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Sanchezia speciosa Leonard 1926
pronounced: san-CHEZ-ee-ah spee-see-OH-sah
(Acanthaceae – the Black-eyed Susan family)
common names: Shrubby Whitevein, Gold Vein Plant
Sanchezia is named for José Sanchez, a nineteenth century professor of botany at Cadiz, Spain; speciosa is from the Latin speciosus, showy, beautiful, handsome. Members of the species are generally shrubs, or rarely small trees or herbs, occurring naturally in the lowlands of tropical South and Central America.
Sanchezia speciosa is a native of Ecuador and Peru, where it grows in the understorey of the rainforests. It is a bushy shrub that grows to about 2 m in height, with a similar spread, with sturdy bright green or purple quadrangular stems bearing large pointed leaves up to about 25 cm in length, dark green with distinctive yellow, ivory or white ribs and veins. The brusquely pointed leaves are opposite, oval or lanceolate, with waved crenate margins, with petioles 0.5 – 2 cm long, and winged at the base.
In summer it bears 5-lobed tubular yellow flowers, about 5 cm long, with reddish orange bracts, in terminal spikes 20 – 40 cm long. There are 2 fertile villous stamens exceeding the corolla by 1 – 1.5 cm, 2 filiform 2 – 2.5 cm long staminodes, and a yellow filiform 5 – 6 cm long style with a red stigma. The bracts often persist after the flowers have fallen. The flowers are pollinated by humming-birds.
The plant fruits only rarely, with oblong capsules having 6 – 8 circular compressed seeds.
It can be propagated from softwood cuttings in spring, or from semi-ripe cuttings in summer. As with most frost-sensitive plants, the best time to plant the cuttings is in late spring, rather than in summer. so they they can become well-established before winter.
This shrub grows naturally in hot, humid rainforest conditions, and should only be grown by gardeners who can provide it with that sort of environment. Indirect light is crucial for the plant to develop its distinctive variegation. Given the right conditions, it will bloom for most of the year. In the tropics, the plant is grown as a specimen or in hedges. Outside of the tropics, it should be grown as a pot plant in a warm conservatory or a greenhouse, rather than as a houseplant, because of its high requirements for soil and atmospheric humidity. The soil should be fairly rich and kept moist all of the time, but the drainage must be efficient, to avoid water-logging. Pruning back after flowering will help maintain foliage density.
Repotting is seldom necessary, unless the plant is obviously outgrowing its container.
In Thailand, extracts from the roots of the plant are used to treat impotence, and to increase sexual desire.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographed in Picnic Bay 2016
Page last updated 25th October 2016