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Flowers and Their Origins {one}

Updated on August 8, 2015

Cultivars all originate from wild species.


In this hub I am reviewing the history and botanical information of some familiar and some not so familiar flowering species. It is, in fact an history, of how many of our familiar garden plant species came to be such favoured cultivars. All our garden plants come from natural species which were discovered growing throughout the world by botanists and horticulturalists of days gone by.

The format will be an historical account and description of the species followed by modern day information. I hope that you will enjoy the hub as much as I did researching it. The Historical accounts relate to when the species were introduced to the UK, however, the plants come from all parts of the globe.

Guettardia speciosa

Public domain
Public domain | Source

Guettarda speciosa

The genus Guettarda is named after Stephen Guettard a French botanist {1700s} and they belong to the family Rubiaceae, and the order Gentianales.

The seeds of the plant were sent from Madagascar to the Horticultural Society, by Mr. John Forbes in 1823. It proves to be a tender stove plant, flowering in late August and September, and diffusing at that time a delicious fragrance, both at night and during the whole day.

It is not only a native of Madagascar, but also found in various parts of India, where, however, it is usually cultivated in gardens for the sake of its perfume. Dr, Wallich remarks, that of many hundreds of blossoms which he as examined, not one has been hermaphrodite. Of the few that we have seen, none were otherwise.

Modern day account-- In these more modern times the plant has attained the alternative common names of Beach Gardenia or Zebra Wood. It is found in coastal habitats in the tropical regions around the Pacific Ocean.

It attains the height of 6m, producing fragrant white flowers and large, green, prominently veined leaves. It is a shore species growing in sandy locations above the high tide mark. It is classed as a perennial shrub or small tree with a spread of 3-10 feet wide {1-3 m}. The flowers are 2.5 to 3cm {one to one and half inches} with 4-9 lobes. These are succeeded by sweet smelling globular fruit which mature from September until March.

It is a fine plant for those that live by the sea, it requires a sunny aspect and to be placed in well drained soil.

Iris tennax - The tough threaded iris

Iris tenax

2.5 Generic license
2.5 Generic license | Source

Iris tenax

Historical account---a new species discovered by Mr. Douglas, to whom we are much indepted for the following comments concerning this plant. " A common plant in north California, and along the coast of New Georgia, in dry soils or open parts of the woods, flowering in April and May. The native tribes about the river , in California find this plant very serviceable for many purposes. From the veins of the leaves fine cord is made,which is converted into fishing nets, and from its buoyancy,great strength and durability it suits that purpose admirably. It is also made into snares for deer and bears, and a good idea may be formed of its strength, when a snare not thicker than a sixteen thread line, is sufficient to strangle Cervus alies the great stag of California, one of the most powerful animals of its tribe. the cord is also manufactured into bags and other articles."

This plant grows readily and is soon increased considerably. being a perennial it would be cultivated at very little expense, and therefore it was thought to be more advantageous for the British Horticulturalist than the, then celebrated, New Zealand flax. It was described as being a plant, forming close tufts of rigid, erect , linear, ensiform , tough leaves, which in wild specimens are rather shorter than the flowers.

The stems are erect, a foot or more high,angular and leafy clothed at the base with remains of the leaves. the flowers are dark purple, veiny, the outer petals obovate, accuminate,spreading beardless. The inner petals obovate, rounded, erect, shorter than the others. Stigmas two -lobed, short.

Modern day account--the modern cultivars of Iris tenax, also referred to as the Oregon iris have blooms which vary from blue-violet, violet lavender, and white or near white. The foliage is herbaceous. Propagation may be achieved by dividing the rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs, or from seeds that are raised in an unheated green house.

Lupinus arbustus


The longspur lupin

Lupinus arbustus also referred to as the longspur lupin belong to the family Fabaceae {formerly Leguminosae}.

Historical account--it is very local in its range according to Mr. Douglas, only growing in north Carolina, invariably under the shade of solitary pines or oaks among coppice wood. it is common near Fort Vancouver, flowering May and June. Its nearest affinity is with Lupinus laxiflorus.

The drawing below was made in the Garden of Horticultural Society in late August 1829.

Mr.Douglas described the species at that time in the following manner.---The stem is round, white, nearly smooth, somewhat decumbent, a foot to a foot and a half. leaflets 7-13 oblong, thinly but finely silky on both sides. Stipules small subulate.

The flowers alternate or obscurely whorled. Pedicels short . Calyx villous, upper lip slightly divided, obtuse, under lip entire acute. Bracteolae minute , slender,processes, deciduous. Vexillum obcordate, blue, purple in the center, large in proportion to the alae and carina rose coloured. Carina ciliate. Pod somewhat broader at the apex. 3-5 seeded. Seeds small white.

