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The Origin of flowers {three}

Updated on June 19, 2013


This is the third in a series looking at the historical and botanical information about some familiar flowering species, and how they have become much loved cultivars. All our garden plants derived from natural species that were discovered growing wild throughout the world by botanist and plant collectors of days gone by.

The format { as were the other two in the series} will be an historical account and description of the species followed by modern day information. The Historical accounts are from Edwards Botanical Register {1829-1847}. These accounts relate to species being introduced to the UK, however, the plants come from all parts of the globe.

Imomopsis rubra


Ipomopsis elegans

Historical account--A beautiful plant, native of both sides of the continent of North America; it was found by Mr.Douglas, on the north west coast, and sent by him to England in 1827. The drawing {below} was made in the garden of the Horticultural Society in July last {1828}.

It is unfortunately impatient of cultivation, being apt to die off, without apparent cause, during its flowering. Naturally , it is perhaps perennial; but with us, owing to this cause, it does not survive more than two years. the best method of cultivating it is found to be in cold damp soil under a wall it will not live in peat or light soil.

Modern day account.---The name Ipomopsis derives from a well known genus of plants Ipomaea + opsis which indicates a resemblance to or of. Ipomopsis is a genus of flowering plants of the Family Polemoniaceae {Phlox} and to the Order Ericales.

They consist of annual and perennial herbs native to North America. there are many species such as Ipomopsis aggregata which is pollinated by long-tongued moths and humming birds.

Impomopsis arizonica { Arizona fire cracker} Distribution mountains of Mojave, south eastern California east through southern Nevada to northern Arizona.

For the gardener.---Inpomopsis are a genus of perennial and Biennial plants, often grown as pot plants for green houses and conservatories. They are half hardy, grow in cool airy conditions with bright light, and in fertile well drained soil. Propagted by seed sown under glass in early spring or early summer.

Impomopsis aggregata is a slow growing Biennial with upright, slender fhairy stems. it attains the height of up to a meter {3 feet} spread one foot {30 cm }. Mid green leaves are divided into linear leaflets. freagrant, trumpet shaped flowers borne in summer and are usually brilliant red, sometimes spotted yellow, but may be rose, yellow or white.


Dendrobium anosmum

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Dendrobium secunda {tooth brush orchid}

Historical account---For an opportunity of presenting the public with this figure of his fine specimen {below} we have to thank Mr. Tate, of the Sloane Street Nursery, by whom a plant in flower was communicated in July 1828. It had been collected by Rajah Balsa, in Sumatra, and by William McKilligin esq.

It appears from Dr. Wallich's drawing, to be a most lovely species in its native places of growth, forming long pendent stems, which throw out an abundance of one sided racemes of purple flowers 5-6 inches long. the specimen now represented flowered imperfectly, as its stems had been allowed to remain erect, instead of its pendant position. The habit of this, and many other Dendrobiums being to hang down from the trees on which they grow.

It is impossible to cultivate them with any success unless they are suspended in the air in pots, or otherwise so managed that they can shoot freely in the way which is natural to them.

Modern day account--- Dendrobium is a huge genus of orchids that comprise 1200+ species, many of them epiphyles living on trees. The specific name of secundus means second and alludes to the flowers all turned in the same direction.At amateur level this is seldom a successful plant to cultivate. The species is native to south eastern Asia where it grows in semi-deciduous forests.

For the gardener-- Species recommended from this genus are Dendrobium chrysotoxum--- produces trusses of deep, cup shaped flowers.

D. infundibulum--stems produce up to six large pure white flowers up to three inches {8cm} wide. each has a yellow marked lip.

D. nobile--produces trusses of rose pink flowers 2 inches { 5cm} across, each with a prominent maroon lip.

Dendrobium secunda


Stachys germanica


Stachys germanica--{ the downy woundwort }

This was sent to the Horticultural Society from the Gottingen gardens under the name Stachys pubescens. { see below} It appears to be a mere variety of Stachys germanica with thicker leaves than usual.It is a hardy perennial flowering from June to the end of August.

Modern Day Account--The woundworts take their name from their use in herbal medicine of healing wounds they belong to the Labiateae. {mint family}

The downy woundwort, Stachys germanica, is a very rare wild flower in the UK and is fully protected by law, where it occurs on dry fairly calcareous soils in open grass land, hedge bottoms, track-sides, quarries, scrub and ditches. It is related to the Betony and the more common hedge woundwort and marsh woundwort from which it can easily be distinguished by its covering of dense hairs. The plant is confined to just a few sites in Oxfordshire {southern England}. The plant has grown in the vicinity of Witney {Oxfordshire} since at least 1632.

