Graceful flowers for many situations

Clerodendrum speciosissimum. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Clerodendrum speciosissimum. Photo: Gregor Richardson
In the cooler southern parts of New Zealand, Clerodendrum isn't that well known.

Found mostly in Africa and Asia, usually in tropical and subtropical regions, it is a genus of some 400 species ranging from trees and shrubs to climbers.

Some species have an incredible tolerance to the cold, while others require the protection of a glasshouse. Almost all are graceful and scented in flower.

A very showy variety is Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii.

This small deciduous tree will eventually reach 7m but can easily been pruned back to restrict size.

It flowers through summer and well into autumn, with bright red bracts and small white flowers covering the plant.

Native to western China, this variety will grow in Dunedin's climate and is growing in the Dunedin Botanic Garden's arboretum, above the drive going up the hill towards the aviary.

One that does need glasshouse protection is Clerodendrum speciosissimum, a tropical species of upright shrub that grows to 4m.

It has soft, downy leaves and clusters of bright scarlet flowers over the late summer and often through autumn, followed by fruit that turns blue when ripe.

See it flowering now in the foyer of the winter garden glasshouse.

But the showstopper has to be Clerodendrum thomsoniae.

Known as the bleeding heart vine, it's a variable flowerer but usually flowers during the summer months.

It has white calyxes with dark red corolla, making it a great plant for Christmas flowering.

This is one to look for next summer when displayed in the winter garden glasshouse.

- Stephen Bishop is curator of the winter garden glasshouse at Dunedin Botanic Garden.

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