Achetaria azurea

Brazilian snapdragon


Achetaria azurea

(Linden) V.C.Souza 2009

pronounced: ak-eh-TAR-ee-uh az-you-REE-uh

(Plantaginaceae — the plantain family)

synonym — Otacanthus azureus

(Linden) Rouse 2001

pronounced: oh-tuh-KAN-thuss az-you-REE-uss

synonym — Otacanthus caeruleus

Lindl. 1862

pronounced:  oh-tuh-KAN-thuss kai-ROO-lee-uss

common names: Brazilian snapdragon, Amazon blue

The genus name Achetaria is a bit of a puzzle – it was not explained by its author. It appears to derive from the Greek αχέτας (achétas), the chirruping sound made by a cicada, or the cicada itself, sometimes used in a sense of clear-sounding, or musical; azureus derives from the Late Latin word azura, sky-blue. In the synonyms, Otacanthus is from the Greek ους, ωτός (ous, otós), the ear, and ακανθα (akantha), a thorn or prickle; cæruleus is Latin, the deep blue of the Mediterranean sky at midday. This genus of plants was until recently in the family Scrophulariaceae.

The species is native to parts of Brazil – Espirito Santo and Rio de Janeiro – where it grows on the borders of the forests. This perennial plant, sometimes grown as an annual, is herbaceous with a woody base, usually growing to between 60 and 150 cm tall, with erect brownish stems that are almost quadrangular in cross-section, and slightly pubescent.

The leaves are opposite, ovate to lanceolate in shape, with acute apices and finely serrate margins. They are pale green in colour, with depressed veins, and measure 4 - 8 cm long by 1 - 3.5 cm wide. They emit a penetrating resinous smell, often described as minty pine, when crushed.

The solitary flowers are axillary, but concentrated towards the ends of the branches. The sepals are markedly different: the dorsal sepal is up to about 18 mm long and about 5 mm wide, while the other four sepals are only about 10 mm long and 1 mm wide. The corolla tube is slightly pubescent. The flowers, 2 - 3 cm across, are a vibrant blue in colour, and have two conspicuous petals, the lower one sporting a white streak at the throat. There are two hidden stamens.

The fruits are ovoid pubescent capsules, the calyx persistent, about 7 mm long by 5 mm in diameter, with oblong brown seeds about 0.5 mm long. Propagation is by seed or by cuttings.

The plant is suitable for growing in containers, or as a potted house-plant.

The flowers are very suitable for cut-flower use in bouquets and arrangements.

Photographed in Nelly Bay 2012
Page last updated 4th December 2019