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Episcia cupreata (Hook.) Hanst. 1865
pronounced: ee-PISK-ee-ah kew-pree-AH-tuh
(Gesneriaceae – the African violet family)
common name: Flame Violet
The Gesneriaceae family is best known for the African Violets, with their white, pink or purple flowers. Episcia is a genus of about 8 species from tropical America, perennial herbaceous plants characterized by a stoloniferous habit, red (rarely orange, pink, blue or yellow) flowers, and frequently have marked or patterned leaves. They are grown in the tropics, and in temperate regions as house plants, primarily for their attractive foliage. Numerous cultivars have been produced, primarily by selection and hybridization of the species Episcia cupreata and Episcia reptans. For much of the 20th century, the genus held a very much greater number of species, but in 1978 the genera Paradrymonia, Nautilocalyx and Alsobia were separated from it.
Episcia cupreata is a species from Columbia, Venezuela and Brazil, grown for its dazzling variegated foliage. It was originally named Archimenes cupreata by William Jackson Hooker in 1847. Hooker (1785–1865), an English botanist, was the leading authority of his times on ferns. He formed his own herbarium, and also worked at the Glasgow Botanical Garden and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. He was a prolific author on subjects botanical, and edited many botanical journals. Johannes Ludwig Emil Robert von Hanstein (1822–1880) reclassified the plant as Episcia. von Hanstein was professor of botany at Bonn University, and director of the botanical gardens there. He was one of the first experts in the study of gesneriads, and soon became obsessed with them. Before that, he was one of the first botanists to study internal plant structures in trees. His magnum opus bears the magnificent name Untersuchungen über den Bau und die Entwicklung der Baumrinde†.
Episcia cupreata is an herbaceous evergreen that is low-growing and has a stoloniferous habit with succulent and hairy stems. The leaf of the original wild plant was copper-coloured on its underside. Under cultivation, numerous leaf colorations have been developed. The plant reaches a height of 20–30 cm, and its creeping growth habit allows it to spread up to about 60 cm or even more on the ground. It has oval, wrinkled leaves flecked with copper, and scarlet flowers. From the leaf axils it produces a stolon with a new plant sprouting at its tip, and, by reproducing repeatedly in this manner, rooting readily wherever it touches bare soil, it can easily cover a wide area. It is also a good hanging basket plant. These plants like plenty of light, but cannot tolerate strong sunlight. They do need to be watered in moderation in summer (less water in the winter), but they do not like water on their leaves. The soil is best allowed to dry out between waterings.
† Findings on the Construction and Development of Tree Bark
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 27th November 2016