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Featured Plant

Deppea splendens


Scientific Name: Deppea splendens

Common Names: 

Family: Rubiaceae

Plant Type: Open multi-trunked shrub

Environment: Native to cloud forest, so it prefers moderate temperatures. Protect from frost; rich well-drained soil,filtered sun/bright shade, protect from strong afternoon sun, average water.

Bloom: September–November

Uses: Garden accent. It grows well in a pot and can be grown indoors.

Other: Originally native to the cloud forest of Chiapas, Mexico. Extinct in the wild.



Deppea splendens

Once native to Chiapas, Mexico, Deppea splendens is now thought to be extinct in the wild. Dr. Dennis Breedlove, former Curator in the Botany Department at the California Academy of Sciences discovered it in 1972 in Chiapas, Mexico. Ranging from heights of 15–25 feet, it appeared as either a large shrub or small tree and was found in a steep canyon cloud forest with magnolias, pines and oaks at 6600 feet elevation.

Breedlove, who spent over 30 years studying the flora of Chiapas, brought back seeds of the Deppea in 1981. They were distributed and grown at SFBG and other California botanical gardens and nurseries. Most plants perished during the freeze of 1990, however one of our plants survived and cuttings were distributed to enable continued propagation.

Breedlove reported in 1986 that the only known site for Deppea in Chiapas had been cleared for farming and the plant was presumed extinct in the wild. For all the interest and attention, this spectacular plant was not formally named and described until 1987.

Temperatures in the native cloud forest habitat of Deppea splendens vary little from season to season, rarely cold or hot. The relatively mild winters and foggy summers of San Francisco are perfect for growing this plant. Deppea splendens requires rich, well drained soil, filtered sun/bright shade, average water and can be grown in containers. In other areas, it is susceptible to cold and needs a protected frost-free site. Flowering typically occurs in late summer and fall in San Francisco.

Deppea splendens is a multi-trunked shrub that can reach up to eight feet in cultivation. The branches are somewhat dichotomously branched, terminating in whorls of elegantly rib-textured leaves. The flower clusters hang from six-inch long wiry peduncles.Each two-inch yellow to orange flower protrudes from a wine-red calyx. The bright tubular flowers are striking against the rich green foliage and attract hummingbirds.

Text by Mona Bourell. Photos by Joanne Taylor. Additional photos provided by James Gaither and FarOutFlora.


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