Saturday, 16 January 2010

Thunbergia grandiflora

(large-flowered Thunbergia.)


Generic Character.— Vide vol. iii. p. 28.

Specific Character.—Plant sub-shrubby, climbing, perennial. Stems woody, with the young shoots a little hairy, and slightly quadrangular. Leaves opposite, petiolate, spreading, angularly cordate, with five or seven nerves, somewhat roughened on both sides by small, white hairs. Petioles erect, nearly as long as the leaves, smaller towards the base. Peduncles axillary, one-flowered. Calyx two-valved, about as long as the throat of the corolla, with no interior segments. Corolla campanulate, very large, pale blue ; limb five-parted, lobes nearly round, two upper ones erect, throe lower spreading.

Like the fine species of Blandfordia depicted in a previous page of this Number, the noble Thunbergia, to which attention is now more immediately invited, has had to sustain for a time the contumely of the fanciful, to make room for numbers of the far less worthy acquisitions of modern collectors. But whether it be because the favourite of one day, though discarded the next, is, if possessing any decided claims to regard, almost certain to be reinstalled at some subsequent period, or whether, as we would fain believe, the public taste is becoming less fickle, and more in accordance with staid principles ; we are pleased to see the subject of these strictures again making its way to popular esteem, and attaining that place in a collection of stove plants which it so well deserves.

Within the last five years we can remember observing this plant, with a most miserable aspect, in nursery and other establishments, cramped into a small pot, almost smothered by larger specimens, and exclaimed against as a species which hardly ever blossomed; the truth of the matter being that it never had any opportunity of making other than the most slender shoots, which, not being able to arrive at maturity from the circumstances amidst which they were formed, did not, of course, develop any flowers. Such, indeed, is very generally the case with stove-plants that are called shy bloomers ; the cultivator's bad treatment and not the constitution of the plant, being the cause of the defect. Thus, it is always found, when the specimens decried are placed in those conditions which are evidently essential to their proliferousness, they commence flowering most profusely, and continue to do the same while a similar system of management lasts.
Having examined, with some care, plants of T. grandiflora which bloom
abundantly, and others on which a single blossom is rarely to be witnessed, it is
obvious to us that the two states are brought about solely by attention or inattention
to some very trifling particulars. First, it should be potted in a compost with
some pretensions' to be called rich, but not of an extremely nutritive description.
Two parts of maiden loam, and the remainder of heath-soil, leaf-mould, and sand,
will, if mixed, constitute an excellent material. Next, the pot to which it is
transferred must be exactly of the size suited to its wants, and neither so large as
to leave more than three quarters of an inch between the roots and its edge, nor so
small as to check the extension of the rootlets, unless the specimen be too exuberant.
Lastly, each plant ought to have an open space of at least half a foot on all sides of
it, that the influence of the external aerial agents may be duly received, and that
it may not relapse into a weakly state, with long, sickly branches, bare towards
the bottom.
The best mode of training for the attainment of these ends is to a small round trellis of either wood or wire, around which the shoots can be fastened in such a manner as not to grow higher than four or five feet from the stage. In the summer months this species needs watering with great liberality, and syringing rather forcibly three or four times in a week. Throughout the winter, however, it is to be kept much drier, and suffered to stand on a wooden or stone surface.
Our drawing of this splendid plant was made in the nursery of Messrs. Henderson, Pine-Apple Place, whose recent culture of stove plants, and the spirited manner in which they have constructed houses for their reception, are much to be commended. It is an East Indian species, described by Dr. Roxburgh as growing " among bushes in wild uncultivated spots near Calcutta, where it flowers in the rainy season." With us it blooms freely through several of the autumnal months.

Cuttings of the young wood, taken off in spring, and placed in sandy loam, plunging the pots in heating bark or manure, and protecting the whole by a handglass, will strike root with tolerable freedom.
Paxton's magazine of botany, and register of flowering plants, Volume 7 , 1840, p. 221

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