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Impatiens columbaria

Impatiens columbaria - the "Pink Dove" Impatiens - is a recent discovery from the rain forests of Gabon in west Africa.  This unusual species has very little resemblance to typical Impatiens.  For starters, it has rounded, furry leaves that look like those of a Gesneriad.  In fact, the plant was believed to be a Gesneriad when it was discovered.. until the blooms appeared.  It flowers profusely throughout the year for me, with exotic, pink blooms that resemble a bird in flight.  This is a fascinating species that is extremely rare.  I don't know anyone else currently offering it.

Impatiens columbaria - Pink Dove Impatiens

Impatiens columbaria has thick, succulent stems that are coated with fuzz and grow to about 18 inches long.  Some of the stems grow upright, while others trail along the ground, or over the edge of a hanging planter.  Each 2 inch leaf has curious, long "teeth" at the base, whose purpose has eluded botanists.  Throughout the year, the plant sends up tall racemes, each with about 6 to 12 flowers.  The blooms are just under an inch long, and are a vibrant shade of purplish-pink.  When viewed from the front, they appear orchid-shaped, with interesting markings inside.  The species name "columbaria" refers to the dove-like shape when viewed from the side.  This is a true species, not a hybrid.

Impatiens columbaria - Pink Dove

I believe the plant comes from an area that's 80 degrees during the day, and 60 at night, year-round.  I have no information on how much heat it can take, but some similar African Impatiens decline when temperatures rise above the mid 80s, particularly when nights are warm.  Consider it experimental in warmer climates.  It grows great in my home at 65-75 degrees.  I haven't tried it in cooler conditions, but you can test its cold hardiness on rooted cuttings.

It is easy to grow in a small pot in a loose soil mix, such as half potting soil and half perlite or orchid bark.  It comes from cloud forests, so it appreciates protection from strong sun.  Bright, filtered light is best.  Like most Impatiens, it enjoys moist soil and regular feeding.  Over about 40% humidity is best.

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