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An evergreen climber 10 to 15 ft high, with glabrous, slender, stiff, hard shoots which attach themselves to their supports by twining round them. Leaves alternate, stiff and leathery in texture, the larger ones heart-shaped and five-nerved, the smaller ones ovate and three-nerved, always pointed, 11⁄4 to 4 in long, 3⁄4 to 3 in. wide, dark glossy green, stalk 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. long. Flowers solitary, or two or three together, produced from the ends of the shoots, or in the terminal leaf-axils. Each flower is 3 in. long, 2 in. wide, pendulous, composed of six fleshy segments, the three inner ones much the larger, rich crimson, faintly spotted with rose, the whole forming a flower of long bell-like shape. Stamens six, white, 2 in. long; anthers yellow, 1⁄4 in. long. Flower-stalk 1⁄2 in. long, mostly covered with clasping bracts. Fruit an ovoid-oblong berry, rather three-sided, 2 in. long, 1 in. wide, tapering towards the apex, with numerous seeds embedded in its pulp. Bot. Mag., t. 4447.
Native of Chile and Argentina; introduced to Kew in 1847, ever since which date it has been prized as one of the most beautiful-flowered of greenhouse climbers. In later times it has been much grown on shady walls in Cornwall, Devon, and similar climates. It has also been successfully grown and flowered in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden on a south wall shaded by a high building. It is one of the remarkable woody climbers belonging to the lily family, and has a rambling root system from which it sends up new shoots. The whole plant at maturity is curiously stiff in texture and apart from the flowers, in no way attractive. Although it does not like fierce sunshine, the lapageria is a warmth-loving species, and in the wild does not extend farther south in Chile than latitude 41 ° S. It needs abundant moisture and a deep open-textured soil. It flowers over most of the summer and autumn months. Propagated by seeds or layers.
The flowers vary in size, marking, and depth of colouring. According to Dr C. Muñoz Pizarro (Flores Silvestres deChile (1966), p. 32), the deepest coloured and perhaps also the largest flowers are to be seen in the region of Concepcion. An exquisitely beautiful white-flowered form (var. albiflora Hook., Bot. Mag. t. 4892; L. alba Gay) was introduced to the British Isles by Richard Pearce in 1860. Such plants, according to Dr Muñoz, are rare in the wild but occasionally to be seen in Cautin province. Dr Wilfrid Fox, when travelling in Chile in 1932, found a form of lapageria growing wild whose flowers were striped lengthways with crimson. Many colour variants are cultivated in Chile, where the copihue is the national flower (see further in Calif. Hort. Soc. Journ., Vol. 25, pp. 62-69). Of those raised in Britain the finest is perhaps ‘Nash Court’, with soft-pink, slightly marbled flowers. It received a First Class Certificate in 1884 and is still available in commerce.