Medinilla cummingii (Melastomataceae)

Medinilla cummingii (Melastomataceae)

Chandelier Tree (Melastoma Family)

Origin: Philippines

Here at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, we are really proud of our Tropical Conservatory. It is the starting point for most guests’ tour of the garden, and many return to make it the last stop on their way out. It is a temperature-controlled tropical rainforest under glass, so a visit during a hot rainy day in August and a cold skin-chapped day in February are just as sublime. We use the house to display some of our most lovely greenhouse specimens in rotation, as they come into bloom. A number of potted and mounted orchids and bromeliads make the rounds through the Tropical Conservatory every few weeks. There are also a large number of plants which are permanent residents of this house. Many of these are lithophytes which are mounted to the rock wall, or epiphytes growing on wooden beams. Some of the most striking permanent residents of the Conservatory are the medinillas.

Members of the mostly-tropical Melastomataceae family, medinillas have a very distinct leaf, and a very distinct bloom. They have flowers clusters borne on long, pendent stalks, hence the common name chandelier plant/tree/shrub. The base of each cluster of flowers also has a large bract which covers the flowers like a hood. Many plants which live in rainforest environs have adapted ways of keeping their flowers dry. The leaves have pronounced veins which run parallel to the midvein which may help channel off water. The flowers are very colorful and range from fuchsia to purple to blue to almost glass-like. Medinilla magnifica is a large-growing species with very large leaves. It is available in specialty nurseries in Florida and can be found growing in some of the more exotic plant collections around town.

We have several species of Medinilla permanently planted in the Tropical Conservatory. Right now a beautiful example, Medinilla cummingii, is in bloom and should be for a while. It is rooted on the rock wall across from the cacao tree. Check it out!


Text by David Troxell