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article imageOp-Ed: Chilean Bellflower — A delicacy plant from the southern forests Special

By Igor I. Solar     Apr 28, 2014 in Environment
Santiago - Considered one of the world's most beautiful plants, the Chilean bellflower, is a climbing vine native to central and central-southern Chile. At its northern limit of distribution, the species is extremely rare, vulnerable, and protected by law.
The Chilean bellflower (Lapageria rosea), commonly known as Copihue, is an evergreen climbing vine. It has oval, deep green leathery leaves. It reaches a height of about ten meters and grows tangled in shrubs and trees in high and misty areas in Chile’s coastal range and the Andes, between latitudes 33° S (Valparaiso) and 40° S (Osorno).
Copihue is the national flower of Chile. It was declared an official symbol of the country in 1977 and because of its vulnerability it is protected by law.
The copihue flower has long yellow anthers  very attractive to insects and hummingbirds
The copihue flower has long yellow anthers, very attractive to insects and hummingbirds
The plant blooms between March and May. It has bell-shaped waxy flowers, about 8 cm long, falling like pendulums. The most common variety has red flowers, but there are cultivars and hybrids bearing white, pink, raspberry-red and even burgundy flowers.
An officer of the Agricultural and Livestock Service  Chilean Government  controls a young man selli...
An officer of the Agricultural and Livestock Service, Chilean Government, controls a young man selling copihue flowers on a main highway in southern Chile, Cutting of natural copihue flowers is allowed with certain restrictions.
In southern Chile, gathering wild flowers is authorized. They are sold accompanied by fern leaves on the roads and markets of many southern cities. The commercialization of this lovely flower is an important source of revenue for rural and indigenous communities.
Copihue flowers are primarily decorative, but can also be eaten in salads and are used medicinally to treat certain conditions such as gout and rheumatism. The edible fruits known as “kolpiw” or “pepino” (cucumber) are sweet and are also sold in some southern villages of Chile. The flowers are pollinated by two species of hummingbirds.
The plant was first described in 1802 by Spanish botanists Ruiz and Pavon. The scientific name, Lapageria rosea, was given in honor of the horticultural interests of Joséphine de Taschers of la Pagerie, the first wife of Napoleon I.
Varieties of this beautiful vine have been introduced in Europe and the United States. Among the best are the collections of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, and at the University of California's Botanical Garden, Berkeley, United States. An interesting fact is that the vines twine counter-clockwise in the Southern hemisphere and clockwise when grown in the Northern hemisphere.
The Chilean bellflower (Lapageria rosea)  commonly known as Copihue  is an evergreen climbing vine w...
The Chilean bellflower (Lapageria rosea), commonly known as Copihue, is an evergreen climbing vine with oval, deep green leathery leaves.
Despite its botanical credentials and historic scientific name, the origin of the common name of the plant (Copihue) comes from a legend shared by two of the main indigenous groups in Chile: the Mapuche and the Pehuenche. The 'Shakespearean-like” legend tells of a Mapuche princess by the name of Hues that fell in love with a Pehuenche prince by the name of Copih. Unfortunately, both tribes were at war and the young lovers were forbidden to see each other. However, ignoring their parents' orders, they secretly met by the side of a lagoon. The lovers were discovered by Hues’ father who killed Copih, prompting Copih’s father to kill Hues. The following year, the leaders of both tribes gathered by the lagoon to discuss a truce, and to mourn the fate of the young princes. The next morning, they found the trees around the lagoon covered by beautiful blood-red and milky-white bell-shaped flowers. In memory of the ill-fated lovers and to honor their peace-making efforts, they named the flowers “Copihues".
Note: The larger photographs that accompany this article show images of Copihue flowers from a vine that, after three years of care, bloomed for the first time in my garden this fall.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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