Modern day account. the species is native to western North America from British Columbia to California to Utah. It is a perennial herb up to 70cm.{2.4feet } Sometimes hairier than others. Each palmate leaf is made up of 7-13 leaflets each up to 7cm {2.7 inches} long. The flower spike up to 18cm {7.2 inches} long. the spike produces whorls of flowers each up to 1.4 cm {Half an inch+} long. The sepals around the corolla has a knob-like spur at the back.

The flower colours are white to yellow to various shades of purple or pink. the pod {legume} 2,3cm { three quarters of an inch} long and hairy.

They are found in sage brush,scrub or mixed conifer forests 1500-3000m above sea level. Outside California they are found in Oregon,Idaho and Utah. They flower from May to July.

Lupinus arbustus

Canna discolor

The species Canna discolor belongs to the family Cannaceae, and the Order Zingiberales.

Historical account--A living plant of this species was sent to the Botanical Gardens, Trinidad by Sir Ralph Woodford, the late Govenor to A.B.Lambert Esq, in whose hothouse at Boyton, the specimen was produced.

Can or Canna, the Celtic name for the reed is said to have given rise to the name.

Modern day account---Its natural range is from South mexico to Colombia, however, it is had been widely introduced to many other places. The roots are perennial by nature which may grow exceedingly thick and are full of starch. It can attain the height of 3m and flowers from August until October in the northern latitudes.

There are a plethora of cultivars available including F1 and F2 hybrids. They are grown principally for their large decorative leaves which have a range of colours from bright green through to purplish green. Some species are very tender.

Canna discolor foliage.

The species is primarily grown for its foliage
The species is primarily grown for its foliage | Source

Rhododendron arboreum variety roseum

Rhododendron arboreum

Rhododendron arboreum the Tree Rhododendron belongs to the family Ericaceae and the Order of plants Ericales.

Historical account--relates to the variety roseum--it has bright rose coloured flowers and a little brown tomentum on the underside of the leaves. It is a hardy species. The drawing on the right hand side was made in Mr. Joseph Knights' nursery in the Kings Road, [London} in February 1828. The plant was cultivated in the conservatory.

Dr. Wallich kindly informs us, that this variety is found no where except upon the summit of Sheopore, the highest mountain among those which confine the great valley of Nipal [Nepal} on the north, and at an elevation of not less than 10,000 feet, where it grows intermixed with the white variety, which is, however, the less common of the two.

In this mountainous region they both attain, along with the scarlet sort, the size of large forest trees. The latter, however, although it is found growing among them, is more naturally an inhabitant of a zone about 5000 feet lower. It is found all over the mountains of Nipal { Nepal} and Kumoon and Sirmore and this may as Dr, Wallich remarks, account for it being less hardy than the red sort, because the collectors are more apt to gather seeds from trees low down rather than at greater elevations.

Modern-day account---Rhododendron arboreum is an evergreen shrub or small tree. it can attain the height of 36 feet and even more where conditions are favourable with a spread of almost the same.

The flowers are bell shaped forming a flower head that may consist of 15-25 bell shaped flowers. The red. pink or white flowers, depending on the species have black spots inside the 'bell'.

The plant is useful in shaded woodland gardens and prefers rich leafy humus rich soil. there are five recognised sub species.

Rhododendron arboreum

3.0 Unported license
3.0 Unported license | Source

Correa pulchella

3.0 Unported license
3.0 Unported license | Source

Correa pulchella

Correa pulchella sometimes referred to as the Australian fuchsia belongs to the family Rutaceae and the Order Sapinales.

Historical account--A handsome shrub. The image drawing {below} was made in the greenhouse of the Comte de Vandes in October. it is said to have been introduced by Mr. Mackay, of the Clapton Nursery, about the year 1824. It is a healthy-looking , hardy greenhouse shrub and strikes from cuttings without much difficulty.It is a native of New Holland.

Modern day account. It attains the height of one to three feet on average with a spread of up to six feet. The foliage is broadly ovate. In their native range they flower from late April through to September. The colours vary from a pinkish red, through to orange and very rarely white. they are pendulous and bell shaped with yellow anthers. It is found in its native state in South Australia. It prefers well drained alkaline soil and low humidity. There are several cultivar varieties.

Correa pulchella

Acanthus mollis

2.0 Generic license  cc-by-2.0
2.0 Generic license cc-by-2.0 | Source

Acanthus mollis

Acanthus mollis also referred to as Bears breeches belongs to the Acanthaceae and the Order Lamiales. Acanthus derives from the Greek akantha meaning a thorn alluding to the thorn bearing sepals. while mollis derived from Latin and means soft or smooth referring to the texture of the leaves.

Historical account---Source The new botanic garden 1812}--This genus comprehends several hardy,herbaceous plants of the perennial kind which are for the purpose of ornament in pleasure gardens etc. Also one of the evergreen shrubby sort for the stove. It is in the class and order Didynamia Angiosperma, and ranks in the Natural order of Personata.

