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Impatiens paucidentata

This is a close look at the very unusual Impatiens paucidentata.  This beautiful species was discovered in a tiny section of rain forest in central Africa.  It's unusual in several ways, including that it's one of the only fully epiphytic Impatiens species.  Also its foliage has little resemblance to typical Impatiens.  The glossy leaves are thick and fleshy, with a texture like leather.  And the bizarre flowers look like some kind of strange tropical fish!  This is a choice plant for fans of eccentric plants.  It is very rare in cultivation and almost never seen for sale.

Impatiens paucidentata

Impatiens paucidentata is a perennial species from the cool mountains of Gabon and Uganda, more known for its endangered mountain gorillas.  It grows along moist tree trunks, where it spreads about 18 inches in all directions.  When grown in high humidity, it sends out lots of aerial roots.  The slender leaves are 3 to 4 inches long and are arranged in a spiral pattern along the shoots.  The plant looks great in a hanging basket, where it flowers in waves periodically throughout the year.  The 2 inch, cornucopia-shaped blooms are deep red with a white throat and a lime green hood.  The colors almost look like wet paint, due to the the glossy texture of the blooms.  At the opening of the flower is a cottony tuft of bright purple pollen!  This is a true species, not a hybrid.  It might be able to be hybridized with some related African Impatiens species.

Impatiens paucidentata

The rain forests where it grows have a mild climate and probably don't get much warmer than the mid-80s.  It's possible that the plant may not thrive if temperatures are consistently above 85 degrees (30C), especially if nights are warm (above 65F/18C).  I don't know its cold hardiness but it probably can't survive frost.  It prefers a loose, fast-draining soil mix that's kept moist.  A good mix is equal parts of potting soil, fine grade orchid bark, and perlite or pumice.  Like most Impatiens, it enjoys regular feeding, and prefers bright shade or filtered sun.  Protect it from strong sun exposure.  Over about 50% humidity is best.

Impatiens paucidentata

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