On the cover.The spectacular flowers on the cover were captured by the lens of Brian Kemble on a trip to the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, May 8, 1990. The species was then known at the garden as Beschorneria yuccoides (UCBG 57.0384), a member of the Agave family collected in Chiapas, Mexico. However, the garden has recently relabelled this plant as B. olbiflora, a synonym of B. chiapensis. The latter name reflects the plant's origin, but the moniker albiflora is perhaps a stretch, as the flowers on this plant are only briefly white. With a bright red base and a green bud, each fleshy flower has white tepals when it first opens, quickly flushing to pink and then withering red. In this picture we see buds and the flowers as they get their first hint of pink; we also see the most astonishing feature of the species: a spectacularly bright red peduncle branching into the red pedicels from which the waxy flowers hang.
Beschorneria chiapensis is similar to B. yuccoides, another species featured in this issue, but never gets that plant's bluish leaves. It can also attain a trunk of several feet, while B. yuccoides is virtually stemless. Beschornerias are bold and interesting, though uncommon, garden subjects that deserve wider appreciation.