Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giant gesneriads

For most gardeners, giant tree-like plant is not something associated with members of Gesneriad family. Out of the three thousand plus species in this large family, there are actually a quite a few giants that are very little known compared to their smaller cousins.

While scrambling up an open slope on a steep limestone hill in Sarawak, I came across this giant Paraboea - its a man's height even before blooming, its multiple branched inflorescence adding a further metre or so.

I reckon this is either a P. havilandii or the related P. treubii - both of which, according to literature, can be up to 2m high. The spiralling seed pod is characteristic of this genus - the pod builds up internal pressure and eventually implodes with a twisting action that catapult the seeds from mother plant. Note also the retention of dried leaves at the base, the function of which is a mystery.

There are many more examples of giant Gesneriads - like the Brazilian Paliavana , which I found from the excellent web site by Mauro. While visiting one of Europe's botanical gardens, I unexpectedly stumbled upon this striking Jamaican native, - Rhytidophyllum tomentosum, which I know nothing of except that its likely pollinated by bats.
The felty leaves remind me very much of the Henckelia back home but the stiff flowers are quite unique.

I do not think any of these large and drab plants will be popular to gardeners soon unless hybridisers manage to perform some miraculous makeovers. Still, they are interesting botanical curios for me ....


Hermes said...

And to me - bit big for my flat, but so interesting.

Stephanie said...

Your Henckelia has excellent structure. Beautiful plant :-D I would never know there is tree gesneriads. Thanks for sharing.

Heating Allen Town PA said...

I love the shots so dramatic, you're good but needs a little more practice, you have the potential maximize it my friend^^

Carol Ann said...

Actually, I grow R. tomentosum in my greenhouse. Many plants are somewhat dwarfed by pot culture, so a shrub in the wild can be quite manageable as a potted plant. I've cut mine back several times, and it's about two feet tall right now.

I hope you'll consider harvesting seed of the gesneriads you come across and donating them to The Gesneriad Society's Seed Fund. It's a great way to get plants into cultivation with minimal threat to their existence in their native habitats. Seeds of even very large plants are welcome!

Hort Log said...

Hi Carol Ann,
I do try to harvest seeds whenever I can find them and pass them to friends but with the exceptions of Chiritas and Epithemia somehow they are not as easy as the S. American relatives. How do I harvest and save the seeds so that they can be viable?

Andrea said...

Yes they are amazing, and i havent seen any of them, maybe we have them here also in our forests.

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