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Origin of Flowers {two}

Updated on August 8, 2015

Second in the series

This is the second in a series of hubs that review the natural history and botanical information of how some familiar and not so familiar garden plant species came to be such much liked as cultivars. All our garden plants derived from wild species which were discovered growing throughout the world by botanists and plant collectors of days gone by.

The format will be as an historical account of the species and followed by a modern day account. The historical account is taken from " Edwards Botanical Register { 1829-1847} courtesy of the BHL.{ Not in copyright} These accounts relate to the species being introduced into the UK, however, the plants come from all parts of the globe.

Cotoneaster frigidus-Thrush species thrive on the berries

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Cotoneaster frigidus

Cotoneaster frigidus formerly C.frigida. Historical account----

For the discovery of this species we are indebted to Dr. Wallich, by whose plant collectors it was brought from the mountains of that northern region of Nipal called Gossain. With us it forms a small but very handsome deciduous tree, snow white blossom during April and May, and crimsoned with bright red haws in the months of September and October.

The drawing {below} was made in the garden of the Horticultural Society in which this fine plant , raised from seed, was received from the Honourable Court of Directors of the East India Company. It is perfectly hardy and may be increased abundantly by grafting upon the white-thorn stock.

Modern day-- there are now many species of cotoneaster now available to gardeners, this native of the Himalayas is widely grown in gardens of the temperate regions.

Cotoneaster 1828

Ribes missouriense

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Ribes setosum

Historical record---this plant was once called the ' Bristly stemmed gooseberry.

Plants of this undescribed Ribes were presented to the Society by Messrs Loddiges, with the name Missouri gooseberry. It is a low bush having its branches densely covered with setae; among which , particularly about the bases of the young branches, are intermixed with many unequal, straight, subulate aculei.

The leaves are roundish deeply cordate, covered as well as their stalks with a minute glandular pubescence. The margin is 3-5 lobed, or angled with numerous nearly rounded incisions. The flowers are white, tubular and about half as long as those of Ribes aureum, appearing in pairs and hanging in profusion from beneath the branches. The berries are black spherical and hispid with a subacid pleasant flavour a little partaking as musk.

This is a very striking species not so showy as the long flowered American currants with coloured calyes, is by far the most ornamental of all the gooseberries yet in our gardens. The fruit possesses no merit. It ripens in July, fruits are more akin to currants. It appears from the specimens brought home by Mr. Douglas to be native of the banks of the Sascatchewan River in North America. It is readily increased by cuttings.. The drawing {below } was made in the garden of the Horticultural Society in May 1826.

Modern day account-- It is now recognised as Ribes missouriense of the Order Saxifragales and the family Grosssulariaceae. Although it is called the Missouri gooseberry and it is native to the State of Missouri it may also be encountered in the adjoining parts of Kansas and Arkansas. It has been introduced to many other States and to parts of Canada. In the wild in New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania it is classed as being endangered.

Dendrobium chrysotum


Dendrobium anceps

Dendrobium anceps, the double edged Dendrobium, from dendron meaning a tree + bios life it is an inhabitant of tree trunks, in swampy,low situations in the estuaries of the rivers of Bengal and Pegu {now Bago Burma}.

Historical account--- According to Dr. Wallich to whom the gardens of England are indepted for the introduction of this curious species. In its natural position it is pendulous, but in the drawing {below} it is represented erect- the plant in the garden of Horticultural Society from which the figure was taken, having at the time been tied to a stake.

It flowers at uncertain seasons, and grows more freely than other plants in a similar habitat. In appearance it is very much like the Herba supplex quinta of Rumphius, but the plant has spiked flowers. The stems are numerous, compressed, fleshy, pendulous. The leaves are distichous, fleshy, compressed, ovate-oblong, acute and pale green.

The flowers are solitary, herbaceous, the sepals oval, erect, acute, the inner ones the smallest, the lower ones connate with the long base of the column. The lip is unguiculate with neither callosities, a little coloured.

Modern day account.--- Dendrobium is a large genus of orchids and contains about 1200 species. These orchids grow quickly throughout the summer but rest during the winter. reproduction is usually by means of seeds.

