With its bright pink flowers, the Chilean bellflower or copihue is an easily identifiable plant that is native to its namesake country. As the Chilean national flower, it’s also an important symbol of the country’s identity and culture.
1. The Chilean bellflower is the only species of the lapageria
Otherwise known as lapageria rosea, the Chilean bellflower is the only species from the genus lapageria.
2. It grows in areas of Valdivian temperate rainforests
Found predominantly in coastal parts of Southern Chile, Valdivian temperate rainforests are characterized by dense understories of bamboo and ferns and trees such as rauli and roble (two types of beech) or in different areas, pehuén and alerce (two species of evergreen conifer) dominating the forest canopy.
The Chilean bellflower is a pioneer species that colonizes disturbed areas of Valdivian temperate rainforests and thrives in damp areas of plentiful vegetation where temperatures range between 45˚F (7˚C) and 62˚F (16.5˚C).
3. Despite once growing widely, the Chilean bellflower is now rare
As a result of poorly controlled logging practices whereby native species are replaced by fast-growing pines and eucalyptus, much of the Valdivian temperate rainforest has been lost. As the main environment in which the Chilean bellflower grows, this has led to this once abundant plant becoming a rare and endangered species.
Although it used to be sold in rural markets, it is now much more difficult to find in Chile.
4. It’s the Chilean national flower and a strong symbol of Chilean identity
In 1977, the Chilean bellflower was declared the national flower of Chile, a ruling that made it illegal for people to pick the plant in an effort to prevent it from extinction.
During the Chilean independence festivities held on September 18 and 19 each year, bars and ramadas (makeshift tents erected to hold the celebrations) are decorated with plastic Chilean bellflowers as a representation of Chilean identity and national pride.
It is an evergreen climbing plant
The Chilean bellflower is a climber that can reach up to 33ft (10m) and climbs up shrubs and trees. Its leaves are evergreen, grow in a pendant shape and have a waxy texture.
6. It blooms magnificent, bell-shaped flowers
Named after the shape of its blooms, the Chilean bellflower grows stunning 3in. (7.5cm) flowers made up of six tepals that are deep pink or red in color on the outside and have white speckling on the inside. In the wild, they are pollinated by hummingbirds.
7. It has a long flowering season
Beginning in the summer, the Chilean bellflower maintains its blooms until the fall.
8. But it takes plenty of time to flower
It can take up to ten years for the first blooms to grow on a Chilean bellflower
9. The name copihue has its origins in the indigenous Mapuche language
Copihue comes from the word “kopiwe” or “to be mouth down” and is the name given to the plant by the indigenous Mapuche people of Chile.
10. It now grows in other parts of the world
William Lobb, a plant collector from the UK sailed to Chile in the 1840s and took seeds from the Chilean bellflower back to his country. The plant was introduced into Kew Gardens as well as into gardens in France, where it still grows to this day.