Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Lipstick Plant

Our Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus radicans) has been on a long road from cutting to flowering. Originally, the cutting was obtained at a local hospital when my cousin, Doug, had heart surgery in January 2007. That start eventually gave rise to a plant my aunt, Mae Boyer, grew. Hers bloomed a number of times in the past. Our cutting was then taken from hers.

 Year after year, we carried it out to the back porch each summer and brought it back inside every October. Winters the plant grew on our rather cool enclosed porch that was, at least, south-facing. Last winter I set up a kerosene heater on that porch many brutal nights, most notably one that dropped to -12°. I'm surprised anything survived on that porch, but it did.

 The best source for information on this unusual plant can be found here. Most notably, the Lipstick Plant is an epiphyte - it grows on other plants, similar to the nature of orchids. It is related to the African Violet and Gloxinia and is native to the West Indies and the tropics of South America.

 I have never seen the plant for sale in a greenhouse but I suppose they must be cultivated and available on the open market. Their natural inclination is to vine and trail downward so they're most suited for a hanging basket.

 After years of no more than green leaves - and after it had spent the past summer outdoors - it sent forth a number of the deep purple calyxes's on October 24. We had already brought it indoors for the winter. We were quite surprised to find the plant readying to bloom when it seemed optimum weather had passed.

October 24

 When we first saw that our Lipstick Plant was ready to bloom, we found these deep purple calyxes first. The red bloom slides up and out of these structures, just like red lipstick in a tube.

October 24

 The plant is beautiful even before it blooms. The calyx is covered with fine white hairs and look like tiny royal trumpets.

October 24

 We have our plant growing in a metal birdbath. Though the plant is best suited for a hanging basket. we used this birdbath on the back porch last summer and then just carried it inside when the weather began to cool. The plant cascades down over the side.

November 1

 By the first of this month the first red flowers were visible inside the calyx. Shooting as I did from above, and using flash, I was able to show how the red blooms were developing down inside the tubes.

November 3

 Just two more days and the "lipstick" is beginning to push out of the tube. It's a rather quick process once begun.

November 4

 Yet another day and the flowers have extended well beyond the calyx. There is no scent whatsoever.

November 5

 Some of the buds have begun to expand a bid on the leading edge. They're getting ready to open now.

November 6

 And the opening process now begins. The very end begins to split with the interior still hidden in dark shadow

November 7

 And now a couple of the flowers are open, two weeks after we first found the plant beginning the process. Of course it actually began well before October 24; we just didn't notice it.

November 8 

Most of the flowers are now opening. One, at the bottom, has been behind the others from day one.

November 8

 The color and the physical structure reminds me a little bit of a Christmas Cactus readying to bloom.

November 8

 I'll continue to take pictures and post them as time allows.

 November 10

November 11

 Thus ends this post. The flowers are now fully open (except for one) and the brilliant red on our porch is almost blindingly bright. Such joy we've received from this unusual plant.

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