Kew Today - Chilean bellflower
For a splash of colour from a Chilean delicacy, visit Kew's Woodland Garden
25 Nov 2009
Closeup of the Chilean bellflower
Hidden away in the Woodland Garden, the beautiful evergreen climber Lapageria rosea (Chilean bellflower), comes from moist forest habitats in Chile. Its pendant, red, waxy flowers appear singly or in clusters over a long period from summer through autumn. In its natural habitat it is pollinated by hummingbirds, attracted by sweet nectar held in sacs inside the blooms.
Traditionally, the flowers are sold in autumn on branches backed with fern leaves, in the resorts of the south and taken to markets in the principal cities in Chile. The sweet and tender fruits, called ‘cucumbers’ are edible and the roots are often used as a substitute for the herbal extract, sarsaparilla (Smilax sarsaparilla). Lapageria rosea enjoys a sheltered, shady position in moist, well-drained soil.
The Woodland Garden is located just south-east of the Princess of Wales Conservatory. A tree canopy of oaks and birches supports climbers and provides shade for deciduous shrubs such as maples and rhododendrons, which in turn protect ground-cover plants like hellebores, primulas, Himalayan blue poppies and North American trilliums.
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