There are seasons when our collections of new and rare plants receive more than ordinary additions. They at times come and take us by surprise, like the discovery of a "gold-field," which, to use a colonial term, causes a rush. The life of a plant-collector may not always be one of pleasant ease or romantic experience : yet who does not envy him the pleasure of seeing the first blush of beauty of some new rarity, patiently waiting for its introduction to the floral world 1 We have at present to deal with rarity in beauty of foliage, rather than in that of flowers, as we note a few of the Dracaenas of recent introduction. In the year 1877 we can count no less than ten new varieties, which were introduced for competition against those of lesser fame. The list may commence with D. Robinsoniana, a distinct variety from the South Sea Islands, the leaves of which are elegantly arched. The groundcolour is good, with margins of crimson-rose. D. triumphans is a fine decorative plant, and forms a good contrast with the broader-leaved varieties.
The colour is a dark purple, but much relieved by the glaucous hue of the under-surface. The incurving of the winged edges of the petiole is a distinctive characteristic.
The foliage of this variety is distinctly marked with stripes, suffused with creamy-white, rose, and crimson. Deacaena nivalis, with its drooping leaves elegantly margined with white, and its natural neat habit, is one of the favourite varieties. Deacaena cruenta is more bold in habit, with a more robust growth, and is certainly most ornamental and effective.
The younger foliage of this variety seems to be the most attractive, which in its early stage is creamy-white, suffused with purplish-rose. In Deacaena vestalis we have the long lanceolate leaf, with its distinctive margin of white, relieved by the rich ground-colour of the leaves, giving to it a charm which few of the genus possess.
Deacaena Goldieana, a native of western tropical Africa, was one of the best successes of '77. The plant is of erect habit, with fine spreading leaves, which are delicately marbled with remarkable regularity. It is just the kind of plant which is sure to become increasingly popular for exhibition purposes. In '78 we had only two really good additions to this useful class - viz.
Deacaena Gladilina is a useful and effective variety. The leaves are of elegant form, and of a rich full green. The margin is distinct and wide, the pinkish-crimson coming out in bold contrast against the darker background. Deacaena lucinda has the advantage of possessing distinctive properties both in the young and old foliage. The young leaves have a rosy-carmine margin, while in the old leaves the carmine becomes much more intense as the leaf advances in age.
Among the many new varieties, we may be permitted to introduce an old one - viz., Deacaena australis. In New Zealand and Australia its qualities are fully recognised, and it is now being extensively used where special effects are required. Even in our cold climate it might be more extensively used to advantage during summer months, as centres for large beds or other prominent positions. For greenhouse or conservatory decoration during winter it will be found invaluable, as it greatly assists in imparting to these structures a tropical appearance.
As a class of plants for table-decoration the Dracaena holds a first position, and more especially when we consider the ease with which it may be propagated, giving every facility for the increase of stocks to meet the largest demands. W. F.