The characters are,--that the calyx is a perianthum, with leaflets in three alternative pairs, unequal and permanent. The corolla is single petalled and unequal having a short tube closed with a beard. No upper lip, very large under lip, which is flat, straight, very broad, three lobed, obtuse and of the length of the upper lip of the calyx.

The stamina {stamens},have four filaments, subulate, shorter than the corolla, the two upper rather longer. The antherae are oblong, compressed, obtuse, the lateral ones parallel. The pistillium has a conical germ, a filiform style of the stamina, and two acute lateral stigmas.

The pericarpium is a subovate pointed capsule, two celled and two valved, with a contrary partition, alternative claws, curved and fastened to the partition. The seed is ovate, gibbous and single, but sometimes double.

The smooth acanthus according to Miller , has the stem from 2-3 feet high. The leaves are oblong, smooth on both sides and shining. they are about a foot in length deeply dived in to opposite ovate lobes, which are bluntly toothed and finely ciliate about the edges, placed on roundish petioles with a flat channel running along the upper surface.

Both the leaves and the flower stems arise directly from the root. the former spreading close to the ground in circular clusters producing a good effect. Although the leaves are said to be smooth they are not without bristles on both sides especially along the nerves.

The flowers are white and come out from the middle to the top of the stem. They make their appearance in July or August continuing to blow a month or six weeks, and produce seed. Both the smooth and the prickly acanthus are fond to succeed in any common soil without much attention to the nature of the exposure. they may be propagated by seeds or the parting of the roots.

Acanthus mollis and Asclepias tuberosa


Asclepias tuberosa

Asclepias tuberosa belongs to the Order Gentianales and the family Apocynaceae, and is a species of milk weed native to Eastern North America. It is also known by the alternative common name of Indian Paint Brush.

Historical account.-- This genus comprises various plants of the flowery, perennial, herbaceous and shrubby exotic sorts, and of swallow wort and dog's bane kinds. it belongs to the class and order Penandria Digynia and ranks in the natural order Contortae.

The characters are-- That the calyx is five cleft, sharp, very small, permanent perianthium. The corolla monopetalous, flat or reflex, five parted. the divisions ovate-acuminate, slightly bending with the sun.

The nectares five, growing to the tube of the filaments below the anthers, fleshy or cowled. Protruding from the bottom a sharp horn bending inwards. the stamina consist of five filaments collected into a tube, swelling at the base. The anthers oblong , upright, and two celled, terminated by an inflex membrane living on the stigma, having a reversed wing on each side, growing broader downwards with the edge contiguous to the next.

The pollen is collected into ten corpuscles inversely lanceolate, flat, hanging down in the cell of the anther by short threads, frequently flexuose, which are annexed by pairs to five cartilaginous haun tubercles, each placed on the tip of the wings of the anthers, adhering to the angles of the stigma, between the anthers.

Modern day account. --The roots of this species are perennial and as its specific name suggests tuberous. It grows to the height of just over three feet {90cm}, and bears clusters of orange, sometimes yellow flowers, from early summer until the autumn {fall}.

The foliage is arranged in spirals and are 5-12cm "-^ inches} long and 2.3cm { inch+ wide.} The habitat for the species is dry, sandy or gravel soil it thrives in full sun. One of its alternative common names is the butterfly weed alluding to the many species of butterflies attracted to the flowers particularly the Monarch butterfly. In the USA there are thought to be three sub species.

Asclepias is believed to be named after the Greek god of medicine,Asklepios. The stems are hairy and erect and grow in clumps. The flowers are showy and are arranged in rounded to flat topped clusters near the end of the branches. each flower has five petals, bent downwards topped by a crown of five erect hoods, each one containing a short horn. The fruits are hairy, spindle shaped the pods being 8-15cm long The numerous seeds have a tuft of long white hairs at the tip.

Asclepias tuberosa The Indian Paint brush


End of part one

This first hub in the series has looked at eight species along with their historical accounts. I hope you have found it interesting. More hubs in this format are to follow.

The second in the series -Flowers and their origins {Two} looks at---Cotoneaster, Ribes setosum, Dendrobium anceps, Prunus armeniaca, Penestemon triphyllum, Canna speciosa, Lissanthe sapida, and Acaena pinnatifida.

Thank you for visiting

Nathaniel Wallich

Dr. Wallich is mentioned in the historical accounts of many species.
Dr. Wallich is mentioned in the historical accounts of many species.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Fossillady, thank you for being the first to visit and for leaving your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

    • Fossillady profile image


      5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      It's interesting how plants we love and often find in nurseries have natural beginning. I often like know where they originated from. Very interesting article and the illustrations are beautiful.


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