The plants of this genus occur in many types of habitat and many countries which include the Philippines, Borneo, Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. Dendrobiums are either epiphytic or lithophytic. Epiphytic alludes to a plant that lives upon another plant such as a tree. From the Greek epi-meaning upon+ phyton-a plant.

Lithophyte are various kinds of plants that grow in or on rocks.

Dendrobium anceps

More conventional Apricots

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Prunus armeniaca formerly Prunus dasycarpa {purple fruited apricot.} Now referred to as the black apricot.

Historical account--Prunus dasycarpa is the plant known in nurseries as the black apricot. As a fruit it has no kind of value, but as a handsome hardy tree it deserves cultivation. it is treated in all respects as the common apricot, and flowers about the same period of the year. Its native county is unknown. {dasycarpa means thick fruited}. Our drawing {below} was made in the garden of the Horticlutural Society.

It is a middle sized tree with smooth branches almost like those of the common apricot but more slender. The leaves are stalke, oval or ovate-acuminate, obtuse somewhat rugose with glandular petioles. Flowers fascicled on short stalks. Calyx and coroola often in six pairs. the fruit is about the size of a common plum, dark purple with a tawny austere flesh.

Modern day account-- it is a small tree 8-12 meters high 26-39 feet. it has a dense spreading canopy. The flowers have five white to pinkish flowers in early spring before the leaves appear. The fruit is known as a drupe, a single seed is produced in the form of a hard shell referred to as the stone.

This apricot was known in ancient Armenia hence its modern day scientific name of Prunus armenia -The Armenian plum. It belongs to the Order, Rosales and the family Rosaceae {rose family}

Prunus armeniaca Formerly Prunus dasycarpus

Penstemon triphyllum-three leaved pentstemon

Historical account---According to Mr. Douglas, by whom this was detected, it is a common plant on decomposed dry granite or schist rocks, on the Blue Mountains of North West America, in the district watered by the River Columbia. It is also found on the mountains to the southward in northern California.

It was introduced by the Horticultural Society in 1827 and flowered in August 1828 when the drawing below was made. The verticiliate disposition of the leaves is not represented in the drawing, in which the uppermost part of a very vigorous plant is shewn. They are characteristic of the species and in both the wild and cultivated plants vary from 3-4 in a whorl. it is a perennial and easily cultivated in common soil.

The stem is round, branching, red, smooth and wiry. It grows to the height of 12-16inches {30-40cm}. The leaves are sessile, linear, acute, widely and unequally divided, in threes round the stem, the upper or floral ones perfectly entire and glabrous. The flowers are axillary, panicled, with upright rarely more than three flowered peduncles, clothed with very fine, long, white entangled hairs.

Modern day account. --Penstemon's belong to the Order Lamiales and the family Pantaginaceae . In 1946 the American Penestemon Society was formed to promote horticultural and botanical interest . The Arboretum at Flagstaff Arizona holds the largest collection of these plants.

The name Penestemon derives from the Greek Penta meaning five+ stamen the name alluding to the unusual 5th stamen. The original name of 'pentstemon' was still in use up to the 20th century.

Pentstemon triphyllum

Pink canna


Canna speciosa

Historical account----The name Canna is supposed to have derived from the Celtic cana, meaning a reed, or rather cotton grass. We read somewhere in Ossian that ' her neck is white as the down of cana'

Dr. Wallich remarks in a communication with which he has favoured us, and from which the description is extracted, that-" This stately and ornamental species grows wild in the valley of Nipal, and among the surrounding mountains. It is also found in the Province of Kamoon.

It was introduced into the Calcutta Garden in 1817 by the Honourable Edward Gardner, resident at the Court of Katmandoo. It is in blossom and ripens its fruit almost all the year round. The drawing {below} was made in August last {1828} from a plant in the garden of the Horticultural Society, to which establishment it had been presented by the Honourable Court of Directors of the East India Company.

It appears from an Indian drawing made under Dr. Wallich's direction, that in its native country it becomes a much larger plant than that from which the drawing was taken, with a wide branching panicle, and broad furfuraceous or pruinose truncate bractea.

Modern day account--- Canna belong to the Zingiberales Order of plants and placed in the family Cannaceae. Sometimes they are referred to as the Canna lily { though this is misleading for it is not a true lily}. Canna is the only genus of the family Cannaceae. There are 19 species of Canna.

