“You can’t write that up,” Mark protested when he saw me photographing this plant. “It’s a weed.” This may be the first Plant Uncollector. We have had the plant for several years but it has never made it out of the nursery, being left to its own devices in the somewhat wild area of plants waiting to be put in the garden but not urgent. There it has seeded down freely and it won’t be going out to the garden because we can see it has serious weed potential. This is a shame because it flowers pretty much all the time and the hanging clusters are showy, while the foliage is velvety to touch. Our neglected parent plant is about 3m high and a somewhat rangy shrub but it can get bigger.
This is a variable species. There are red and pink, even and pure white forms. It is South American – not just Bolivia but also southern Peru and northern Argentina so presumably parts of Chile too. It is highly prized internationally but it will be somewhat frost tender which may curb its escaping tendencies in colder climates. We have enough imported weeds in this country. Just because it is attractive and has rewarding blooming habits is not a good enough reason to knowingly unleash another weed. This plant, along with its multitude of seedlings, is destined for the mulcher and compost. The seeds are spread by birds and because the plant can establish in heavy shade, it has a wide habitat. It is on the National Pest Plant Accord so can’t be sold legally but we arrived at the conclusion of its weed pest potential all of our own accord. If there is ever a sterile version of this plant released, we would welcome it but until then, no.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.