Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Spotlight: Weeping Rostrinucula

By Erika Zambello

I have never seen a plant quite like the weeping rostrinucula (Rostrinucula dependens). Beth Hall, the Paul J. Kramer plant collections manager here at Duke Gardens, was giving me an afternoon tour of the October blossoms throughout the Gardens when I saw it for the first time. She had pointed out orange-flowered tea olives, Jerusalem artichokes, chrysanthemums, American beautyberries and so many more, but it was the weeping rostrinucula that immediately caught my eye for one simple reason. Their flowers look like fingers.

According to Hall, I'm not alone in my fascination. "One of the plants that catches attention in the Gardens this time of year is Rostrinucula dependens," Halls tells me, as it is "an unusual shrub with lavender-pink flowers that hang pendulously below the leaves."

I know when I describe the flowers as "fingers," a beautiful image does not come to mind. Yet, the weeping rostrinucula is beautiful. Its bright purple color in combination with the flowers' unique shape sets the blossoms apart from others in the Gardens. As I watched, a dozen bees buzzed happily around the plant, climbing up and down the flowers as they gathered nectar and pollen. A pretty brilliant arrangement, if you ask me.

"The flowers open down the flower spike over the course of two months, providing a long-lasting display well into October," Hall says. "A native of southeastern China, this is a rare find and well worth seeing when it's in bloom."

I'll second that. Luckily for us visitors, the weeping rostrinucula is easy to see. It is blooming both along the Walker Dillard Kirby Perennial Allée and in the Doris Duke Center Gardens. Come check it out!

Blogger Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment

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