Brunfelsia densifolia (Solanaceae)
Origin: Endemic to Puerto Rico
We have featured the “Yesterday-today-tomorrow” Brunfelsias before, and mentioned there are two main groups of the genus. The yesterday-today-tomorrows have a pansy-like flower with a very short corolla, held closely to the stem. They change in color from purple to white over a period of a few days and then fall off the plant. Some are slightly fragrant. For the most part they come from South America; they are widely cultivated in gardens.
Our featured plant this time around falls in the other group. Hailing mostly from the Islands around Florida (Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico) and growing in poor soils, these less-cultivated plants are much more fragrant typically, and have a flower similar to the other group except for two key differences: the petal presentation is identical, but this group has an incredibly long corolla, making the whole thing appear like a pansy on a long tube. The other difference is the color; the group from the islands has yellow to cream-colored flowers.
They are easy to grow, require little care once established, and bloom heavily once the weather cools. The only problem with growing a specimen in Florida might be finding one to begin with, although there are probably more specimens in cultivation around the world than remain in the wild. The species is endangered in the wild due to habitat loss to agriculture. Its range was so small to begin with, and the ecology of an island is unforgiving. Islands are like canaries in the mine for the rest of the planet, and we should pay attention to what is going on. As populations and the oceans both continue to rise, there will be less and less space to live, to grow food, and to allow nature to flourish.
At the moment, Brunfeslia densifolia is emitting a most pleasant aroma just south of our newly opened Children’s Rainforest Garden, where children can learn about the importance of helping to conserve the world’s rainforests.
Text by David Troxell