Lapageria rosea red bell shaped blooms
Lapageria rosea

Commonly known as the Chilean bellflower or copihue,  Lapageria rosea is an attractive, evergreen twining climbing plant noted for its exotic bell-shaped blooms. It is a native to temperate rainforests on the west coast of southern South America, lying mostly in Chile and extending into a small part of Argentina.

It was discovered and first described Spanish botanists Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón Jiménez and subsequently introduced to Europe by Cornish plant collector William Lobb (1809–1864) during his 1845–1848 plant collecting expedition. There are even records of it growing at Royal Kew gardens in 1847!

Lapageria rosea seeds in glas bowl of water
Lapageria rosea seeds
In 1977 Lapageria rosea was given legal protection in Chile, having become rare through over-collection and forest clearance. Prior to this, the roots were collected and used as a substitute for sarsaparilla, while the fruits (known as kopiw) were sold in local markets.

The pendant, red, waxy flowers have six thick, tepals which are spotted with white dots. They appear singly or in clusters over a long period from late summer through to the autumn. Once pollinated, tough-skinned, elongated fruits appear which contain  numerous small seeds

In its natural habitat Lapageria rosea is pollinated by hummingbirds which are attracted by sweet nectar held in specialized sacs inside the flowers. However with the introduction of non-native species they are also pollinated by several species of honey bee.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Lapageria rosea to exceed a height of 5 metres in. although 10 metres is not uncommon in the Chilean rainforests. The leaves are leathery, lanceolate and feature three to seven prominent parallel veins.

Lapageria rosea enjoys a sheltered, shady position in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil rich in organic matter. Protect from cold drying winds and provide suitable support. Due to its subtropical origins it is only suitable for growing outside where only light frosts are experienced.

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