The Most Beautiful Exotic Flowers

Exotic plants are those that have been introduced to areas to which they are not native. Taken literally in the United States, the definition includes the common carnation and even many of our fruits and vegetables, such as the apple and lettuce. When one refers to exotic flowers, however, she is usually referring to contemporary plants, the flowers of which are remarkably different than the flowers commonly cultivated in this country. Exotic flowers, though they may be difficult to grow in some regions, provide striking garden ornamentals to those fortunate enough to live in regions where they can thrive and gorgeous cut flowers for special occasions.

Anthurium

While a common sight in the 50th state, the anthurium is considered an exotic flower and is not native to Hawaii. The first impression many people have upon handling an anthurium is that it isn’t real. It’s waxy feel and appearance and bright coloring are the antithesis of common garden flowers in the United States. The plastic-like red part of the anthurium’s flower is actually a spathe -- a type of leaf -- and the spiky yellow protrusion is the spadix. It is along the spadix that the true anthurium flowers, almost microscopic, reside. But these are technicalities that anthurium lovers overlook in their pursuit of this beautiful exotic flower.

Bird of Paradise

The bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae), although easy to grow in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the United States, still maintains an air of mystery for many Americans. The banana-like foliage alone tends to scream “tropical,” while the flower is quintessentially exotic. Borne atop a 5-foot or taller stalk, the bird-of-paradise flower resembles the head of a colorful, spectacular bird. The bird’s “beak” is actually a spathe and is used by real birds as a perch to rest upon while gathering nectar. A solitary, yellow, blue and green bird-of-paradise creates the centerpiece of a magnificent floral arrangement.

Bromeliad

The bromeliads have taken so well to growing indoors that it’s a wonder not everyone grows them. Exotic to a “T,” the bromeliad is easy to care for and adds color and a touch of the tropics to its surroundings. Bromeliads call the moist, tropical jungles of South America home, and their rich tropical colors only lend credence to their exotic nature. With over 3,000 bromeliad species from which to choose, there is sure to be one to peak the interest of every exotic flower lover. Bromeliads are interesting for their rosette -- the arrangement of their leaves in a spiral. It is from the rosette that the flower stalk is produced. Flowers vary from spiky, ginger-like torches to star-shaped in blue, red, purple, pink and orange.

Oriental Lily

Oriental lilies, although easy to grow, are considered exotic flowers for their unusual colors and interesting shapes. A common florist flower, Oriental lilies bloom in a variety of colors, from pure white to speckled pink. When you add in the fact that the flowers are highly fragrant, “flamboyant” becomes the ideal descriptor. The Stargazer, an Oriental hybrid, is a popular flower in cut floral arrangements for its tall stalk that holds from six to nine sky-facing flowers.

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