For the Gardener----Stachys are a genus of late spring or early summer flowering perennials, shrubs and sub-shrubs, some of which are evergreen. They range from species that are fully hardy to those that are frost tender. they grow best in well drained soils the species recommended for gardens are --Stachys byzantine {syn-S. lanata}

S.coccinea-bright red flowers, small hooded.

S.macrantha-the flowers are large, hooded and of a rose purple colour.

S.officinalis-Syn Betonica officinalis. Have whorles of hooded flowers on sturdy stems.variety 'rosea' has flowers of clearer pink.

S.Olympica--is grown for its foliage rather than its flowers. they are mat forming, and produce woolly grey foliage. Excellent for the front of the border. They rarely produce flowers.

All the above species prefer an open, sunny position, others are woodland species and grow better in partial shade. Propagate by division in spring. Stachys silvatica, the hedge woundwort is a common wild species in the UK.

Stachys germanica


Isopogon formosa

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Isopogon formosus

Historical account--Isopogon formosa was is regarded as the 'Handsome Isopogon'. This the most beautiful of the genus, is said to be introduced so long ago as the year 1805, to the Kew garden. As far, however, that the public is concerned the date of its introduction may be more properly fixed in 1824, when it was raised from seeds collected in the neighbourhood of Lucky Bay, by Mr. Baxter on his first visit to the west coast of New Holland {Australia}. it is right , that questions should be asked about the period at which plants have been introduced and this distinction should be borne in mind; and that the world should be aware that the introduction of a plant to his Majesty's garden at Kew, is a very different affair from its introduction to Great Britain.

An object can nto be said to have been properly introduced from one country to another, unless it is afterwards disseminated by such means as the introducer possesses, a practice which is adopted by every establishment of the world.

The Isopogon formosa is a greenhouse shrub, remarkable for its hard,neat,rigid divided foliage and heads of purple flowers. propagation by ripened cuttings struck under a bell glass.

Modern day account--Isopogon the generic name derives from isos which indicates equal+ pogon meaning a beard alluding to the fringed flowers. The specific name of formosa indicates-beautiful/handsome.

I.formosa is commonly known as the rose cone flower and is part of the Proteaceae family of plants and is one of 27 species that occur naturally in Western Australia. They are generally found growing close to the coast in heath land.

Chrysanthemum indicum


Chrysanthemum indicum

Historical account---this plant, that Linnaeus intended by the name of C.indicum, and is probably a distinct species from the cultivated double chrysanthemums of the gardens. It was introduced by Mr. Brookes, of Ball's Pond about the year 1821. It requires the same management as the common Chinese Chrysanthemum but blooms as late as January. There is a garden cultivar known as the double yellow Indian chrysanthemum.

Modern day account---Chrysanthemums are perhaps one of the best known garden flowers. the name derives from the Greek khrysos, meaning gold +anthemon meaning flower alluding to the original gold colour of the flowers. These plants are much loved throughout the world for their colourful long lasting blooms, which were first cultivated in China.

The Royal Horticultural Society have now over 140 varieites that have gained the Award of Garden Merit. The United States National Chrysanthemum Society divides the species into 13 different bloom forms. many modern day garden chrysanthemums were bred from the species C.indicum. They belong to the large family of flowering plants the Asteraceae formerly known as the Composiate.

Garden species


Fuchsia microfolia


Fucshia thymifolia

Historical account----" We had lately the gratification of publishing a figure of the lovely Fuchsia microphylla of Mexico. We are now indebted to the same rich store of new plants for the opportunity of figuring another very interesting species of the genus-Fuchsia thymifolia of Kinth. It is a native of highland in Mexico, whence it was procured by Robert Barclay Esq. Humboldt found near Pazcuaco at an elevation of about 6,000 feet.

It is a half hardy shrub , remarkable for its soft entire leaves and changeable flowers, the petals of which are not rolled together, as is usually the case, but spread open. The blossoms are at first pale-greenish rose colour, gradually changing to deep red, so that there are many different hues upon the plant at the same time.

It propagates very rapidly from cuttings and will soon become a common plant. It flowers continuously throughout the summer months. The stem branched and shrubby, the branches are weak, round ash coloured and covered by a minute down. The leaves are ovate, obtuse on long stalk, covered on both sides with tiny pubescence, paler beneath some times opposite sometimes nearly opposite, often quite alternate.

The flowers are small,axillary, solitary much spreading wavy penduncles the length of the petioles and capillary. The tube of the calyx is funnel shaped, rather longer than the limb, which is divided into four sharp pointed pieces. Petals are oblong, flat,very much spreading, wavy obtuse. Stamens almost but not quite enclosed inn the calyx. Stigma a long way protruded, capulate undivided.

