Wednesday, 20 October 2010

An unusual Pelargonium

Pelargonium tongaense
An unusual pelargonium in that it grows in shady conditions.   P. tongaense is a species pelargonium found only in a small area of north-eastern Natal, South Africa.  It can be found growing abundantly under bushy trees in fairly dense shade on sandy soil.  The area is hot and humid in summer and warm and dry in winter.  The annual rainfall in Summer in this area is generally 600 - 800 mm. 

The seeds of P. tongaense were first collected in 1955, but it was not thought to be a species in its own right. The area and conditions in which it grows are unlike the conditions in which most pelargoniums grow. It was thought to be a garden escapee and a cross between P. peltatum and P. inquinans as it is similar in appearance to both these plants.   However, it was evident that this plant is only found in this one small area of Natal and that it breeds true from seed.

The plant was named Pelargonium tongaense in 1983 after the area of Tongaland in which it was found, but seed had been passed to R.H.S. Gardens, Wisley in 1972, named as 'seed collected in Pongoland' .  It is an atractive plant with bright red single flowers.  The leaves are similar in appearance to ivy leaf pelargoniums.   It will grow in sun or shade and requires a very free-draining compost..

Pelargoniums of Southern Africa - vol 3 - J.J.A. van der Walt and P.J. Vorster
Pelargoniums - Diana Miller

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