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This attractive, delicate-looking but hardy climber has masses of thread-like stems which climb into any available vegetation. The stems can reach 5 m long, and appear in late winter from a reddish, underground tuber (storage organ). The bright green leaves are soft, round and deeply five or six-lobed. The small flowers appear in spring, singly in the leaf axils, and have a long, pointed red spur, dark sepals and small yellow petals in the pinched mouth. The flowers are pollinated by green-backed firecrown hummingbirds (Sephanoides sephaniodes).

Tropaeolum tricolor (three-coloured Indian cress)

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

This attractive, delicate-looking but hardy climber has masses of thread-like stems which climb into any available vegetation. The stems can reach 5 m long, and appear in late winter from a reddish, underground tuber (storage organ). The bright green leaves are soft, round and deeply five or six-lobed. The small flowers appear in spring, singly in the leaf axils, and have a long, pointed red spur, dark sepals and small yellow petals in the pinched mouth. The flowers are pollinated by green-backed firecrown hummingbirds (Sephanoides sephaniodes).

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Native to central and northern Chile, where it occurs from the coastal mountains of Antofagasta, south to the temperate forests of Los Lagos. In the north it is found growing in fog zone vegetation between about 300-900 m above sea level, but further south in central Chile it grows at up to 2,500 m above sea level.

Description

Overview:  A straggling, tuberous, climber up to around 5 m high, attaching by curling petioles (leaf stalks).

Leaves:  The leaves are peltate (rounded and with petiole attached near the centre), deeply five or six-lobed and up to 25 mm across. 

Flowers:  The flowers are about 3 cm long, including the spur. The calyx (whorl of sepals) has five lobes and is red, orange or yellow, with a dark purplish band, and is extended to form a slender, red spur. The petals are small (4-5 x 2-4 mm), yellow or green and round, with a long, narrow stalk-like base. 

Fruits: The dark brown fruits have 2 or 3 mericarps (seed-containing parts, each deriving from a carpel) each containing dark brown seeds.

Uses

Three-coloured Indian cress is cultivated as an ornamental.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 23.5 g

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: None

Cultivation

Three-coloured Indian cress is the longest flowering species of Tropaeolum in the collection at Kew, and also one of the most vigorous. It can easily cover, and overtop, the 2 m stakes provided as support.

It is grown in a frost-free glasshouse, in large (30 cm diameter) pots, filled with a free-draining, loam-based soil mix. The plants are re-potted in late summer and, once watered, growth soon appears above the ground. At re-potting time the tubers are often found near the bottom of the pot and if seedlings are raised and left too long before potting up, the tubers may emerge through the drainage hole at the bottom.

The first buds are produced by early spring.

This species at Kew

Three-coloured Indian cress can be seen growing near the north entrance of the Davies Alpine House

Pressed and dried specimens of Tropaeolum tricolor are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these specimens, including images, can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Distribution
Chile
Ecology
Thickets or grassy areas on dry slopes, or on forest margins.
Conservation
Not known to be threatened.
Hazards

None known.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental.

Native to:

Chile Central, Chile North, Chile South

English
Three-coloured Indian cress

Tropaeolum tricolor Sweet appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Brit. Fl. Gard. 3: t. 270 (1828)

Accepted by

  • Rodríguez, R., Grau, J., Baeza, C. & Davies, A. (2008). Lista comentada de las plantas vasculares de los Nevados de Chillan, Chile Gayana. Botánica 65: 153-197.
  • Watson, J.M. & Flores, A.R. (2010). A synopsis of perennial tuberous Tropaeolum L. section Chilensia Sparre (Tropaeolaceae), including validation of three subsections and a new, reclassified natural hybrid Herbertia 64: 150-281.
  • Zuloaga, F.O., Morrone, O. , Belgrano, M.J., Marticorena, C. & Marchesi, E. (eds.) (2008). Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares del Cono Sur Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 107: 1-3348. Missouri Botanical Garden.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Sparre, B. & Andersson, L. (1991). A taxonomic revision of the Tropaeolaceae. Opera Botanica 108: 1-139.
  • The Plant List (2010). Tropaeolum tricolor.
  • Wilford, R. (2010). Tropaeolum tricolor. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 27: t. 681.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Rodríguez, R., Grau, J., Baeza, C. & Davies, A. (2008). Lista comentada de las plantas vasculares de los Nevados de Chillan, Chile Gayana. Botánica 65: 153-197.
  • Watson, J.M. & Flores, A.R. (2010). A synopsis of perennial tuberous Tropaeolum L. section Chilensia Sparre (Tropaeolaceae), including validation of three subsections and a new, reclassified natural hybrid Herbertia 64: 150-281.

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0