A shrub with woolly leafbacks, flowerbuds, and calyxes
The name lanata ("woolly", see etymology below) comes from the dense white hair covering the pedicels, calyxes, and backs of young leaves. This woolly character is most pronounced in blooming season, since the hair completely covers the developing flowerbud and its stalk.
Calyx lobes enclose the flowerbud
This picture shows two flowers of Vanhouttea lanata. On the right is a flowerbud. Note the hair all long the stalk and covering the calyx. Also note that the calyx lobes are joined together along their margins and completely enclose the corolla bud.
The flower color is slightly off -- a little too dark because of adjustments made owing to the sunshine. The color in the picture at the top of the page is closer to that of the actual plant.
The flower is at the end of the male phase. The anthers, visible as the white mass lying on top of the lowest corolla lobe, are still full of pollen, but the stigma is just beginning to emerge from the tube. In the picture at the top of the page, the anthers have dried up and curled down out of the way, a physical mechanism adopted by most sinningia-alliance flowers to avoid self-pollination.
The calyx lobes curl like talons over the developing fruit. When the fruit is mature, the calyx lobes spread open in a five-pointed star to clear the way for seed dispersal.
Vanhouttea lanata is hardy to 32F, but can lose some or all of its leaves in colder weather. A sizable plant was killed by the freeze in January 2007, when overnight lows were around 28 F [-2 C] for five nights in a row.
Vanhouttea Comparison Page
Because most vanhoutteas do not bloom easily outside Brazil, we have a page showing a comparison of the leaves of four vanhouttea species.
In the middle of 2006, one of my V. lanata plants had produced flowerbuds all along one branch. When I was moving another plant, it accidentally snagged the bud-laden branch and tore it off. After trying out some colorful phrases I had learned in my youth, I cut the branch into a couple of pieces and stuck them in a flask full of water.
One of the cuttings rooted, filling the flask with fine hairs. Most of the buds dropped, but one (after three months) opened, and here it is!
Epilog: Eventually I put the cutting, water roots and all, in soil. It promptly died.
Brad Walker sent this picture of V. lanata x Sinningia eumorpha. He got the seed from Mauro Peixoto, who made the cross.
Brad says it is a difficult plant to keep alive.
|Shrub, branching mostly at base
|Green, hairy on reverse
|No tuber. Plant does not grow in winter, but fruits mature in late autumn through mid-winter.
|Blooms in summer, early autumn. Fruits ripen in winter.
|Red, funnelform, stripes on corolla lobes and tube
|Once survived 28F (-2C) in my yard, but a longer spell at that temperature killed it.
|Yes, with reservations. The fuzzy foliage and flowerstalks are very attractive, but the plant takes up too much space to grow indoors unless you have a mansion.
|In a vanhouttea subgroup of the Sinningia clade.
Mauro Peixoto's web site has a page about Vanhouttea lanata.
Etymology: Latin lanata, from lana ("wool"), whence English "lanolin". The Indo-European root wele gave rise to Latin lana (via wlana), English "wool", and (via Welsh gwlan) English "flannel". There will be a quiz.