Tuesday, 2 April 2013

From darkest Peru to Melbourne, the little black salvia flower


Very Melbourne this flower. Dressed in black*, restrained and...cultivated (well it's been planted in a garden).

Salvia discolor is its name and it has just come into flower outside our living room window. I hadn't noticed it until Lynda pointed out that a fairly nondescript plant with grey-green leaves had sprung black flowers.


It reputedly flowers late summer and early autumn so it is actually right on cue. It's also described as drought resistant, which explains why it's growing outside our lounge room (the garden around our temporary abode has been planted out to survive the toughest of Melbourne summers).

Andean Silver-leaf Sage is the common name, referencing the Andes where it grows naturally and the silvery hue of the leaves. It grows high in the Andes, in vegetation almost free of trees, so my title is a little misleading (like Shaun Micallef having to play Chatanooga Choo Choo every time he mentions the Australian politician Barneby Joyce, I can't mention Peru without adding 'darkest' thanks to Paddington Bear).

The other charming feature of the flower is the tendril-like blue-purple style, squeezed from the top of the flower.


The leaves are said to smell like blackcurrants, but mine smell more or less leafy. Although with the power of suggestion I can conjure up a faint berry odor, perhaps.

At least tearing off a leaf to smell it revealed the source of the botanical epithet 'bicolor'. The leaves are dull green above and silvery white beneath. The stems, like the lower surface of the leaves, are covered in fluffy hairs too so this gives the plant it's silvery look.

Black flowers are unusual in nature and this one is, like most, a very dark someothercolour. In this case purple, deep purple...

What animal would be attracted to such darkly coloured flowers I don't know. Hummingbirds are often cited as pollinating salvias. The only wildlife I found on the plant was this rusty coloured insect. Here in the middle of Melbourne I imagine there are few Andean pollinators but maybe this 'Flinders Street Fly' (sorry) has flown all the way from darkest Peru....


*I've done this tenuous link before but I figure if it continues to amuse me, it might just raise the curl of a smile with you.

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