Lopezia Racemosa. Mexican Lopezia

Class and Order:

Monandria Monogynia.

Generic Character:

Cal. 4-phyllus. Cor. irregularis, pentapetala, duo superiora geniculata, quintum inferne declinatum, plicatum, ungue arcuata.

Specific Character and Synonyms:

LOPEZIA racemosa caule herbaceo ramoso; foliis alternis ovato-lanceolatis, serratis; floribus racemosis. Cavanilles Ic. et descr. Pl.

254 Lopezia Racemosa Mexican Lopezia

No. 254.

Some plants have a claim on our attention for their utility, some for their beauty, and some for the singularity of their structure, and the wonderful nature of their oeconomy; in the last class we must place the present plant, the flowers of which we recommend to the examination of such of our readers as may have an opportunity of seeing them; to the philosophic mind, not captivated with mere shew, they will afford a most delicious treat.

We first saw this novelty in flower, towards the close of the year 1792, at the Apothecaries Garden, Chelsea, where Mr. Fairbairn informed me, that he had that season raised several plants of it from seeds, communicated by Dr. J. E. Smith, who received them from Madrid, to which place they were sent from South-America, and where the plant as Mons. Cavanille informs us, grows spontaneously near Mexico. In October 1793, we had the pleasure of seeing the plant again in blossom in the aforesaid garden, raised from seeds which ripened there the preceding year, but unfortunately from the lateness of their flowering, and the very great injury the plants had sustained from the Cobweb Mite (Acarus teliarius) vulgarly called the red Spider, there seemed little prospect that the seed-vessels would arrive at perfection.

The seeds were sown by Mr. Fairbairn, in March, and the plants kept in the green-house till very late in the summer, when to accelerate their blowing, they were removed into the dry stove: it is worthy of remark, that these plants, even late in the autumn, shew no signs of blossoming, but the flowers at length come forth with almost unexampled rapidity, and the seed-vessels are formed as quickly, so that if the flowers were not very numerous, their blossoming period would be of very short duration; future experience may perhaps point out the means of making the plant blow earlier: in Spain, the blossoms appeared later than here, Mons. Cavanille observed them in the Royal Garden, in November and December, most probably in the open ground, as no mention is made of the plants having been preserved from the weather.

It was not till long after our description was taken, that we had an opportunity of seeing Mons. Cavanille's most accurate and elegant work, above quoted, in which this plant is first figured and described; we have selected the most essential parts of his generic character, and adopted his specific description: there is one point, however, in which we differ from him; the part which he regards as the fifth Petal, we are inclined to consider rather as that indescribable something, called by Linnaeus the Nectary, it is indeed of little moment whether we call it a Petal or a Nectary, but there are several reasons why, strictly speaking, we cannot regard it as a Petal: in general the number of Petals correspond with the number of the leaves of the Calyx, those of the latter are four; the base of this Nectary originates deeper than the claws of the Petals, springing in fact from the same part as the Filament, its structure, especially the lower part of it, is evidently different from that of the Petals, corresponding indeed as nearly as possible with that of the base of the filament. - Vid. Descer.

Mons. Cavanille was induced to call this plant Lopezia, in compliment to Th. Lopez, a Spaniard[1].

[1] In honorem Licent. Thomae Lopez, Burgensis, qui aliquot annos Regii Senatoris munere functus in America, Carolo V. imperante. In patriam reversus breviarium historiae naturalis novi orbis scripsit sub titulo de tribus elementis aëre, aqua, et terra, MS. apud eundem Muguozium.

Description Of The Lopezia

ROOT annual.

STALK five or six feet high, branched almost to the bottom, square, of a deep red colour, smooth towards the bottom, slightly hairy above: Branches like the stalk.

LEAVES alternate, ovate, pointed, toothed on the edges, more so on the larger leaves, slightly beset with soft hairs, veins prominent on the under side, usually running parallel to each other and unbranched: Leafstalks hairy.

FLOWERS numerous, from the alae of the leaves, growing irregularly on hairy leafy racemi, standing on long slender peduncles, which hang down as the seed-vessels are produced: in this and some others of its characters, the plant shews some affinity to the Circaea.

CALYX: a Perianthium of four leaves, sitting on the Germen, leaves narrow, concave, reddish, with green tips, the lowermost one widely separated from the others, and placed immediately under the Nectary, fig. 1.

COROLLA four Petals of a pale red colour, forming in their mode of growth the upper half of a circle, the two uppermost linear, of a deeper colour near the apex, jointed below the middle, with a small green gland on each joint, standing on short round footstalks, which are hairy when magnified, the two side Petals nearly orbicular with long narrow claws, the part between the base of the Petal and the claw of a deeper red or crimson, fig. 2.

NECTARY situated below the Petals, perfectly white, somewhat ovate, the sides folding together, before the flower fully expands, nearly upright, embracing and containing within it the Pistillum and Stamen, on touching it ever so slightly with the point of a pin, while in this state, it suddenly springs back and quits the Pistillum, the lower elastic part of it is then bent in the form represented in a magnified view of the flower on the plate, fig. 4. this curious phoenomenon has not been noticed by Cavanille.

STAMEN: Filament one, tapering and very slender just below the Anthera, arising from the same part as (and placed opposite to the base of) the Nectary the lower part of it broader, somewhat fleshy, cartilaginous, and of the same nature as the inferior part of the Nectary, with a groove as that has on the inside, so that before the flower expands, the bases of each are like two half tubes, the sides of which, nearly touching each other, wholly enclose the Pistillum; as the fructification goes forward, the Filament, endowed also with an elastic power, bends back soon after the flower is open, betwixt the two uppermost Petals, and becomes invisible to an inattentive observer; the Anthera, which is large, is at first yellow, and afterwards dark brown, fig. 5.

PISTILLUM: Germen below the Calyx, round, smooth, and green; Style filiform, white, length of the Filament; Stigma forming a small villous head, fig. 6. in some of the flowers the Pistillum appears imperfect, being much shorter than usual, and wanting the Stigma, perhaps such have not acquired their full growth, fig. 6.

PERICARPIUM (from Cavanille) a round Capsule, of four cells, and four valves, the cells many-seeded.

SEEDS very minute, ovate, affixed to a four-cornered receptacle.