Plant of the Month:  Aloe Vera has been described in writings as far back as the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman eras. References have also been found in writings from the Indian and Chinese cultures, dating back some 4000 years. The therapeutic and healing properties of this wonderful plant have been known for centuries. The earliest record of Aloe Vera is on a Sumerian tablet dated as far back as 2100 BC.

The gel from the Aloe Vera plant can be used to treat insect bites, rashes, blisters, herpes, athlete's foot, fungus, sores, vaginal infections, conjunctivitis, dry skin, and much more. Aloe Vera can be taken orally but the taste is not pleasant at all. There are commercial preparations that can be used instead, but the raw plant is more effective. It's been reported that some AIDS patients, who have taken Aloe internally, because of the plants immune system stimulant properties, the virus became undetectable when used on a regular basis.

The use of Aloe prevents opportunistic infections in cases of HIV and AIDS. This miraculous plant has cancer fighting properties (including lung cancer) because it activates the white blood cells and promotes the growth of non-cancerous cells. Taken orally, Aloe works for heartburn, arthritis, asthma, and rheumatism pain. Studies have shown that it lowers blood sugar levels in diabetics. Additional medicinal cures of the Aloe plant, when taken internally, include congestion, intestinal worms, indigestion, stomach ulcers, colitis, hemorrhoids, cirrhosis, hepatitis, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, prostate problems, and it works as a general detoxifier.    
Aloe Vera  

 Plants at Home
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Outdoor Plants at Home 


Aloe Vera at work:

  • Image 1: leaf taken from plant
  • Image 2: skin of leaf peeled to expose the gel inside
  • Image 3: gel removed and placed in small glass
  • Image 4: gel used as masking agent, clears skin of pimples and blemishes
  • Image 5: tablespoon full of Aloe Vera gel
Staghorn Ferns are spectacular plants, but easy to own and enjoy; they require almost no work, no soil and not much watering. All you have to do is provide a warm bright airy location and your Staghorn fern will perform, growing larger rapidly with almost no care. Indoors, most any home or office with with an airy location with good indirect light can have a fine Staghorn fern to show off.

Like orchids, Staghorn Ferns (from the genus platycerium) were once considered exceedingly difficult, but are now fairly common. There are 17 species of platycerium, but only one (the bifurcatum) is truly common. These ferns are epiphytic, which means they grow mounted on plaques or other substrates. They have two distinct leaf forms. Small, flat leaves cover the root structure and take up water and nutrients. Green, pronged fronds emerge from this base. These fronds can reach 3 feet in length. In certain circles, platycerium varieties are intensely sought-after collector's plants.

Growing Conditions:
Bright light, but not direct sunlight. They can handle more sunlight given enough water, warmth and humidity. Water: Water regularly throughout growing season. Perfect drainage is essential; plants do best mounted on plaques. Increase water as temperature rises. Temperature: The most common staghorn can survive briefly freezing temperatures, but they thrive in warm, humid conditions. Soil: Young plants are potted in rich, well-drained compost. Mature plants should be mounted.

Feed during the growing season with weak fertilizer weekly, or throw a few slow-release pellets in the center of the plant. Repotting: Small platycerium are frequently grown in pots in a loose potting mix with perfect drainage. However, these plants are natural epiphytes. In spring, they can be attached to a plaque or piece of bark with a few wraps of pantyhose or even glue. Wrap the roots in moss to retain moisture.

Alternatively, they can be potted in hanging baskets. They will eventually grow through the basket lining and form a ball. Mounted plants should not be disturbed, except to take pieces for propagation. Varieties: The most common staghorn fern is platycerium bifurcatum. There are countless varieties of P. bifurcatum, including many with interesting leaf forms. Another species, P. grande, is sometimes called the elkhorn fern. This plant features very large, solid fronds up to 5 feet in length. Additionally, there are several collectors' species available, such as P. willinckii and P. superbum. These are quite rare, however, and often grow larger than most indoor growers can accommodate. Significant confusion surrounds the naming of several varieties, and they may appear in garden centers under different common names.

My love for houseplants, horticulture, and indoor and outdoor gardening goes back 20+ years. In the first year I really didn't do too well with plants and was about to give up. An ex-co-worker gave me a cutting of a philodendron, told me to place it in water and sit it on my desk. A couple months later the cutting rooted, she potted the plant for me, and in 3-6 months the plant began to grow.

Fast forward, a few years later and that same little cutting had grown, like a vine, all over my desk. Eventually, I had to take the plant home, went through a 2-3 hour process of carefully placing the vines on my wall with small pieces of white thread and clear tape. In a few months the plant clinged to the walls on its own and begin climbing the walls of my tiny, one-bedroom, efficiency apartment in Oakland, CA. This marked the beginning of my affinity for plants and gardening. Not into vegetable gardens, just flower and indoor gardening.  

