Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wercklea insignis

Wercklea insignis
New bloom with day old bloom at top.
Wercklea insignis | Costa Rica Teaselmallow, Burío, Clavelón de montaña, Panamá, Tabacón

Formerly Hibiscus wercklei. Closely related to Hibiscus, the genus Wercklea differs in that the bracts beneath its blooms form a three-lobed cup instead of being several and separate. Named after Carlos Werckl, a 19th century Costa Rican botanical collector, Werklea insignis is listed as 'vulnerable' in its native Costa Rica and western Panama.

Wercklea insignis is a small tree 5 to 15m tall, with a cylindrical gray barked trunk that sounds hollow when it is struck. Leaf stalks to 20cm long, leaves are broadly heart to kidney shaped. The large trumpet-shaped flowers are lavender or pink and borne in winter or spring. This species can be found in moist forests, mostly above 1000m, principally on river banks or along gorges. Although there are 4 species of Wercklea in Costa Rica, Wercklea insignis is the only species with lavender (or pink) flowers.

Historical Reference: An endemic genus, composed of only two species. Dedicated to Carlos Werckl, genial, tireless, and enthusiastic explorer of the Costa Rican forests, a well informed student of the flora of his adopted land. Plentiful in the region of La Palma and La Hondura de San Jose, where it grows along the old cart road and on the banks of mountain streams, sometimes forming small, pure stands; noted also at Las Nubes, on the slopes of Irazu, but there less abundant; also in the region of San Ramon. Endemic. A beautiful and ornamental tree, planted in gardens at San Francisco de Guadalupe, and perhaps elsewhere. It is one of the most interesting and showy trees of Costa Rica, and, abounding as it does along the old cart road to the Atlantic coast, in some places with its branches extending over the road so as to brush a traveler on horseback, it is hard to understand why it was not collected 50 years ago or more, for it must have been seen by most of the botanists who have visited Costa Rica.

   Flora of Costa Rica, Part II
   Paul C. Standley
   October 20, 1937

Historical Reference: The tree grows in the humid forest at the summit of the mountains about La Palma, a region swept by the moist trade winds from the east. The surrounding trees are usually covered with lichens and other epiphytes, but the trunks of Wercklea are bare of such growths.

   Studies of tropical American phanerogams
   Paul C. Standley, 1914