Nematanthus in Native Habitat

holly_c(New Orleans, LA)November 5, 2005

I am a Nematanthus addict and I am looking for photos of Nematanthus plants in their native habitat. I know that they are epiphytes (Brazilian?) but I can't find a photo of a Nematanthus growing anywhere other than in a pot. If anyone could provide a link or photo I would be grateful.

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I'd guess that eco-tourism hasn't caught on there as much as in some places and considering how wild and almost inaccessible those areas where they're found might be, I guess the few botanists going there don't bother to photograph the plants they find or just don't bother to publish their photographs anywhere, but then again that's most likely the case for most tropicals cultivated nowdays, and most pictures are photographed of the plants in their "new" homes rather than the wild places where they're natives. I do find pictures of palms in the wild , but rarely of other cultivated plants in their "native" environment. Sorry for the answer, but I'd guess it's the case. Many years ago, I read a book, who's author said the best way to understand the correct growing conditions for most plants in general is to understand the environments in their native places of origin, so in gerneral you can only guess the precise conditions where they grow from various " guides" to growing them properly. Sometimes I'm still inclined to think with some difficult plants , that the instructions are leaving some important clue out and only seeing the exact conditions in the wild would fill in the blanks, so I could understand your interest in seeing some "wild" pictures.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 12:51PM
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Unfortunately I think there is a lack of pictures of our favorite plants in natural settings. Interestingly enough it is possible to do that with African violets. African violets are very endangered in the wild. They countries of Kenya and Tanzania, where African violets are native, are putting a lot of effort into saving the African violets natural habitat. African violet safaris are being offered to African violet enthusiasts who would like to see violets in their native habitat. The proceeds going towards protecting the violets that they are going to see.

I'm not sure if the violet safaris will be enough to save the African violet in the wild. I'm somewhat pessimistic that human beings won't destroy most of the rain forest and the many plants that live there.

That is why I have changed my opinion of whether people, under the blessing of the governments, should be able to harvest plants from the rain forest. I think it may be the only way to save some of these plants.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 3:03PM
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I have seen Nematanthus growing in nature in Brazil. They grow in the rain forest in semi shade with the vines climbing up the trunks of trees, then extending into brighter light away from the tree so that the blossoms can be seen by pollinators. My photos are on loan at the present time so I cannot post them. I grow some of mine as single stems so they can look this way. The plants often send up more branches eventually. The disadvantage to growing them this way is that the pot gets very tippy when the growth is mostly on one side. If you go to Mauro Peixotos website ( you can get a sense of how the branches extend, although I don't think all of Mauro's photos were taken in the wild.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 6:37PM
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I'm sure as eco-tourism catches on , more and more adventurous travelers will start taking more pictures of plants in their native habitats, or at least I hope so, since I can't say I"ve seen many photos of any tropical plants in their native habitats. Much easier to take those pictures in someones home or a greenhouse I'd guess. Such photo's can be valuable tools in figuring out various plants growth requirements, and I was surprised to see some gingers in Costa Rica growing in quite shady areas , though they mentioned the same ones in the sun were half the height of the "shade" grown ones, when they flowered. Here I find my "inground" ones in Michigan really aren't happy in the full sun, and tend to burn badly. Could be the relatively lower humidity.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 8:47AM
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Don't despair, I understand that Ron Myhr, the owner of the webpage is currently putting together an education program for the Gesneriad Society, on Gesneriads in Nature. He is using some of my slides from Brazil and South Africa; but, will include those from other locations, as well. It should be very interesting when completed and will be available through the Gesneriad Society for chapters and affiliates to rent.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 6:37PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

When I've read descriptions of nematanthus in nature, from people like Mauro, I am surprised that different species grow in the same locals. Some that I thought had different cultural needs or were hardier seem to be found with others seemingly less hardy. But, when I learned that fornix (formerly nervosa) grows at higher elevations in the same regions, I realized why my plants of this species often get more heat damage to the foliage after hot and dry spells in summer. So, I try stratagies to keep this one cooler, such as keeping it in shade and putting it under the outdoor bench in hot weather.

One of the neat things about nematanthus when grown outside is seed set. On occasion I guess the hummingbirds find them and do their thing. Not only are the fruit colorful but they have fascinating variations from species to species. One, um, I think its fissus, makes largish glossy yellow mitten shaped fruit. Gregarius can make lots of orange fruit that look much like flowers, but last for months. The other day I found one fruit on my plant of sericeus (spelling?). It seems to have a fissus like fruit. It has had one flower and now it has one fleshy capsule. It could be a hybrid or a selfing. So, I will try to harvest and grow on the seedlings to see what they are.

Jon, with a letter all stamped and addressed to the seed fund for a sinningia species that hasn't been on the list in a decade--gigantifolia!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 3:07PM
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holly_c(New Orleans, LA)

Well at least I am not alone. I did spend some time in Costa Maya this summer (just prior to the hurricane)and had the opportunity to photograph some amazing aroids growing in the rainforest. Unfortunately, during the Katrina evacuation the batteries in my camera died and all of the photos were lost. The Peixotos website is wonderful though. I've not had much luck finding N. pics of any varieties other than the ones commonly found for sale.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 3:13PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Holly, are you looking for photos of species or hybrids? Mauro has just about every species on his site. I guess that number is around 20 species, more or less. Then there are about 30+ hybrids out there. Its not a huge list, and the potential in nematanthus is tremendous. In the early 90's the AGGS seed fund had lots of fresh seed of species, thanks to Mauro. That seed is mostly gone now, and we all need to replenish this seed. I should listen to myself.... But, when the seed was available I grew on a number of species. Fresh seed germinated well. At that time the seed of N. fritchii was older and I only got one seedling. So, seed of nematanthus is not as long lived as other gesneriad seed. The rule of thumb is that seed from juicy berries or capsules such as nematanthus, codonanthe and columnea is shorter lived than seed from dry capsules such as sinningia, aeschynanthus etc.
By the way, nematanthus have fleshy capsules, codonanthe have either fleshy capsules or berries, depending on species, and columneas have berries. At least, I think that's the rule.

How do you grow nematanthus in N.O.? Do, the plants do well in all that heat and humidity? Here, they seem to enjoy our cool weather, but don't care so much for the low humidity of our summers. They do quite well right on the coast here, which in summer is humid and cool (San Francisco for example). Actually to be truthful, I think my plants don't flower in summer because I dry them out too much then--my summer humidity is much lower than San Francisco, which is 30 miles north. One cold winter I had N. wettsteinii flowering right through the coldest weather, with dips to the low 30's. I have most of my plants outside all year, in shade and under cover in an open air shade house.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 2:37PM
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holly_c(New Orleans, LA)

I was looking for pictures of species in their native environment. It is so hot and humid here that this summer my N. Christmas Holly sprouted an abundance of "air roots" even though it is in a pot and had nothing to hold on to. None of my N.'s had ever done that before so that's what piqued my curiosity.

The humidity here in the summer is usually around 85 to 90%, there are thunderstorms every day, and it is HOT. My N.'s flower more during the winter than in the summer. My yard, pre-Katrina, was heavily wooded and I felt like the reason the N.'s didn't bloom well in summer was because they weren't getting enough sun. When the leaves fell in winter they were able to get more sun. They stay outside year 'round. Post Katrina, I have no trees at all and all of the N.'s are now in full sun and they are spouting new growth and blooms. Whether this is seasonally related or due to environmental factors...I don't know. I will say that my N.'s stay WET all summer and don't seem to mind it unless the lack of summer blooms is their way of protesting.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 7:56PM
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