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Aeschynanthus pulcher (Blume) G. Don 1837
pronounced: es-kee-NAN-thus PULL-ker
(Gesneriaceae – the African violet family)
synonym: Aeschynanthus lobbianus Hook 1846
pronounced: es-kee-NAN-thus lob-ee-AH-nuss
common name: Lipstick Plant
Aeschynanthus is from the Greek αισχυνω (aischuno), to be ashamed, and ανθος (anthos), a flower; pulcher is Latin for ‘beautiful’. In the synonym, lobbianus is for Thomas Lobb, one of two 19th century Cornish brothers and plant collectors: William introduced many species from the Americas, including famous plants such as the monkey puzzle tree and the wellingtonia. Thomas (1817–1894) travelled East and collected plants from Indonesia, India and the Philippines.
This is a genus of about 185 species of tropical herbs. They are found in southern and south-eastern Asia, the islands of Indonesia, PNG and the Philippines.
They are usually trailing epiphytes with brightly coloured flowers that are pollinated by sunbirds. The common name for some species of ‘Lipstick Plant’ comes from the appearance of the developing buds. The lobed red flowers emerging from a maroon sheath do resemble lipsticks in tubes.
In its natural state, Aeschynanthus pulcher is an epiphyte that grows in the angles of branches in the rainforests of the Malaysian Peninsula. As with all epiphytes, it does not live as a parasite on the tree, but takes its nourishment from fallen leaves and twigs that accumulate in the crevices of the branches. Here, it is a handsome basket plant with closely-set glossy foliage, clusters of long tubular double-lipped red flowers that emerge from a goblet-like purple-bronze silky-textured calyx. Under good conditions the plant will trail to 1 m. The leaves are quite heavy and succulent, and for this species and others with similar foliage, it is important to let the soil get fairly dry between waterings. Like many Aeschynanthus, Aeschynanthus pulcher likes being outside in the summer, in dappled shade or even full sun for part of the morning. It also likes regular misting.
Propagation is by stem cuttings in the spring.
Photographs taken 2009, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 1st October 2016