Seemannia purpurascens is a striking species, in all its forms — some of which may in fact be properly understood as separate species or as genetically distinct varieties or subspecies.
The original description of S. purpurascens makes no mention of the green limb (the upper part of the corolla and the corolla lobes), and the color is not apparent from the dried herbarium specimens. Seeds collected from herbarium specimens have been grown to flower, and the flowers have the green limb.
There are at least two quite different forms, both grown and sometimes shown in flower shows under the same name. The form with the green limb, illustrated above as the featured photo, is most widely seen and has significant variability, dependent on where the species was collected. A form with a dark purple limb is also in cultivation, but is not nearly as widely grown as the green-limbed variety. There are variations on the purple-limbed variety, suggesting seed-grown variability and a possible hybrid origin for this form of the species.
In addition to variability in flower color (red to pinkish corolla tube, green or purple limb) and form (fairly straight or slightly pouched), there is variation in leaf tone. Some collections of the species have darker leaves ornamented with red hairs, and crosses have been made between the darker-leaved variety and the base (green-limbed) species in order to get the best of both forms.
There is general agreement that this group needs to be systematically sorted out, and genetic studies are planned. Results of these studies should clarify the taxonomic status of the various forms.
Photos illustrating the various forms can be seen in a slideshow by clicking one of the links below:
- A variation on the green-limbed form, collected from Guyana or possibly northern Brazil
- A close view of the front of the purple-limbed cultivar
- A profile view of the purple-limbed cultivar, showing the slightly pouched form of the corolla
- A plant of the purple-limbed cultivar
- Another purple-limbed form, with an apparently less-pouched corolla tube
- A whole plant of the hybrid cultivar Seemannia purpurascens ‘Purple Prince’, which was created by crossing standard and dark-leaved forms of the species
- A close view of the purple/red hairs on ‘Purple Prince’
- Flowers on ‘Purple Prince
- Another view of the flowers of ‘Purple Prince’, and of the purplish leaf hairs
- A beautiful show-quality plant, with flowers with a less intensely purple limb, suggesting a possible hybrid origin of the purple-limbed variety
- A closer view of the flowers on this plant