Floral Friday: Streptocarpus formosus

Walking through Kirstenbosch Botanical garden, one can not but stop to admire the clumps of Streptocarpus formosus flowering on the ground. Formosus means beautiful, a perfect description of this species with its trumpets of soft mauve flowers. In nature they grow around Port St Johns in the Transkei and the sandstone gorges of Umtamvuna and Oribi, in Kwazulu-Natal. In these sub-tropical forests the summers are humid and wet, while the winters are warm and dry. Streptocarpus formusus is found along the gorges, growing in well-drained soil between the rocks.IMG_1397Streptocarpus are fascinating for each leaf is an individual plant with its own roots and flowering stems. Streptocarpus formosus plants form thick clumps of long, strappy leaves arranged in a rosette. The dark green leaves are almost succulent with many little, white hairs. The veins of the leaves are very prominent, especially on the underside where the midrib and side branches form thick ridges. The tips of the leaves often die off as they get older and when stressed by drought or low temperature. Although the brown ends may look unattractive, this survival tactic does not harm the plants. The leaf simply forms an abscission layer and continue with new growth from the base.  (www.plantzafrica.com)IMG_1402Streptocarpus formosus flowers almost throughout summer, from late spring to autumn. One or two flowers are formed at the tips of the long flowering stems.  The large trumpet-shaped flowers are white with soft mauve markings that run along the edge of the petals and into the distinctive, yellow-floored throat. Each delicate flower lasts a few days even when cut for the vase. The plants cross-pollinated easily with other species or in many instances are self-pollinated. Thousands of fine brown seeds are released within a month or two from long fruits. When dry, the fruits have an interesting way of unfolding like a spiral and hence the name Streptocarpus which means ” twisted fruit” in Greek (streptos = twisted and carpus= fruit).IMG_1398Streptocarpus and African violets belong to the same family, Gesneriaceae. More than 100 species of Streptocarpus are found widespread from central Africa to South Africa and Madagascar. Most of the species are found in southern Africa, but it is in Europe and America that streptocarpus is well known as a pot plant. In 1826 the collector James Bowie took the first plants of Streptocarpus rexii to Kew Botanical Gardens in England.




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