Leontochir ovallei

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 21 Sep 2010 12:09:34 PDT
Leontochir ovallei, or garra de leon ('lion's paw'), grows in the 
coast range of north central Chile. I've seen the typical red form 
and have seen photos of the yellow form taken by a hotelkeeper who 
photographs a lot of wildflowers of his area. The plant is rare 
primarily because it is palatable and likely to be eaten by domestic 
goats and also by guanacos. I think the survivors are usually on 
steep rock walls (where I found it) or clambering up through dense 
shrubs. I also saw it in cultivation at the botanic garden in 
Valparaiso, where they were growing it under glass with their cactus 

It is indeed very arid where it grows most years, and probably it 
gets its moisture mostly from the coastal fog (camanchaca) and from 
moisture deep in the rocks. In fact, near where I saw it in rocks, I 
also found Adiantum chilense, a maidenhair fern, which was amazing to 
see in that apparently barren, dry setting.

The part of Chile where it grows is probably more like Baja 
California than San Diego but for growing it in the USA, San Diego 
might be a good bet. It does need very good drainage, and the rock 
where it grows is volcanic or mudstones.

In the center of the large, colorful flower are very large nectaries 
dripping with nectar, like cabochon gems. The leaves seem mostly to 
be yellowing when it flowers, as is also the case with some 
Alstroemeria species.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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