Christia vespertilionis (Mariposa, Red Butterfly Wing)
Our first Christia vespertilionis seedling arrived in our garden in December 2004 and its descendants are still scattering their seeds all over our garden till today, like the pretty Torenia fournieri!
How wonderful!…and for only a couple of Malaysian Ringgit, mind you! :D Its fabulous foliage color and formation fascinates and captivates us so! Such delicateness and elegance as the plant dance in the gentle breeze! Lovely! :)
Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :
- Botanical Name: Christia vespertilionis (synonym: Hedysarum vespertilionis, Lourea vespertilionis)
- Common Name: Mariposa, Red Butterfly Wing, Island Pea, Aircraft/Bat Grass
- Family name: Fabaceae/Leguminosae
- Plant type: An ornamental herbaceous shrub, originating from Southeast Asia and Brazil
- Light: Prefers sunlight for best foliage colour though can tolerate semi-shade to full-shade.
- Moisture: Needs regular water for optimum growth
- Soil: Grows best in well-drained loamy soil.
- Propagation: Can be propagated from herbaceous stem cuttings or germination of seeds which may take 4-8 weeks to sprout (remove dried seedheads from plant, break open and scatter the tiny seeds on moist potting mix). Or allow the plant to self-sow – we weren’t surprised at all by the many seedlings found sprouting around the parent plant or elsewhere in surrounding pots.
- Features: A deciduous annual or perennial shrub reaching a height of about 60-120cm and width of 50cm. Though seemingly fragile as a spindly plant and needs staking when it becomes too tall, it is robust and sways with the wind unscathed! Christia vespertilionis is grown for its beautiful variegated foliage.
Leaves held on thin wiry petioles are in rare burgundy red tones and prominently veined in medium shades of pink.
Sizes vary from 5-9cm at its broadest.
They are uniquely patterned like beautiful wings of a butterfly or wingspan of an aircraft or even resembling a swallow with spread wings. No wonder, this lovely plant is commonly named Butterfly Wing, Aircraft Grass or Bat Grass. Leaves hang downward (droop) during the night. Inconspicuous and small white or off-white flowers and seeds appear on slender raceme of 5-15cm lengths at terminal growth.
- Usage: Red Butterfly Wing plant is most ideal in garden beds and borders to add variety, color and height.
Great too for garden landscaping.
And excellent for container gardening and as an indoor plant for patios, decks or porches, though best located where it can receive at least some indirect light.
- Care: A low maintenance shrub that requires minimal attention. Light pruning if necessary to keep it low. Though hardly bothered by pests, do check occasionally for white flies to prevent infestation.
- For temperate zones: View this site to know more, especially with regard to cold hardiness!
There are many Christia vespertilionis cultivars, though the only other that I’ve seen besides the kind we grow is with green leaves and marked with deep maroon veins. Quite a pretty one too, I’d say! View more Christia vespertilionis images that include other coloured varieties at images.google.com!
Last edited: May 1 2012