Photo (c) Gerald Luckhurst Nov.2008
It is somewhat singular that a plant of such superior excellence as this, both in the magnificence of its large clusters of delicate pink flowers, the period of their development, and the delicious perfume they constantly exhale, should still remain, after having been in the country so many years, a comparatively scarce species.
Luculia gratissima was introduced from the temperate Himalayas in 1823 and is illustrated in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (t. 3946). Another plant from our friend Dr. Wallich of the Calcutta Botanic Gardens. "It is impossible" he says "to conceive any thing more beautiful than this tree, when covered with its numerous rounded panicles of pink-coloured, very fragrant, blossoms. It is a native of Nepal and Silhet ... it delights in exposed, rather naked situations, flowering, according to the locality in which it is found, nearly the whole year through."
One of the reasons that this plant is so rarely found in Europe is precisely its requirement for an open growing situation. As a glasshouse plant it seldom suceeds. Victorian growers found that the atmosphere of the stove was too close and that the greenhouse was too cold and damp. At Monserrate it has proved very hardy and of great longevity. Whilst today there survives only one plant there were just a few years ago several bushes. Those that have disappeared sucumbed to close competition.
Despite the comments of Wallich this plant flowers but once a year. But this is at the coldest and dampest season and for this it should be greatly cherished.
(c) Gerald Luckhurst, Nov. 2008
Luculia gratissima (Wall.) Sweet; The British flower garden ser. 2: t. 145. 1832
and Mussaenda Luculia Ham. in Don Prodr. Fl. Nep. p. 139