Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
This plant goes by several common names—parasol flower, Chinese hat plant, cup-and-saucer flower—all them alluding to the strange shape of its flowers. A narrow trumpet, formed by the tightly arranged petals, is backed by a wide, circular disk of fused sepals (the scales which covered the flower bud before it opened). This structure is called a calyx.
Native to the tropical foothills of the Himalayas, it is a woody shrub with a semi-climbing habit and capable of growing to a height of ten feet. It can be kept much smaller when constrained in a flower pot, as can be seen in our Palm House, the central section of the Marco Stufano Conservatory.
The normal flower color is bright red—hence the specific epithet of sanguinea (“color of blood”)—but this cultivar, Holmskioldia sanguinea ‘Bronze’, has pinkish-orange-colored flowers. The genus is named for the eighteenth-century Danish botanist Johan Theodor Holmskiold.