Lapageria rosea

Lapageria rosea, commonly known as the Chilean bellflower or copihue, is the national flower of Chile. It is a a member of the Chilean-endemic Philesiaceae. Today’s photographs are courtesy of Nhu Nguyen (aka xerantheum@Flickr, who shared them via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (image 1 | image 2). Nhu took these photographs in mid-September several years ago at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Thanks Nhu!

In the wild, Lapageria rosea is a species of the Valdivian temperate rainforest. It is an evergreen climber, attaining a maximum height of about 10m on adjacent trees and shrubs. The Wikipedia page for Lapageria rosea notes an interesting tidbit about the species: “The vines twine counterclockwise in the Southern hemisphere and clockwise when grown in the Northern hemisphere”.

The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley has one of the most comprehensive collections of Lapageria rosea and cultivated selections of the species in North America. The particular plant in today’s photograph is a 1937 accession, grown from wild-collected seed during a 1935-1936 expedition to Chile by T. Harper Goodspeed. There are a number of resources about the Berkeley plants, including: The History of Lapageria rosea at the University of California Botanical Garden via Pacific Horticulture; a description of some the cultivars grown at Berkeley, and accompanying photographs of the cultivars.

I’ve yet to visit Berkeley in the autumn, so my sole and memorable encounter with this Award of Garden Merit taxon is a glasshouse-grown plant cultivated by one of UBC’s Friends of the Garden and occasional BPotD contributor, Ian Gillam.

Lapageria rosea
Lapageria rosea

14 responses to “Lapageria rosea”

  1. Nadia

    Beautiful flowers

  2. Walt

    Re the reversal of twining direction, does anyone know if the wisterias do a similar reversal? Viewed from the top, Wisteria floribunda/Japanese Wisteria turns clockwise and Chinese Wisteria/W.sinensis turns counter-clockwise at least north of the Equator.

  3. kate

    I agree with Nadia – the flowers are beautiful and their shape puts me in mind of the worked silver blossoms on the ‘squash blossom’ necklaces.

  4. Eric Hunt

    Photos cannot convey the most amazing aspect of the flower. They are literally as thick as a plastic cup and almost as hard.
    Here is the Mission Lace cultivar at The San Francisco Botanical Garden:

  5. Sabra Turnbull

    Excuse me for questioning, but after I fell for the tourist trick in Africa where they show you how water goes spiraling down the drain one way above the equator and the other way below the equator, I am skeptical about the twining.

  6. Wendy Cutler

    I was looking to see if you always do red on Valentine’s Day, and no you don’t. But on Valentine’s Day 2012 you used my photo of the red Triplaris cumingiana, which I thought of when I saw these flowers. Different family entirely.
    Thanks for the links to the descriptions and photos.

  7. Jessica

    Very beautiful.
    Interesting to read about the direction of the spiraling vines and about the texture and heavy substance of the flowers.

  8. Mary Wilson

    Perhaps Taisha could help resolve the questions about direction of twining plants. Her work recently published here on nastic movements in plants was so interesting. Taisha?


    “as hard as a plastic cup,” wow! You’d never know by looking at the photos.
    The botanical garden at Berkeley sounds pretty incredible. I often see it mentioned in my readings around the web. Will have to see it when I get out to California in the future (sometime).

  10. john voss

    ordered seeds online. “difficult.” got to have this!some good culture info on net. not commonly available from nurseries,apparently.

  11. Ron B

    This species was in the old small display greenhouse at the Seattle arboretum many years ago, along with Camellia granthamiana and interesting tender rhododendrons etc. But the greenhouse and this part of the plant collection disappeared when the Center for Urban Horticulture renovated the site, put up a big new display greenhouse that never got stocked and opened to regular public use because of insurance issues.
    The Lapageria and other accessions being grown with it could have dated back to the 1940s or earlier I suppose, I don’t remember.
    I do remember noticing that this greenhouse was the only local spot I was seeing the plant, despite the Sunset Western Garden Book zoning it for outdoor cultivation in Sunset Climate Zone 5.

  12. Joanne Whitney

    I am a docent at the SF Botanical Gardens and I always take visitors to see the Lapageria. It is the most astonishing flower. I accessed the reference to the Berkeley Gardens and had no idea what a fabulous collection they have. I used to have a lab at Space Sciences above the Gardens and spent many wonderful hours exploring but I never saw the bellflowers. I shall take myself over next autumn. In SF there are still many blooms on our vine.

  13. Kathy

    I first saw Lapageria in 1980 in Chile when someone had picked the blooms and brought them inside. I never forgot that flower and you can imagine my surprise when I saw an excellent specimen growing in one of the cool greenhouses in the (former) research station in Sydney (Saanichton area). I wonder what ever became of it? Yes, the blooms are very “waxy” and quite large.

  14. frances howey

    This is a plant I have coveted since first seeing it in flower (outside) in Christchurch NZ. But, as was noted, it doesn’t seem to be easy from seed. I believe it was Kate who likened it to the “squash blossoms” on the necklace – I have one and she is quite right – there is a marked similarity, which causes me to wonder. Interesting.

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