Continuing with my 500 words per day challenge, today’s theme is travel, so I thought it would be appropriate to share a few of the plants that caught my attention during my travels over the past few years. The list has been curated based on which plants I could find my photographs of. It is interesting to see what grows where: what characteristics shape the plants to match their climate, soil and exposure.

The calypso orchids growing in Jasper national park are beautiful, and (I think) unique to the area. There is a sign displayed near the path where I found them warning visitors not to try transplanting any home. The sign explained that these orchids depend on a particular fungus that lives in the soil and acts in symbiosis with the orchid’s root system. If the orchids are transplanted to other soil that does not contain this fungus then they will not survive. I’ve been to Jasper many times since moving to Canada, and I love it. Time seems to stretch out into longer days when I am there, and I always come back refreshed. These orchids are ones that we found on a walk on the trails out from the town site, close to the river in June 2015.

Calypso orchids in Jasper national park

In sharp contrast with Jasper’s cool wet climate is Death Valley, Nevada. The highest recorded temperature on Earth was measured here in 1913, and the salt flats and sand dunes make it pretty obvious that this climate is also dry. There weren’t many plants to see here. The decorated Christmas tree at the hotel we stayed at was incongruous with the desert backdrop. So the sun-bleached leaves of this desert holly instantly drew me in, as the one oasis of green in this dry landscape. The leaves are the same shape as the English holly that I’m familiar with, but are a silvery green, rather than being rich and dark. They also look dried out and tough, rather than glossy. I imagine the paler colour reflects some of the excess sun away, and is partly an effect of the plant needed much less green chlorophyll per leaf, as there is so much available light here.

Desert holly in Death Valley

Moving eastwards, this Japanese garden is planted in the centre of Monaco. It is a place of peace in the middle of the city. Walking here surrounded by plants was a welcome change from the city streets. I don’t know the names of the plants here, but the Koi pond surrounded by topiary, and the calm mix of greens with subtle flowers do make me think of Japan. Monaco’s situation between the sea and mountains also echoes that of most Japanese cities. We visited here in March 2012 and it was warm enough to lay out in the sun and work on the hotel balcony!

Japanese garden in Monaco

San Diego was the site of yet another work trip, and full of plants that feel tropical to me. Most of the plants here were unfamiliar, although I did recognise these birds of paradise.

A bird of paradise in San Diego

I fell in love with this tree because it is so lush and vibrant. I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but the dense foliage and bright green colour stood out against the palms and succulents and pines that dominated the landscape.

A mystery tree in San Diego

On a return visit, another plant caught my eye. Big puffy heads of green sat on top of tall stalks. I asked around to see if someone could tell me what it was, as I thought it would be a fabulous addition to my garden at home if I could find a variety hardy enough to survive. Google eventually told me that this was papyrus, and I’d be very lucky to see a specimen survive an Alberta winter. Perhaps when I have a fenced yard, and more established plants to shelter and protect it, I’ll give it a try.

Papyrus in San Diego