Plant Collector: Solandra longiflora

Solandra longiflora or the chalice vine

Solandra longiflora or the chalice vine

A carpet of spent trumpets

A carpet of spent trumpets

This is not a common plant at all in this country, where it has been identified as Solandra longiflora. All the solandras, of which there are around eight, appear to be variable species so not all longifloras will look the same as ours. However, they all share the common name of chalice vine on account of the large blooms that look like chalices. And they are strong climbers from the more tropical areas of the Americas, in the case of longiflora – the West Indies.

Ours has taken a fair number of years to get a good grip on the large tree we wanted it to grow up and also to produce more than just a few blooms. But this summer it is outdoing itself and we have an abundance of these large trumpets. They are an attractive amber honey colour with dark burgundy striping in the throat. At 25cm long and over 12cm across, there is quite a lot of flower.

The foliage is not exciting and bears some resemblance to woolly nightshade, daturas or brugmansias, this being because they all belong to the solanum family. It also shares some of the chemical compounds of the datura family but this is best left to the indigenous peoples who use it for a variety of purposes. Like datura, it is highly toxic and more likely to cause death in the wrong hands.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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