Vallea stipularis (capuli)
Vallea stipularis is a beautiful, evergreen, South American shrub with masses of pinkish-red or crimson, bell-shaped flowers.
About this species
For a long time Vallea stipularis was thought to be the only species in the genus Vallea, which is named in honour of the Italian botanist Felice Valle (d. 1747), who wrote an early account of the flora of Corsica. Then, in 1988, a second species was discovered in Ecuador and described as V. ecuadorensis. Vallea stipularis is a shrub or a tree with hairless ovaries and styles, whereas V. ecuadorensis is a climbing shrub or tree with densely velvety ovaries and styles. Vallea stipularis has been cultivated in Europe since 1928, but is rather frost-tender, so has never become common. It is usually grown against a wall or in a cool, shady greenhouse.
Geography & Distribution
Native to South America, where it occurs in the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, at 1,600–4,000 m above sea level.
A many-branched, evergreen shrub or tree up to 18 m tall. The leaves are heart-shaped or pear-shaped, sometimes lobed, up to 10 cm long, dark green, and paler beneath, with tufts of hairs in the vein axils. The small, bell-shaped flowers are pinkish-red or crimson and borne on branching stalks. They have five sepals and five, three-lobed, petals, around 13 mm long. The ovary and styles are hairless. There are 15–60 stamens.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Hand-coloured lithograph of Vallea stipularis after a watercolour by Lillian Snelling (1934), taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Image: RBG Kew)
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
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Vallea stipularis is grown as an ornamental, although it is not common in cultivation. The wood is smooth and polishes well, and is also resinous and burns easily. The roots are used locally for flavouring.
This species at Kew
Vallea stipularis can be seen growing in the Rock Garden at Kew, where it flowers in the spring (after a mild winter), and again in late summer or autumn.
Both pressed and dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Vallea stipularis are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.
Specimens of wood from Vallea stipularis are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, and are available to researchers, by appointment.
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