Vallea stipularis (capuli)
Vallea stipularis is a beautiful, evergreen, South American shrub with masses of pinkish-red or crimson, bell-shaped flowers.
Vallea stipularis L.f.
capuli, pera-caspi (Spanish-Quechua name meaning ‘hard pear’)
Not known to be threatened.
Forest and scrub, along forest margins, and in páramo (grassland) vegetation above the cloud forest.
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 and 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
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Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
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 online 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.
Coode, M.J.E. (1985). Aristotelia and Vallea, closely allied in Elaeocarpaceae. Kew Bull. 40: 479-507.
Jaramillo Azanza, J. (1988). Notes of Ecuadorean Vallea (Elaeocarpaceae) with the description of a new species. Nord. J. Bot. 8: 19–23.
Joyal, E. (1987). Ethnobotanical field notes from Ecuador: Camp, Prieto, Jørgensen, and Giler. Econ. Bot. 41(2): 163-189.
Kunkel, G. (1984). Plants for Human Consumption: an Annotated Checklist of the Edible Phanerogams and Ferns. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein.
The Plant List (2010). Vallea stipularis. Available online (accessed 30 May 2011).
Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Kew contributors: Steve Davis (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
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