A NASA research document came to the conclusion that house plants can purify and rejuvenate air within our houses and workplaces, safeguarding us all from any side effects connected with prevalent toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia and also benzene.

In another study made in 1996, a bedroom with no plants had 50% more colonies of airborne microbes than a room which contained houseplants.

During a laboratory experiment in 1985, Dr. Wolverton PHD compared the removal of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide using a sealed chamber of spider plants.

In another laboratory study by Dr. Wolverton PHD, he compared a number of house plants at removing formaldehyde from a sealed chamber. Formaldehyde is a common household toxin that is released from a variety of household items.

House plants that provide the greatest level of air purification
  1. Aloe Vera

  2. Areca Palm Tree

  3. Bamboo Palm

  4. Boston Fern

  5. Chrysanthemum

  6. Date Palm Tree

  7. Dragon Tree

  8. English Ivy

  9. Ficus Alii

  10. Heart leaf philodendron

  11. Janet Craig – Dracaena

  12. Lady Palm

  13. Peace Lilly

  14. Philodendrons

  15. Rubber Plant

  16. Snake Plant/Mother-in-Laws Tongue

  17. Spider Plant

Plants Make You Happy

House plants make people feel calmer and more optimistic. Studies have shown that hospital patients who face a window with a garden view recovered more quickly than those who had to look at a wall.

Plants Fight Fatigue and Cold

According to a University of Agriculture in Norway study, indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore throats and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30 percent, partially by increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust.

Plants can remove a variety of toxic air emissions including ammonia, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, xylene and trichloroethytene.

The Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) plant is one of the most effective in removing harmful impurities from the air. Plus, its exotic looks adds character to any room.

Houseplants are a beautiful addition to any home decor. They add color, they're great for filling in empty spaces and they bring a little bit of the outdoors inside. But did you realize that they fight pollution indoors?

I don't know about you, but how many of us actually have real houseplants in our homes or offices? Not all of us were born with a green thumb. 

Some of us go crazy buying plants when a special occasion arises to add ambiance. Only to have them die because we didn't take care of them. Some of us have even received them as gifts which is nerve racking because honestly who wants to be responsible for killing a plant that's also a present. But remember, just as outdoor plants are beneficial to the great outdoors, indoor plants are beneficial to our indoor environment.

Many studies have shown that houseplants fight pollution indoors. Our space program has been researching methods of cleansing the atmosphere in future space stations to keep them fit for human habitations over extended periods of time. 

Many common houseplants and blooming potted plants are reportedly able to absorb significant amounts of harmful gases out of the air through what they do naturally, photosynthesis.

We all know that not only do plants absorb carbon dioxide and release clean oxygen into the air but research has shown that they also absorb benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. 

Some houseplants are better at removing certain toxins than others. Unfortunately they don't take care of tobacco smoke. But there are enough known plants that do a good job of removing pollutants from the air we breath to cause us to view houseplants as more than just an attractive feature in decorating the interior environment. Think of how this could be beneficial to stuffy offices and schools etc.

Tip of the Week: Brown Tips on House Plants. This occurs primarily due to overwatering. The excess moisture drips off the leave tips and they rot due to constantly being wet. Make sure all the plants that you water have proper ventilation and drainage trays. Small plants that are not in direct sunlight may only need to be lightly watered twice a month. Cut back on the amount that you give at any one time and maybe water smaller amounts, just more often. A plant will let you know when it needs water. The leaves will curl, brown and fall off. Do some research on the water amount needed by your specific plants and put a little note in the pot to what day of the week or month and how much water to give. Most indoor plants are loved literally to death. Don't forget to add an organic fertilizer such as composted cow manure to your house plants as well.

Plant Tips and Websites

  1. 24 Beautiful Blooming Houseplants
  2. Brown Tips on House Plants – A Reason Why
  3. Clean House Plant Leaves
  4. Getting Started with Houseplants
  5. Guidelines for Overwintering Plants
  6. House Plant Finder
  7. How To Tips on Growing Citrus Indoors
  8. How to have a Green House
  9. Hoya Plant - August Hoya Tour
  10. Index Planting Guide
  11. Large Orchids
  12. The Orchid Guy
  13. Types of Orchids
  14. When House Plants Overgrow Their Space
  15. Your plants are talking .. Are you listening?
Choosing Indoor Plants 

