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Calceolaria darwinii - Darwin's Slipper Flower

These amusing little creatures are Calceolaria uniflora - Darwin's Slipper FlowerDiscovered by Charles Darwin in his voyage around South America, these unique flowers almost look like little orange penguins marching over the rocks.  This is a cool-climate species that probably won't thrive in warm climates.  If you can provide the right conditions, it's a delightful collector's plant.  This a very hard to find species - I've never seen it offered on Ebay before.

Calceolaria darwinii - Darwin's Slipper Flower

Calceolaria uniflora (= C. darwinii) is distantly related to Foxglove and Gesneriads.  It is an evergreen, perennial species that makes a rosette of small, tongue-shaped leaves.  Over time the plant multiplies into a small colony.  The genus name Calceolaria means "little shoe", referring to the slipper-shaped blooms.  These unusual flowers appear throughout the summer.  The pouch-like blooms are about 2 inches tall, and are suspended from 4-5 inch tall stems.  They have a white band across the open "mouth", with burgundy markings above and below it.  A local species of bird likes to eat the white part of the blooms.  This is a good thing, because it's how the flowers get pollinated!

Calceolaria uniflora/darwinii - Darwin's Slipper Flower

The plant comes from the southernmost tip of South America, not far from Antarctica.  The climate there is cool all year.  I recommend growing it at temperatures between 30 and 70 or 75 degrees F (-1 to 23C), with a drop in temperature at night.  I have no information on how it will fare outside that temperature range.  It grows well in a small pot in rich, well-draining soil, such as half potting soil and half sand.  The plants have a shallow root system and should be kept from drying out.  They prefer mostly sunny conditions, but protect them from strong afternoon sun.

 

Germination tips for the seeds are here.

 

Photos by Thomas Mathis, Steve Cook, and Jeronimo

 

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Turquoise Puya

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