Megaskepasma erythrochlamys: Brazilian red cloak
It must appear to those less familiar with the plant world that botanists sometimes take the mickey when it comes to naming plants. Why else would we end up with trees called Lyonothamnus floribundus subsp. asplenifolius, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides, that no-one can pronounce, let alone remember? On the day that some learned fellow dubbed the Brazilian red cloak Megaskepasma erythrochlamys he (or she) had clearly had one sherry too many. Yet for a plant with a latin name that has the ring of a particularly virulent STD or fungal infection, it is a surprisingly attractive thing.
Native to rainforests of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador, (but strangely not to Brazil), Brazilian red cloak is a semi-woody, evergreen shrub that grows to 8 feet tall. The lanky stems produce pyramidal clusters of showy red bracts from which emerge two-lipped white flowers. Megaskepasma erythrochlamys blooms from autumn to mid-winter, which here in Hong Kong means right now. Massed together, in full flower, the effect is highly theatrical and very appropriate for a tropical setting. Alas such a firecracker will only flourish in a very warm and large conservatory back home in the UK, and then only if pruned hard after flowering. I am delighted, and surprised, to note that 1 litre plants are available from Jungle Seeds, who I highly recommend as a nursery. As for cultural advice, I’d simply advise you don’t brag to your neighbours about having Megaskepasma erythrochlamys …. unless you’re happy for them to give you a very wide berth.
Wishing you a good week ahead. TFG.