In 1984, NASA senior research scientist Dr. Bill Wolverton tested houseplants for their ability to maintain clean air for future habitable lunar bases. Testing in sealed chambers, Wolverton found that philodendrons and golden pothos were excellent formaldehyde controllers; gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were impressive benzene purgers; pot mums and peace lilies were highly rated for TCE removal. His initial findings suggested that one to three mature plants were enough to improve the air in a 100-cubic-foot area. He also found that it wasn’t just plants doing the clean-up work, but the microbes that were specific to the plants’ roots. Another 1989 NASA study concluded that tested houseplants removed up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air within 24 as the plant itself is healthy. And thankfully, it doesn’t take a jungle’s worth of plants to make the difference:

Professor Margaret Burchett and horticulturist Dr Donald Wood at The University of Technology (UTS) in Sydney, Australia have been studying the method and rate in which plants take up VOCs from the air around them and have found that you don’t need many pot plants to improve air quality…. Professor Burchett discovered through her research, you only needed one large plant in a 300 mm (12 inch) pot, or three smaller pots on a window sill in a large living room (15 square metres or 3200 square feet) to make a measurable difference to the VOC levels in that room. They found a reduction could be measured in as little as 48 hours.

If you are concerned about the indoor air quality in your home or office space, consider getting a few houseplants to make all the difference and clean up the air you breathe!


The Exotic Rainforest in Northwest Arkansas is the only rain forest exhibit in the state where any visitor can walk through a living tropical forest without charge accompanied by a guide who has studied the species within the collection. A guest once said it "looks like Costa Rica under glass."   

Don't let the photo fool you, the atrium is not enormous. The entire structure is not quite 8 meters by 8 meters (24 feet by 24 feet) with a 5 meter (16 foot 4 inch) ceiling at the highest point. Constructed in 2002, it is large enough to house a large rare plant collection that grows just like a natural rain forest with a controlled humidity of never less than 85%, controlled temperature never lower than 12.75 C (55 degrees F), and automatic overhead watering. The collections includes many species that have either reached or are approaching their natural adult rain forest size!

A large number of the plant species are naturally planted including exotic orchids and tropical species including flowering trees are found in the garden along with those growing naturally on an epiphytic tree above your head just as you would see them in South America! In one area is a group of full grown banana plants that have produced delicious fruit more than once along with a pond and almost 19,000 liters (6,000 gallons) per hour waterfall. 
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Large Philodendron as well as Anthurium species with almost 2 meter (6 foot) spans hang from the ceiling creating the sensation of walking beneath a rain forest canopy. Additionally, the walls are lined with hanging baskets to make you feel as though you are actually walking in a South American rain forest. To add to the sensation you'll hear the sounds of naturally falling water as well as exotic birds recorded in the rain forest. The birds sound as though they are flying just overhead and in the distance you'll hear the soothing sounds of Ecuadorian pan flutes.

The center post has a scarce hanging Cercestis mirabilis, the African Embossed Plant, along with numerous Anthurium species, rare ferns, Philodendron species and other exotic species on all four sides. A large leaf Philodendron sagittifolium covers the entire post and has now almost reached the ceiling. Close to 300 species of rare plants can be found throughout the building with many very large specimens hanging from the ceiling. The plants appear as comfortable in the Exotic Rainforest as they would in South or Central America since they frequently produce colorful inflorescences in the spring and fall.

Although often difficult to locate, among their leaves you'll find 3 species of tropical tree frogs as well as a few small green lizards known as anoles. A beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw named Wizard also resides in the atrium. The large pond with moderately large fish is immediately to the right of the walk just out the kitchen door and all this is in the backyard of colonial home built in 1890 in a small Arkansas town. We've hosted up to 60 visitors in a single day due to several tours offered by garden clubs and groups of home schooled students. The Exotic Rainforest is not a business, it is a private botanical garden and there is no charge to visit. 

The Exotic Rainforest website was created to catalogue and describe the plants in the collection. Every attempt is made to be certain our plant descriptions are scientifically accurate, however, I am not a botanist. Instead, I am a retired commercial photographer who takes pleasure in showing each plant as best possible in the photographs on this site. To ensure accuracy I have developed a network of contacts who are well known botanists and seek their advice or consult scientific journals on all plant subjects. You will find many quotes from recognized scientific authorities on the pages of this site. Very little information on this site is collected from the internet since much of that information is not verified and is often inaccurate. If you believe find an error on this website please make it known. We do however verify the accuracy of any recommendation before posting corrections since the world of horticulture is filled with inaccurate information.

Our goal is to be accurate but do it in a manner anyone can understand. If you are a return visitor you will notice this site is updated almost daily. Many aroids and other genera in the collection have yet to be described and photographed since we add new specimens almost every month. In June of 2009 we brought back more than 20 scientifically collected specimens that were made available to us from the Missouri Botanical Garden collection in St. Louis, Missouri and in September of every year we make a trip to Miami, Florida for the annual International Aroid Society Show to acquire new specimens collected in South American rain forests. Our collection is now one of the largest in mid-America and has been featured in one national magazine article. 

