As you all know by now, I'm in love with plants. One of the things I was looking forward to the most about being in Mexico was seeing palm trees, and finding out more about what plants grow in that particular climate.
Unlike some parts of Mexico, the capital city is neither tropical nor desert. There is a rainy season (not now) and my impression was that in general it's quite dry there. But it's also high - over 6,000 feet, in a region of high mountains -- the major volcanoes to the southeast rise to over 17,000 feet!
I haven't read anything yet about the ecology or botany of the area. Basically, what I saw were succulents and cactus growing to enormous sizes; small houseplants that we're used to having indoors growing as small trees and lush hedges (crotons, rubber plants); banana trees, clivias and agapanthus used as mass-plantings under trees in parks; bougainvillas trailing over trellises and balconies and clambering up trees; and everywhere, breathtaking violet jacaranda trees -- an icon of Mexico City -- in full bloom.
The Palacio Nationale, where we saw the Rivera murals, has a large inner garden (top picture), open to the public. Part of it is filled with trees, and inhabited by cats who are given food and water and, in return, stay there safely, though some of them they looked pretty scruffy.
The other side is a botanical garden (above), full of succulents and cactus growing on black volcanic rocks. We spent quite a while there, taking pictures and enjoying the atmosphere of an entirely different sort of garden.
I hope the photographs manage to convey the scale, and show you just how huge these plants really were.
An old cactus with new leaves. In the streets and the markets, people are preparing leaves like these to eat, cutting the spines of with sharp machete-like knives, and cooking the leaves on a hot griddle. I didn't try them but I was curious!
It was a shock to me to see that people had carved their initials in some of these magnificent plants! First, because it seems like such an unnecessary thing to do, and second because of the longevity it implied for the plants themselves, which stoically continued to grow, slowly, year after year.
But the most extraordinary thing we saw was this living wall. I could hardly believe it. The substrate is a thick landscape fabric that feels like felt. The plants are all growing in pockets in that fabric, and there must be some sort of internal irrigation system. Isn't it fantastic?