Canna speciosa is an upright slender plant. The foliage is numerous and arch gracefully. The Plant flowers that are twin coloured and striking, they have scarlet petals and a conspicuous yellow throat. Canna discolor see Hub -1 in this series.

Canna speciosa

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Lissanthe sapida

Historical account---Lissanthe sapida is also known as the Australian cranberry.

This is a handsome green house shrub, native to New Holland in the vicinity of Port Jackson, flowering in this country in the winter months. The drawing { below} was communicated by Mr. Mackay of the Clapton Nursery in December 1828.

The generic name means 'smooth flower' alludes to the polished surface of the corolla. The fruit is a succulent drupe and is mentioned in the 'Library of Entertaining Knowledge', under the name of the Australian cranberry, as being ' Of a very delicate peach bloom colour, having something of the consistency and taste of the Siberian crab'. We wish , if it ripens its fruit in this country, it may be found worthy of even this description.

Branches are mouse coloured, tapered, leaves close, an inch long, quite smooth, coriaceous, linnear, acute at each end, beneath whitish , the surface being covered by numerous minute stomata, and marked with parallel veins, which only traverse the lower stratum of the parenchyna.

The corolla is hypogynous, campanualta, a little contracted in the middle, easily separable into five petals, being however, truly monpetalous, the tube bearing in the middle of the inside a bearded ring. Stamens five,nearly sessile at the recesses.

Modern day account---Lissanthe is a genus of shrubs of the family Ericaceae and the Order Ericales. The species sapida is found near Sydney in Australia and is now considered to be a very rare plant that may be encountered in eucalyptus woodland and rocky localities on sand stone.

It attains the height of around a meter but individual specimens may reach up to two meters. It flowers from March to September. The flowers are bell shaped and pendulous. The fruit is red and globe shaped with a flat top.

Lissanthe sapidus

Acaena pinnatfida

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Acaena pinnatifida

Historical account---A half hardy herbaceous plant, native of Chile where it was found by the authors of 'Flora Peruvianna' by whom it has figured and described in their great work. The introduction of it to the gardens of this country is due to the Horticultural Society, in whose garden at Chiswick, where the drawing {below} was made in May 1828, it has been raised from seeds collected in Chile by Mr. Rae.

It is increased by cuttings of its half woody stems, or by division of the roots, or by seeds. During the summer it grows well in an open border but it will not live here in winter. The following is a description of the Acaena pinnatififida as it appears in our gardens---it is an herbaceous plant, becoming slightly pubescent at the base.

Stem--ascending, leafy,covered by silky hairs as are all other parts. The leaves in 4-5 pairs, leaflets usually four parted, sometimes 3 parted occasionally 5 parted. the lower leaflets smaller, alternate and somewhat entire.

the flowers are hermaphrodite, in interrupted spikes. Spike formed of several heads, clustered at the top, becoming remote towards the base and finally changing to one or two axillary flowers.

Modern day account---Acaena is a genus of about 100 species of, in the main, creeping perennial, herbaceous plants and small shrubs of the Rosaceae family and the Order Rosales. They mainly occur in the southern hemisphere.

The species A.pinnatifida is now found in the coastal scrub areas in California and is endemic to California.

Here we conclude the second article in this series, however, there will be many more in this series as we discover the origins of the plethora of plant species that brighten our world and our lives. Thank you for visiting.

Acaena pinnatifida

Hubs in this series.

This is the second in the series ORIGIN OF FLOWERS The first being--

History and Botanical information of some familiar flowering species--One} which looks at Guettarda speciosa, Iris tennax, Lupinus arbutus,{ Long spurred lupin} Canna discolor, {ornamental foliage plant } Rhododendron arboreum, Correa pulchella, Acanthus mollis and Ascepias tuberosa.

ORIGIN OF FLOWERS {Three}, looks at Ipomopsis elegans. Dendrobium Secunda. Stachys germanica. Isopogon formosa. Chrysanthemum indicum. Fuchsia tymifolia. Sisyrinchium odoratissimum. and Lepechinia spicata

Thank you for visiting.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      thank you for taking the time to visit and for leaving your most appreciated comments. best wishes to you .

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      This is not only interesting but really impressive! You've done a lot of research in order to share this with us. Thank you.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.


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