Galphimia gracilis



Galphimia gracilis

Bartl. 1839

pronounced: gal-FIM-ee-uh GRASS-ill-iss

(Malpighiaceae — the acerola family)


common names: thryallis, rain of gold, shower of gold

The word Galphimia is an anagram of Malpighia (after which this family is named), to which it is closely related; gracilis is Latin for ‘thin, slender’; the common name Thryallis is Greek, θρυαλλις (their name for Verbascum, mullein).

Malpighiaceae is a family of flowering plants of some 75 genera and 1,300 species, all of which are native to the tropics and subtropics; about 85% of the genera and 90% of the species occur in the New World.

Galphimia is a genus of some 26 species of large herbs, shrubs, and small trees. They originate in central America, many of them in Mexico. Eight of these species are distinctive in that their petals become stiff and papery, and persist past the stage of fruit maturation.

Galphimia gracilis is native to eastern Mexico, and is widely cultivated in warm regions throughout the world. It is a great little shrub if you need constant yellow flowers with light green foliage. The common names Rain of Gold, Shower of Gold may seem a little over the top, unless you have seen this plant flourishing in a garden situation; in that case you might think it a little understated! On a mature specimen in full flower, the reddish stems are literally weighed down by terminal spikes of tiny golden star-flowers for weeks at a time. The shrub’s very long display is enhanced by the rapid fall of individual blossoms, which carpet the surrounding garden in a vivid yellow.

It grows moderately quickly to a height of about 2 m, with very little maintenance required. It does best in full sun, and very well-drained soil, but will tolerate shade. Dense shade will result in fewer flowers and a very scraggly appearance, requiring more frequent pruning to maintain a dense shrub. The photographs show a very dense shrub growing on the verge at the far end of Mandalay Avenue in Nelly Bay.

The opposite leaves are ovate, shiny, about 5 cm long, and evergreen. The flowers appear virtually year round in warm climates. They bloom on terminal spikes, and many flowers of the inflorescence are open at one time, with petals 8 – 14 mm long and 4 – 8 mm wide.

The plant can be propagated from seeds, which are produced in abundance, or from cuttings of ripe wood, which should be struck in a sharp, sandy mix with warmth and humidity. Once established, it likes to keep quite dry, requiring only light waterings in very dry periods. If the plant is grown in a container, the soil should be very well-drained, and allowed almost to dry out between waterings. This is an excellent xeriscape plant – where landscaping is done in ways to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation.

There is much confusion between Galphimia gracilis and its similar relative Galphimia glauca, even among nurserymen. They can be told apart by their fruits: in G. gracilis the petals fall off as the fruit matures, but in G. glauca the petals persist, even in fruit.

Galphimia can be clipped into a hedge. For hedging purposes, the plants should be only 60 cm or so apart.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2011, 2012
Page last updated 2nd January 2019