Modern day account---Fuchsias belong to the Order Myrtales and the Family Onagraceae. Today there are around 100 recognized species and many more sub species. The vast majority of species are native to South America.

For the Gardener---The species available for the gardener today are far to numerous to mention but they do include F.thymifolia and a hybrid between that species crossed with baillaris. There are also subspecies of F.thymifolia ssp mimiflora and F.thymifolia ssp thmiflora

Fuchsia thymifolia


Sisyrinchium californicum

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Sisyrinchium odoratissimum

Historical account ===For this species of Sisyrinchium we are indebted to Mr Mackay of Clapton, in whose Nursery our drawing {below} was made in June 1828. It is native of some part of the southern coast of south America, whence it was sent to Mr.Mackay by the collector on board His Majesty's discovery ship, under the command of Captain King.

It is perfectly hardy, having stood last winter without any protection, when its leaves were not even killed down. This species approaches Galaxia in the form of its flower but is so simliar to Sisyrinchium in habit and in everything except the long tube of the flower that is scarcely expedient to separate it from that genus.

The stem is a foot or a foot and a half. The leaves are very narrow, glacous, subulate at the apex. Spatha-consisting of bractae membranous at the margin, of which the lowermost is sharper than the others.

The flowers --several, very fragrant, nodding, on long stalks funnel shaped, dirty white, with brown purplish veins. Stamens three, the filiments united in a long tube the length of the flowers. Stigmas three, filiform, the length of the stamens. Ovarium three celled, many seeded.

Modern day account---Sisyrhinchium odoratissima is a cultivar of the family Iridaceae whose growth habit is prostrate. It is not now thought to be a good cultivar for gardens and the flowers are classed as faintly sweet. The plant has been used medicinally in the past it is toxic and not recommended for home use. It has no culinary uses. A dye can be obtained from the plant. It is frost tolerant.

Sisyrhinchium is also commonly known as ' Blue eyed grass'. Several species are under threat or endangered in the United States especially in the east. The name of the genus was thought to have derived from the Latin sus-a pig + rhinchos meaning a nose or snout, alluding to the fact that pigs were said to be fond of 'grubbing' the roots.

Although referred to as 'Blue eyed grass' they are not true grasses, however, many species have foliage giving the general appearance of grass. many species have the appearance of iris. Also despite being referred as 'grasses' many species have various coloured flowers as for an example Sisyrhinchium californicum has yellow flowers {pictured above} while S. bellum sometimes produces white flowers

For the Gardener---This genus consists of annuals and perennials some of which are semi-evergreen. They are fully to half hardy. prefers sun although tolerant of partial shade, and well drained or moist soil.They are propagated by division in early spring or by seed in spring or autumn. Species recommended for the gardener include ---

S.angustifolium. S. bellum. S.californicum. S.bermudiana.

Note that the species S.odoratissium is now called Phalophleps biflora, and is a clump forming, spring to summer flowering. The rhizomes are perennial 25-35cm {10-14 inches} tall with a spread of 5-8cm {2-3 inches}. It has cylindrical, rush like, erect, basal leaves. bears a small head of pendent white flowers that are striped and veined red

Lepechinia calycinia

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Lepechinia spicata

We conclude this the third in the series by looking at Lepechina spicata.

Historical account---we have frequently seen this plant raised from collections of Mexican seeds, wherefore we suppose it to be a common weed in that country. With us it is an hardy annual or biennial, growing a foot or two high, flowering from June to October, and readily increased by seeds.

Modern day account---Lepechinia is a genus of flowering plants in the order Lamiales and the family Lamiaceae-the mint family. the genus is named after Lepechin a Russian botanist and traveler. they are commonly referred to as 'picture sages' and are native to South America , Mexico and California along with the Dominion Republic and Hawaii.

There are several species with a variety of common names such as the Santa Ana Pitcher Sage native to the Santa Ana Mountians of southern California-L.cardiophylla and the San Diego Picture Sage -L.ganderi

Lepechinia spicata


Associated hubs

Origin of flowers-{One} looks at ---

Guettardia speciosa. Iris tennax, Lupinus arbustus, Canna discolor, Rhododendron arboretum, Correa pulchella, Acanthus mollis and Asclepias tuberosa.

Origin of flowers {Two} looks at---Cotoneaster frigidus. Ribes setosum, Dendrobium anceps, Prunus armenica, Penestemon triphllum, Canna speciosa, Lissanthe sapido, and Acaena pinnatifolia.


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    Post Comment

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi DDE, good to see you here. Your kind comments are as usual appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Very interesting on plants and of the origin, a worthy read for sure.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Thank you so much for your kind comments. best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very nice historical and practical info, as well as gorgeous plates to illustrate.


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