After passing through the deserts of Baja California, the jungles and gardens of mainland Mexico feel like an Eden. We have seen an astounding variety of plants as we have traveled down the coast. One of my favorite flowers is the hibiscus – known as jamaica here.
Hibiscus plants are grown in many gardens as a hedge. The plant grows tall and bushy – creating an effective privacy screen. Traditionally, hibiscus flowers are red. The flowers can be picked, dried out, and boiled in water to create a deep red tea. In many places, the tea is cooled down and served over ice – called “Agua de Jamaica.” While the traditional hibiscus color is red, they have been bred to take on a variety of orange, yellow, and coral colors.
When we passed through Puerto Vallarta, we made a point to stop at the Botanic Gardens. This is a beautiful facility that is working to educate the public and conserve rare native Mexican plant species.
There were a tremendous variety of bromeliads, orchids, and air plants the Puerto Vallarta Botanic Gardens. In particular I loved seeing the air plants. At first glance they look almost like birds nests perched precariously in branches high overhead. But after I looked closer I realized that they were actually growing plants – surviving just off the moisture in the air without any roots. I also enjoyed seeing the bright reds and yellows of the orchids and bromeliads. We saw many hummingbirds diving in between the flowers, and several song birds hiding among matching saffron petals.
The Botanic Gardens is definitely a must see if you are in the Puerto Vallarta area. Now that I know what to look for, I have seen many of the same plants as we have been driving through rural forested areas.
The tropical climate and abundance of moisture also creates a good environment for non-native species to grow – like roses, daisies, and lilies. We happened across this flower stall as we were walking this morning. I like this picture because it shows the variety of flowers that can grow in this area here. Unlike the United States, most flowers here are not bought as tokens of affection during courtship. Instead, these flower arrangements will probably be placed on a shrine to a saint or on a grave of a loved one who has passed.