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Saurauia madrensis Actinidiaceae
 
Actinidiacae 'Saurauia madrensis' at San Francisco Botanical Garden

Saurauia madrensis by James Gaither

 

Once a common plant in certain areas of its native home, Saurauia madrensis is now a rare plant endemic to high elevations (6000-10,000 ft.) of Chiapas, Mexico.

It was discovered and named in 1981 by Barbara Keller, former collections manager here at SFBG, and Dennis Breedlove, Botany Curator at the California Academy of Sciences who was primarily responsible for bringing back from Chiapas so many of the plants that are represented in our Mesoamerican Cloud Forest.

At that time, Breedlove described this Saurauia as a "weedy tree" native to the Sierra Madre region of Mexico, but because of the gorgeous red and green foliage and showy white flowers of this magnificent plant, he recognized its potential for cultivation and brought seeds back for propagation.

Saurauia madrensis is now known to grow wild in only a few localities in the Sierra Madre, in cloud forests and montane rain forests, on steep slopes, and along ravines with pines, oaks and liquidambars. The Red List of Mexican Cloud Forest Trees (2011) lists it as Endangered. Once again, SFBG is a repository for diversity, successfully growing plants that have been diminished in their native habitat. Being a cloud forest native, it grows superbly in our foggy, coastal California site.

The scientific name honors both a person and a place. "Saurauia," the genus, was described in 1801 by Willdenow, an Austrian, who honored Franz Graf von Saurau, a friend and advisor to the emperor and a supporter of the natural sciences. The specific epithet, or second name, "madrensis," honors the mountain range, the Sierra Madre, where the plant was found.

There are nearly 300 species of Saurauia found in tropical Asia, Australia, and Central to South America. It is the only living genus in the family, Actinidiaceae, whose natural distribution includes areas outside of Asia.

A large shrub or tree growing from seven up to 40 ft., Saurauia madrensis can be upright or somewhat gawky. Its leaves are large and leathery, up to eleven inches long, are prominently veined, and are covered with reddish fuzz. The new growth has been described as "especially nice with silky-violet iridescent hairs," the plant "appearing as a giant, hairy-bronze loquat." Striking white flowers are borne in clusters of a dozen or more. It is a relative of kiwi fruit (Actinidia deliciosa) and, like the kiwi, needs both a male and a female plant to set fruit.

When fruits are produced, they are small, greenish berries, which are very sweet in taste. Like the kiwi fruit, the pulp is mucilaginous, sticky, and filled with many small seeds. The fruit is pretty much unknown outside of its native area in Mexico. Local people in Chiapas collect the fruits to eat and also sell them along with other fruits at local markets.

Saurauia madrensis is a beautiful, small tree for shade that's perfectly suited to the mild and foggy San Francisco Bay Area where there is very little frost. It seems to prefer locations which have partial shade. It should be planted in well drained, rich, most soils only. It will also require infrequent to regular watering, not too much wind, and protection from hard freezes. It does well in containers, but must be watered regularly. It is a lovely addition to a foliage garden almost anywhere, just make sure to give it enough room. It will quickly get large enough to spread up and over the tops of smaller plants.

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text by Mona Bourell. Photos by James Gaither, Joanne Taylor, Mona Bourell, Corey Barnes, David Kruse-Pickler and SFBG Library Archives.

Location

Saurauia madrensis can be found in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest Beds: 24B, 24C, 24J, 29B, 29D, 29E, 29G;
County Fair Building: Bed 2B;
Entry Garden: Bed 5B.
Visiting Info >>
Map (Bed Numbers) >>

Profile

Scientific Name Saurauia madrensis
Common Name Moquillo
Family Actinidiaceae
Plant Type Large shrub or small tree. Cloud forest evergreen.
Environment Part shade to full sun in cooler areas, rich, moist soil with infrequent to regular watering. Protect from wind and hard freezes. At its best in the fog belt. It does well in containers, but must be watered conscientiously.
Bloom Summer through Fall.
Uses Bearing striking red and green foliage and very showy flowers, it is quite suitable for planting around homes, in gardens, and public parks where the climate is mild, as it is perfectly suited to the mild and foggy SF Bay Area.
 
 
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Chlorogalum pomeridianum

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Iris douglasiana

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Vaccinium ovatum

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Sambucus racemosa

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Sequoia sempervirens

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Deppea splendens

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Montanoa spp.

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Bidens sp.

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Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

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Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

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Bomaria spp.

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Rhododendron occidentale

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Polystichum munitum

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x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

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Salvia leucantha

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Hydrangea seemannii

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Cyathea cooperi

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Pinus radiata

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Correa spp.

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Garrya elliptica

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Senecio glastifolius

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Ribes spp.

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Oxalis oregana

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May

Calandrinia grandiflora

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Taxus baccata

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Romneya coulteri

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Passiflora parritae

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Malvaviscus arboreus

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Monterey Cypress

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Aloe arborescens

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Aloe plicatilis

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Banksia seminuda

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Zantedeschia elliottiana

Zantedeschia aethiopica

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Magnolia laevifolia

Magnolia laevifolia

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Araucaria heterophylla

Araucaria heterophylla

May

Toxicodendron diversilobum

Toxicodendron diversilobum

June

Clarkia sp.

Clarkia sp.

July

Agapanthus

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Brugmansia

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Cedrus spp.

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Protea repens

Protea repens

November

Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis

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Thujopsis dolabrata

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Gordonia longicarpa

Gordonia longicarpa

February

Rojasianthe superba

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Echium spp.

Echium spp.

April

Iris douglasiana

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May

Digitalis purpurea

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Felicia amelloides

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Ilex aquifolium

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Picea sitchensis

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Telanthophora grandifolia

Telanthophora grandifolia

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Salvia gesneraeflora

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Luma apiculata

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Luculia

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Restionaceae

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Ceanothus

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Rhododendron

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Camellia

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