One website visitor from London said in an email, "if you sense somebody sat on that seat in the atrium it's probably me"./ You'll see our bench later in this presentation by simply following the "trail" through the forest by clicking the last small photo on each page.

So if I can tell the bench seat is warm the next time I sit there I'll know someone, perhaps you, has visited! You are welcome to share our park bench anytime via the net or in person. All we ask is a call before you come. The garden is open to the public free of charge.     from Exotic Rainforest  

Orchid Care: A tall, slender stalk leads to an exquisite flower composed of three inner petals, three outer petals, and a cupped petal distinct from the rest. Labellum, inflorescence, sepal—the names of the anatomical parts sound as fabulous as they look. The whole exotic composition is almost alien in appearance, extravagant in the extreme, yet possessed of a delicate intricacy. Orchidaceae is arguably the most stunning and elegant family of flowering plant known to man. For millions of years, the orchid family has thrived and expanded, defying evolution, Mother Nature, and the exploitation of its greatest opponent—Man.

One hundred and twenty million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a magnificent flowering plant came into being—the orchid. Evolution led to the demise of many plants and animals, but the orchid flourished, thriving on every continent save Antarctica. Orchids have adapted to live in all kinds of environments—mountains, bogs, grasslands and rainforests. At least 35,000 orchid species now populate the planet—and there is always the possibility that unknown species still await discovery.

continued on


Plants are more like humans than you think

Natural variation with plants can easily be equated to varied beautiful races found in our own species. There is only a single species of human being known as Homo sapiens and members of our species have many facial differences and body shapes, sometimes distinctive to our race or the part of the world in which our family originated. We realize our species has different races which don't look exactly alike but we also understand there is only a single species of humans. The only major difference in most humans is skin color, hair color, height, weight, facial feature such as color of the eyes. All humans still have the same basic internal organs and same basic external body parts.

Even though there are many variations in skin color in our species we would never consider declaring an individual a different "species" simply because of the color of their skin. What about the color of the hair or eyes? if we were to declare each individual with a different skin, hair or eye color a different "species" the confusion would be unfathomable. Which race, hair color or eye color would be the base species? If some extreme "scientist" were to claim the Anglo, Negroid or the Asian race was the accepted species and all others needed a new name for their "species" the world would surely "implode" and rational scientists would immediately declare those new names invalid.

Often we admire racially mixed individuals since they have captured some of the best qualities of each of their parents. The same can easily be true of variations within a single plant species. If one plant variation has developed a unique "skin" color as is common with some human races and another has very unique eye qualities the combination of the two can produce outstandingly attractive offspring. If one parent had unusually long lobes or an unusually shaped leaf blade and that is combined with another parent of the same species that has other unique characteristics, the plant offspring can be stunning and is immediately thought by the untrained to be a "new" species. Still, both parents are from the same genus and species whether plant or human. Still, when we collect plants we often want to do the same thing as that "extreme scientist" simply because a leaf has a reddish underside while a plant that looks basically the same has a greenish underside. Color has very little to do to do with the determination of a species. Simply because the underside of one leaf is burgundy while another is green does not mean the two plants are different species. They just had unique parents.

from Exotic Rainforest
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Plant Links

Nothing beats fuchsia for an explosion of vibrant, eye-catching blooms. Hang your fuchsia plant near a window, where it'll get filtered sunlight. If you hang it outdoors, keep it in a shady location. These made-in-the-shade bloomers don't like harsh, direct sunlight.

It's a perennial, so you can overwinter it indoors. Bring your plant inside when the temperature drops below 45°F/7°C. It won't tolerate frost. Easy to find in garden centers and nurseries, there's just no excuse not to enjoy this sizzling show of flowers all season.

Dwarf Chenille Plant gets its common name from the fuzzy plumes of tiny red flowers that trail above a thick mound of small, serrated leaves. Given enough light, this plant blooms nearly year-round. Repot in spring only when it has outgrown its container. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent soggy soil. It's naturally bushy, so you don't have to pinch its growing tips to get it to branch out. 

Keep it well-watered and fertilized during the growing season. This plant also appreciates high humidity. You can place the pot on a tray of wet pebbles to raise the humidity around it. Or, mist the foliage with room-temperature water every day except when the plant is in bloom. Raising the humidity also helps to prevent spider mites from invading. Watch out for these pests, especially in winter when indoor air tends to get dry.

Deadheading tip: Pinch off flowers as soon as they start to fade. This will encourage many more blooms.

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