Brunfelsia calycina: Franciscan Nightshade, Kiss-me-Quick

Brunfelsia calycina (syn. Franciscea calycina) has been cultivated since the mid-nineteenth century and at one time was a popular plant of palace greenhouses. In recent years it has been ‘rediscovered’ by European florists. It is a native of Brazil, where it grows in forests in thick humusy layers, particularly in wet places.

Brunfelsia calycina is a moderately large shrub branching profusely from the base, with shining, dark green foliage. The flowers, produced in late winter and early spring, are flat, about 5 cm (2 in) across. They are truly lovely and thus this shrub is found in practically every park in Central and South America.

It is a pity that other species of this genus, embracing a total of 30 altogether, are not cultivated more often. Brunfelsia hopeana, a thickly branched shrub up to 2 m (6 ft) high, bears flowers which, though smaller than those of the species, are very plentiful and coloured pale violet-blue, turning white as they fade (the same is true of the flowers of B. calycina eximia, which are purplish-violet at first). There are, however, also species of different colours: B. americana from the Antilles has fragrant flowers that are white, later changing to yellow, and B. undulata has wavy flowers that are snow white.

All brunfelsias have storage tissues in the woody parts of the stems and in the wild they undergo a short dormant period in winter. Because of this they should be provided with at least a three-month period of rest at a lower temperature and with only the minimum of watering to ensure abundant flowering.

Cultivation is not difficult. The compost should be a well-drained mixture of nourishing loam, compost and peat mixed with sand, enriched every spring by an addition of hornmeal. The plants should be cut back hard after the flowers have faded to promote branching; the prunings may be used as cuttings which should be inserted in a peat and sand mixture in a warm propagator. They are slow to root — the pace is not the same for all and the process may take as long as two months.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles | Comments Off on Brunfelsia calycina: Franciscan Nightshade, Kiss-me-Quick


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