Leaf of the Day: Blue Clerodendrum Berry

Today was another beautiful clear day. There has been little time for drawing, with cycling and punctures and shopping, but I did just want to record this clerodenrum fruit before it died or the colour faded. If the label at Leu is correct it is the Clerodendrum paniculatum ‘Borneo Sunset’. The leaves are a handsome bronze green and if this is the right plant, the flowers are like this.

image from Top Tropicals here

This species of clerodendrum is also known as the Pagoda Flower, with the typical pretty clerodendrum flowers with the long stamens. The flower spike forms a beautiful pyramid shape, just like a Japanese pagoda. There are many examples at Leu Gardens but they are difficult to photograph in amongst all the other foliage, and they are not a flower I would normally paint.
So I can’t do any better than to include a painting by my good friend Gill Barron who works in the tricky medium of gouache. She sent me this image when I had first painted the clerodendrum. It was of a plant she had seen and painted in India but could not identify. Her painting is perfect and easily recognisable as the pagoda flower. Here is an extract from her email.

At very long last, a mystery solved!
In India (Karnataka) I used to walk past a great big plant every day, with the personality of a giant loo-brush but gorgeous too. It brought me out in spots when I picked some to paint. Here it is in its habitat by the smelly canal ( my passion is for wayside weeds). I asked everyone its name and was told “Bassavannappada” so I copied this as written down for me in the Malayalam alphabet messily in the corner. Still, never knowing what it was bugged me. Obvious now, having seen your clerodendrums.

Gill’s site is a cornucopia of wonderfully detailed paintings of scenes from her home and travels. The gouache colours are beautiful clear pastels, the images of Yorkshire make me a bit homesick and remembering the derelict cinema in Cyprus makes me laugh… go visit…..http://www.ipaint.com/

Here is a photo of the plant at Leu taken last week with the little unopened seed pods. The surprise is the berry. It’s an odd thing almost the shape of a light bulb but deep turquoise blue, a most unusual colour in the plant world. The orangy red sepals enclose the berry until it is ripe and then fold back. The Fountain Clerodendrum I had drawn before here has a very similar seed pod but with thick bright red sepals and when I saw it the berry was not as bright a blue as this. I am only wondering about the identification because I can’t find much reference to the beautiful blue berries. Perhaps I am the only one to find these berries and and seed pods so interesting. It is quite possible!

The Blue Clerodendrum Berry

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