Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the December 11, 2006 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

My trail up through the scrub took me through a lush little valley where folks lived in every kind of house, from fairly nice ones to real hovels, all looking as if they'd been constructed haphazardly over many years, and that's probably the case. However, one couldn't emerge from that valley without having gathered one inevitable impression:

No matter how desperately poor and stinking a living area might look, it was always set among the most delightful plants. One nostril smelled pig manure or worse, the other the sweetest perfume, and the eye was always catching on one gorgeous flower-color-eruption or another.

Surely the most spectacular plant currently flowering in that valley is the Chalice-vine, SOLANDRA GUTTATA. Below, you can see a flower -- keep in mind that the ochre-yellow, funnel-shaped blossom is NINE INCHES (23 cm) long and fragrant.

Chalice-vine, Solandra guttata

One is just not accustomed to seeing such huge, colorful blossoms unless they're growing from a bulb in a pot, like an amaryllis or lily. But Chalice-vine is a much- branching, climbing shrub (not twining enough to be a vine). The ones I saw were at least 15 feet tall.

Chalice-vines are native Mexican plants, and members of the Nightshade or Tomato/Tobacco Family, the Solanaceae.