comfortable. Looking at living plants is
always educational as well as esthetic, and I always come away with
questions (which will probably show up in future notes). 

Many genera are represented - Alocasia, Dieffenbachia, Xanthosoma,
Raphidophora, Aglaonema, Scindapsus, Typhonium, Pseudodracontium, and on
and on - and the Amorphophallus and Dracontium forests are particularly
impressive (huge petioles, often arising from relatively small pots), but
in Philodendron and Anthurium the diversity is amazing.  This isn't
surprising, since much of Tom's work is in these areas, but knowing that
doesn't reduce the impact of seeing the plants. Peter referred to
Anthurium as a "megagenus"  due to the large number of species, and moving
down the benches from one Anthurium to the next (not forgetting to look
overhead) it's clear how appropriate the term is. 

On such a short trip we didn't have much chance to explore the rest of the
gardens, but we did spend a few minutes in the Climatron. I think the
butterfly exhibit is new since our last visit (I didn't see the
Passifloras, but there must be some). There are some candidates for the
Largest Pistia competition floating around in there, too - those things
almost were the size of heads of lettuce (and I don't mean the miniature

Saturday evening Tom and Pat hosted a party for the Boyces at their
home. Even without the other landmarks we'd have known it was Tom's house,
because the sidewalk to the front door was lined with Amorphophallus
konjac. Tom's house is surrounded by trees which create moderate shade at
ground level, and his konjacs - compared with mine which are in full sun -
have much larger leaves (same height, about twice the diameter) and just
look happier. I'm going to move mine. 

It was over too soon, of course. The guests of honor (who seemed to have
adjusted to the 6 hour time difference very well in just 48 hours) and Tom
were to leave Sunday for a whirlwind aroid tour on the way to Miami, and
we had to return to the mundane world of computers and technology.


-- Steve Marak
-- samarak@arachne.uark.edu

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