Here Today...Flowers that Change*

One more from the archive. By the way, the rose mentioned at the end is in spectacular flower at the moment. But in 2006:

Violet yesterday, blue today, white tomorrow… That’s a Brunfelsia flower – well more or less. The flowers may take a few days to change colour, but that hasn’t stopped this Brazilian shrub being given the rather explanatory common name ‘Yesterday Today and Tomorrow’.

These brunfelsias are sometimes also called ‘Kiss Me Quick’, presumably a reference to the fleeting colouration of the flowers.

The commonly grown shrub around Sydney is probably Brunfelsia bonodora - there is some confusion over the names used. It’s an easy to care for garden plant, but just watch the pods which are poisonous to dogs and seem to be attractive to them.

YT&T, as it might be tweeted, is not the only plant with transforming flowers. Most aspects of the flower are related in the way the plant reproduces, and colour is usually linked to the method of pollination.

The best know example of this is the Victoria Lily, Victoria amazonica or V. cruziana, from South America. The flowers emerge white from below the water each night. The first night the flower attracts insects, trapping them within the flower when it submerges in the morning.

The second night the flower is flushed pink, an unappealing colour to insects and the bedraggled bugs fly away to pollinate another (white) flower. So far we’ve had only produced small-leaved plants in the botanic gardens ponds, but when fully mature the leaves can famously support a small child.

And there is a lovely China rose, Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis' (previously called Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’), whose cultivar name is Latin for changeable. And change it does, from pale yellow to red. You can see it doing its thing in the garden opposite the Robbie Burns Statue, in the Domain on the way to the Art Gallery from St Mary’s. (By the way, this is a rose that’s easy to grow in Sydney – it needs little spraying or dead heading, and its limp branches are difficult for possums to climb…)

Of course even plants with flowers that don’t change colour will be different yesterday, today and tomorrow. That a pretty much sums up a garden – something new to see every day.

A less common species of Brunfelsia, Brunfelsia pauciflora, in Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden.

*From the Archive


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