Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Green-backed Firecrown Hummingbird's favourite flower


In the coastal mountains of Chile the Three-coloured Indian Cress is pollinated by the Green-backed Firecrown Hummingbird.

Continuing my theme from the last post, this may one of those cases where the scientific names are shorter and perhaps easier to remember: Tropaeolum tricolor is pollinated by Sephanoides sephaniodes. 

A few weeks ago there was a clutch of Tropaeolum species on display in the Davies Alpine House at Kew Gardens, including this one with three-coloured flowers. As pretty and delicate as they all were, this was the show stopper. I can see why the hummingbird in question, and Lynda, likes it.


Tropaeolum is in its own family, but within the plant order that also includes Brassica and Arabidopsis. Hence the common name ending in Cress. You may also be familiar with Tropaeolum majus, the common garden Nasturtium, sometimes called simply Indian Cress.

In the wilds of Chile, species of Tropaeolum climb through nearby vegetation, dying back to a red underground tuber. Then in late winter the fine twining stems emerge. In case you can't see them clearly in my pictures, the leaves in this species have about five or six lobes, and each of the flowers has a long, pointed spur (typical of the genus).

On our Kew website, Richard Wilford, our current Head of Hardy Displays at Kew Gardens, describes Tropaeolum tricolor as the longest flowering and one of the most vigorous of the Indian Cresses. He also tells you how to grow it in London.

We display the Indian Cresses in the Temperate House and when they are at their peak - as they were two weeks ago - in the Davies Alpine House. Included in the mix were some pretty hybrids between Tropaeolum brachyceros and Tropaeolum tricolor. Here are two different coloured flower variants from that cross, although the first looks very like the Three-coloured you-know-what so our Green-backed you-know-what might still be happy.





4 comments:

Rohrerbot said...

Gorgeous plant. Today I was finally able to leave a comment. I've tried so many times but your page loads slow so I'm glad I can now comment. This is a great plant for hummers!

Tim Entwisle said...

Thanks and yes... It's probably my lengthy list of keywords down the side, but they are useful for me for quick reference. BTW, I find Chrome loads it much quicker than straight Google.

Elaine coolowl said...

Good to know there's more to what we in Oz call 'Nasturtium'. It's one tough plant, preferring the Brisbane winter to the summer. With brilliant flowers in many colours it attracts bees and weirdly, the White Cabbage butterfly. It acts as a trap plant so the little green grubs eat the Tropaeolum instead of our edible brassicas. By the look of the vast quantity of greenery on your plant, it would be great for mulch too! One of the many benefits of our 'Nasturtium' is the amount of mulch it makes.

And btw Tim, this word verification thing is a right pain in the fundament. Three goes so far, I do what I can see but 'it' doesn't like that.

Tim Entwisle said...

Thanks and apologies as always for the word verification 'pain'. Perhaps I'll try for a while without this protection. Do also let the site owners know of your problem!