An amazing beauty to watch but hard to describe in words to search for her identification as her glamorous bracts are oftenly mistaken for petals and this leads to the question “So what are these tiny buds under them then?”. Behold, Medinilla magnifica, ‘grape shaped pink flowers plant’ in search terms. (Considering the fact that one of her common names is ‘rose grape‘ you are not so wrong at all!:))
Let’s meet the ‘Rolls Royce of houseplants’!
The species Medinilla, was named after José de Medinilla y Pineda, Spanish Governor of the Mariana Islands in 1820 and Medinilla magnifica is described by English botanist John Lindley. ‘Magnifica’ means ‘magnificent’ in Latin, this part of her name doesn’t require any further explanation now does it?
She’s known as Kapa-Kapa in Philippines and other common names include; pink lantern, Philippine orchid, rose grape, showy melastome, chandelier tree, showy medinilla and Malaysian orchid.
Although she is considered as an evergreen shrub, in wild habitats, she’s an epiphyte, which means that she lives ‘on’ other plants but not as a parasite, in a harmless way. But she is grown in pots as a houseplant too.
She has very broad leathery dark green leaves which can be up to 30 cm long and heart shaped in leaf base.
Her natural habitat extends over the Philippine islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Panay, Mindoro and Negros.
M. magnifica has tannin, saponnin and alkaloid compounds which may have important pharmacologial values (1).
She was considered as ‘vulnerable‘ in IUCN Red List, in 1997.
Which one is the real flower?
‘Real’ flowers of M. magnifica are small, have 5 petals and claw like purple-ish anthers. These pendulous panicles can be 50 cm long and can bear up to 100-150. What about those large, umberella-like petals? Although looking amazingly beautiful, they are not petals but bracts.
Purple-black berries follow this gorgeous flowers, which attract birds. Birds are very important for M.magnifica because, as mentioned above, the seeds are dispersed by birds. She also attracts butterflies and bees (Yaaay!)
But she doesn’t behave sometimes…
Well, unfortunately she has ‘invasive tendancies’ and is on the ‘Hawaii Invasive Species List’. Seed dispersal by birds are a real problem as it is very hard to control where they can pop up. So in this area be careful with her. And if you realize that you M. magnifica is ‘crossing the line’, before you get rid of her, start with collecting the berries.
Having this exotic diva as a houseplant can be a total visual fest, when you come to think about hundreds of fallen flowers on your floors, think twice.
Rolls Royce of houseplants…
King Boudewijn of Belgium loved Medinilla so much that he didn’t just grow them in the royal conservatories but this plant also was on the old bank note of 10,000 Belgian francs. In Belgium, you can see this plant in the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, in the Botanic Garden of Leuven and in the National Botanic Garden of Belgium.
Medinilla magnifica was called as ‘the Rolls Royce of houseplants’ by Belgian plants and garden writer Rob Herwig. A well deserved name indeed, given the fact that she is considered as one of the most expensive houseplants due to her ‘capricious’ needs such as controlled temperature, frost tenderness and humidity levels.
“… a well-kept specimen in bloom is a worthy ambition of a gardener” says The Standart Cyclopedia of Horticulture for Medinilla magnifica, in 1917. Well, looks like this point of view hasn’t changed a bit since then!:D
Literature I used/recommend:
Histochemical and pharmacological properties of Philippine rare plant species Medinilla magnifica Lindl., Edgar Gary R. Vasallo, Jr, Proceeding of The International Seminar on Chemistry 2008 (pp. 192) Jatinangor, 30-31 October 2008
- The Standart Cyclopedia of Horticulture, L.H. Bailey, Second edition, 1917, The Macmillan Company
- Molecular Host Plant Resistance to Pests, S. Sadasivam, B. Thayumanayan, 2003, Marcel Dekker
- Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, No:1, vol.75, 1988, pg: 283-286
- 1997 IUCN red list of threatened plants
- Varassin IG, Penneys DS, Michelangeli FA. (2008) Comparative anatomy and morphology of nectar-producing Melastomataceae. Ann Bot (Lond) 102: 899–909