Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Attention grabbing Chilean Bell Flower


The national flower of Chile, growing in moist forests at the southern end of the country, is Lapageria rosea.  It's know hereabouts as the Chilean Bell Flower for fairly obvious reasons. Pollination is clearly by something with a long proboscis or beak: a hummingbird I gather.

According to Kew's website, the flowers are backed with ferns and sold in markets and towns of southern Chile. The fruits (called cucumbers or kopiw), and roots are edible, the latter having a sarsparilla-like flavour.

The plant is renowned (and popular) for its long flowering period, but the flowers are particularly noticeable in late autumn, when much of the garden is leafless and flowerless. I first noticed the flower this autumn on a wall below Prowis Castle, in Wales.


There is only one species of Lapageria but as with my last post on Skimmia, there are plenty of cultivars. The variation is all in flower colour, from deep red to pink and white. Apparently the usual flower in nature is red with white spots, but then I haven't visited Chile to check. Again, with a nod to my Skimmia post, cross-pollination is generally required for fruit-set - although in this species all flowers carry the male and female bits.

On Friday I was drawn to this plant by two visitors to Kew Gardens, both excitedly pointing at a wall near my office. I followed their gaze, and then their footsteps, to find a beautifully flowering vine on the Kew Road wall, not far from the Economic Museum (opposite the Palm House).


Our flowers, like the ones at Prowis, are fully red. Or pinkish in the flash light.


I read on Wikipedia that the vines twine counterclockwise when grown in the Southern Hemisphere and clockwise when grown in the Northern Hemisphere. The only thing I would say about that is read this.

It was a dark and gloomy autumn day but the Chilean Bellflower added a splash of colour. Even if it was a pain to try and capture with my camera.


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