When there is little information available on a plant, especially relating to cultivation in your area, the only way to learn more about it is to simply plant it. This was just the case with my Strophanthus boivinii. As anyone who regularly reads my blog knows, I am a big fan of Malagasy plants. When looking over the Top Tropicals website for some unusual flowering plants to add to my garden, I came across Strophanthus boivinii. It is native to the dry deciduous forests of Madagascar and the colorful, yet odd looking flower inspired me to make the purchase.
Madagascan plants have always fascinated me. Mainly because so many plants that exist nowhere else in the world but Madagascar have the appearance of something you would only find in a Dr. Seuss book. The Grandidier’s Baobab (Adansonia grandidieri), found along the Avenue of the Baobab, couldn’t be a better example. While you won’t find Adansonia grandidieri growing like that here in Southern California, you do see other endemic Madagascan plants like the Triangle Palm (Dypsis decaryi), Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia), Travelers Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis), Madagascar Ocotillo (Alluaudia procera) and the Malagasy Tree Aloe (Aloe vaombe), which have become popular staples in gardens throughout the world. When it comes to plants and animals, the world’s fourth largest island does not disappoint.
As mentioned earlier, Strophanthus boivinii has no cultivation data on it for a Mediterranean climate garden like mine. I am going into this planting with optimism that it will have some degree of cold hardiness like so many other plants from Madagascar. However, there are some plants from the island that I cannot grow despite my best efforts. Two beautiful flowering trees, Delonix regia and Colvillea racemosa, are the biggest bummers. Strophanthus boivinii could very well fall into that short list. I do have some concern, as I left it in a pot outside last winter and it didn’t look to happy despite having one of the warmest winters on record.
The plant I received from Top Tropicals was small that it spent a year in the greenhouse gaining some size. After making it through last winter outside in a pot, it finally went into the ground a few weeks ago. Ideally I should have planted it in the spring, but I had some garden maintenance to take care of first and forgot about it soon after.
Right now the plant is quite leggy and has to be supported. The good news is that it is sprouting new growth from the main stem so if it makes it through the coming winter, it might become more shrub-like. Apparently in their native habitat, Strophanthus boivinii can grow to 90 feet tall.
For me, the flowers of Strophanthus boivinii are what make it worth the attempt to grow in my garden. It’s not just that the flowers are an odd orange-brown color, but the fact that they also corkscrew makes them unique. It is this corkscrewing appearance that gives Strophanthus boivinii its common name – Wood Shaving Flower. Each individual flower only lasts a few days, but like a plumeria, they keep opening new ones on their inflorescence. However, unlike plumeria, the flowers of Strophanthus boivinii have no scent.
I have over a hundred different Madagascan plants in my garden. Most of those are palm trees and aloes. Hopefully my Strophanthus boivinii can survive long term and become another Madagascan success story in my garden.
If anyone reading this post has any growing tips or experiences they can share with the Wood Shaving Flower, I would love to read them. So please comment below.