Friday, April 03, 2009

Robinsonella cordata

Robinsonella cordata with stunning lavender-blue flowers
Robinsonella cordata | Heartleaf Robinsonella, Tree Mallow

There are approximately 21 species in this genus, named after Dr. B.L. Robinson, Curator of Harvard's Gray Herbarium in the 1890s. Robinsonella cordata is a central American tree up to 13m tall, found in various locations from southern Mexico to Guatemala. It can be found growing naturally in gullies mainly in deciduous and mixed forests, at elevations up to 1900m. The small lavender flowers (sometimes more pale to white) are borne in clusters, usually from February through April in the natural range.

Historical Information: Robinsonella cordata was originally introduced to California by an Italian horticulturalist named Francesco Franceschi who obtained seed from Guatemala. In 1893, Franceschi established a nursery in Santa Barbara, that specialized in the introduction exotic plants to California —there may even still be a Robinsonella tree at Franceschi Park in Santa Barbara.

Robinsonella cordata
A rare pink-flowered form grown from seed.

Historical Reference: Robinsonella cordata. Specimens representing this species were collected by Professor C. Conzatti on the hacienda de Guadalupe, Oaxaca, Mexico, altitude 1600m., December 6, 1908. Professor Conzatti's specimens are in full flower, but the leaves are not entirely expanded, thus giving at first glance a very different appearance from the type specimens secured by Dr. Pringle in 1895. In all essential characters there is exact correspondence. This collection records a second known locality for this very distinct and showy species.

   Publication By Field Columbian Museum
   Published by The Museum, 1916

Historical Reference: Robinsonella cordata. (Rebsamenia arborea) Conzatti. Dr. T. H. Kearney recently wrote to the senior author of the present paper, inquiring about the identity of the genus Rebsamenia, which, although described as a tree, is not mentioned in Trees and Shrubs of Mexico, having been overlooked by the author. As described, Rebsamenia consisted of a single species, based upon a collection by V. Gonzalez and C. Conzatti from Cerro de San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico, March 7, 1898. Conzatti's description is sufficiently ample, its most significant phrases indicating that the plant described is a tree and that its flowers are blue, which among Mexican Malvaceae can apply only to the genus Robinsonella, described by Rose and Baker in 1897. In her excellent monograph of Robinsonella (Journ. Arnold Arb. 12: 49. 1931) Mrs. Eva M. Fling Rousch does not mention Rebsamenia, but it is clear that this is referable to Robinsonella cordata, which is cited there (p. 58) as having been collected on Cerro de San Felipe by Gonzalez and Conzatti March 7, 1898 (no. 671). This no. 671 is doubtless the type collection of Rebsamenia cordata

   Studies of Central American Plants VII
   Published by Paul C. Standley
   October 22, 1947