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Cloud forest plants in the SF Bay Area

Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
Sun, May 22, 11 at 14:43

This is a plant that is related to the common garden annual Ageratum, but is on steroids by comparison. It comes from cloud forest elevation tropical southern Mexico, which makes it ideally adapted to coastal California fog belt gardens that see little to no frost. I know that it is also grown on the milder north island of New Zealand, where the greater year round rainfall has made it an introduced weed, but it behaves itself here in northern California. Probably not suitable to hotter and more humid Gulf Coast southern gardens or southern Florida. The foliage is velvety with subtle jade green to purplish tints on foliage up to a foot across, and just bursting into bloom in late spring here. It is not for small gardens, as it wants to get 15 feet tall by across. Here's a link to the photo of a large shrub I planted in a client's garden in the Oakland hills:

Here is a link that might be useful: Bartlettina sordidum, a Giant Ageratum

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RE: Cloud forest plants in the SF Bay Area

Beautiful Bahia, I see a lot of high altitude tropicals down here that I think would grow in the fog belts of the california coast but they seem to be very difficult to germinate from seed. Most of the seed I have sent up over the years if it germinates , is very difficult to keep alive. It looks like this plant is a success, I hope someone is propagating it.

RE: Cloud forest plants in the SF Bay Area

I'm sorry you didnt get more responses to this post as it is very interesting and deserves more comment from growers in your area.Many people consider tropical plants grown in temperate zones as "out of zone" and therefore unlikely to succeed. You are quite correct in believing, however, that altitude plays a significant part in this. Plants growing at the equator can be as low as Zone 5 in terms of temperature if they are at sufficient altitude. Light, however, is a crucial and significant factor. Even though equatorial plants may be exposed to considerable cold at altitude, they still receive extremely strong UV light, which they may not at higher latitudes. This may explain why some "tropical" seed is difficult to germinate. Another factor is the diurnal range. Whereas in the SF area the diurnal range may be on average say 10-15C (50-60F). A high altitude tropical plant may get 0-21C (32-70F). In other words not all high altitude tropical plants are suitable for "out of zone" growing. Having said this, local weather conditions do have a significant effect and it IS possible for SF conditions to be reproduced within the tropics at altitude, given the right location, which is obviously the case here. Common sense is the best guide. If the plant has similar physical characteristics to what grows locally, ie broad leaves, lush growth it is far more likely to succeed, than one that is very different ie. narrow leaves, stunted appearance, which is much more characteristic of plants growing in extreme conditions.

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