Sapphire tower punctuates Botanic Garden’s ‘super bloom’

Sapphire tower punctuates Botanic Garden’s ‘super bloom’
San Diego Botanic Garden CEO Julian Duval explains the origins of the sapphire tower to garden visitor Janet McLain. Photo by Aaron Burgin

Borrego Springs isn’t the only place where a ‘super bloom’ is occurring.

Locally at the San Diego Botanic Garden, the winter’s heavy rains have brought some of the garden’s most exotic – and dormant – plants out of their slumber.

One of the most vivid examples is that of the sapphire tower, a Chilean plant that blooms brilliant sapphire colored flowers that from a distance appear to be made of wax.

“Of course, we don’t have any fake flowers here,” joked Julian Duval, the botanic garden’s president and chief executive officer. “What kind of garden would we be with fake flowers? But that’s the allure of this plant, it defies description, and it doesn’t always look real.”

The tower has been a show stopper in recent days at the 37-acre garden, as people have made their way to the South American Desert and Australian gardens to see the two towers on display. The former has three other towers that are almost ready to bloom, which will make for an extra treat for garden guests, Duval said.

“We haven’t had a bloom like this in a long time, partly because we haven’t had rain like this in a long time,” he said.

Duval said that rain gauges at different areas of the garden measured the winter rainfall output anywhere between 10 and 12 inches, the most rain the garden has seen in two decades.

In addition to reviving the garden’s flora, the rains have also enlivened another plant group – weeds.

“We’ve definitely had more weeds that usual as a result of the rains, but that is to be expected,” Duval said.

Janet McLain and John Carrington, friends on visit to the garden, stopped to snap photos of the tower as Duval briefly talked about it’s origins. Both marveled at the color, and sampled it’s nectar, which drips plentifully from the flowers.

“You just don’t see that color in nature,” McLain said. “It looks like you can eat it.”

The Sapphire tower has become a big attraction at the San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Aaron Burgin

The Sapphire tower has become a big attraction at the San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Aaron Burgin

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