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Mutisia decurrens Cav.

Modern name

Mutisia decurrens Cav.

A climbing evergreen shrub, growing 8 to 10 ft high; stems slender, glabrous, but little branched. Leaves narrow-oblong, stalkless; the blade 3 to 5 in. long, 12 to 1 in. wide, the base being extended down each side of the stem as a pair of narrow wings, the apex terminating in a forked tendril which curls round any available support, and thus holds up the stem. Flower-heads 4 to 5 in. across, solitary at the end of the shoot, and borne on a glabrous stalk 3 to 5 in. long. Ray-florets about fifteen, each 12 in. wide, and of a brilliant orange or vermilion colour; disk-florets yellow. The flower-head is supported at the base by a columnar mass of overlapping thin scales tipped with greyish hairs, and has much the aspect of a gazania or single dahlia. Bot. Mag., t. 5273.

Native of Chile and Argentina; introduced for Messrs Veitch in 1859 by Richard Pearce. Except in comparatively few places it has not proved a success in this country, and is now uncommon. One of the greatest successes with it has been obtained in Sir Thomas Acland’s garden at Killerton, near Exeter. A plant there is grown against a wall facing south-west, and Mr J. Coutts, who planted it and cultivated it for several years, tells me that it has borne over three hundred flower-heads during one summer. He ascribes his success with it, first to the position and climate; second, to the soil, which is not the ordinary red soil of Devon, but volcanic trap; and lastly, to the practice of placing stones on the ground about the roots. The Killerton plant produces suckers freely, and by them can be propagated; it also ripens seed from which many plants have been raised. This mutisia is capable of withstanding severe cold; soon after it was introduced it experienced 26° of frost at Exeter without injury.

The above account is taken unchanged from previous editions. The plant at Killerton no longer exists and no plant of comparable health and vigour has been traced. There is (1972) a small plant in the Alpine Yard at Kew, raised from a rooted piece collected in Chile below the Termas de ChiliÁn in 1963.

In his article ‘The Hardier Mutisias’ in Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 74 (1949), pp. 241-245, James Comber emphasised how important it is to protect the suckers of this mutisia: ‘… though flowering stems may last over a considerable period, in time they become effete and are due for replacement. The stem above ground dies and if not replaced by suckers from below, that is the end of the plant.’

There is a note on the propagation of M. decurrens by L. B. Stewart in Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edin., Vol. 8, pp. 137-138.

var. patagonica (Phil.) Blake differs only in the leaves being white-tomentose beneath.



Other species in the genus