DOUBLE CHACONIA - OUR NEW NATIONAL FLOWER?

Many people believe erroneously that the double Chaconia, which is unique to Trinidad and Tobago,   is our national Flower because of its spectacular appearance and its frequent use as a logo.

The single Chaconia, however, is the national flower of Trinidad     and Tobago.  It was selected by the National Emblems     Committee in 1962 because its bright red flowers light up the hills every rainy season especially during August, the month of Independence.  The late Carlyle Chang, a member of that esteemed committee, later said that they would certainly have considered the double over the single if they had known about its existence at the time. 

DISCOVERY

“Stop the car!  Stop the car!” Grace Mulloon must have exclaimed excitedly when she spotted a magnificent, large, scarlet inflorescence among a group of wild Chaconia (Warszewiczia coccinea) down a steep precipice alongside the narrow Blanchisseuse road that meanders through Trinidad’s northern range. 

The year was 1957 and Mulloon was taking a leisurely drive with fellow naturalist David AuYong and another friend when they came upon this momentous find:  They had discovered the only mutant Chaconia plant of its kind ever found growing in the wild!

Mulloon may have been the first to spot the outstanding bloom, but it is to David Auyong that the world owes a greater debt of gratitude:  He saved the plant from extinction, risking life and limb on numerous occasions to obtain suitable material from the almost inaccessible plant for propagation.

NEW PLANTS

Auyong eventually succeeded with the help of Roy Nichols, plant physiologist at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture to get three new plants established.  “Just in the nick of time”, as the saying goes, because, shortly afterwards, the original plant perished during road work exercises.

Only one of the three new plants survived, and great care had to be taken to grow it to maturity and then to propagate it.  Officially named Warszewiczia coccinea cultivar “David Auyong” and commonly called double Chaconia, all such plants now in existence are descended from this

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single plant.

NATIONAL FLOWER

The single Chaconia is indigenous to this country, but it is also found in the northern regions of South America.  The double, on the other hand, which is a more spectacular bloom, is not only indigenous but it is unique to Trinidad and Tobago.

There is obviously a strong case to have the double replace the single as the country’s national flower.

Successive governments have been sympathetic to this idea, but none have acted on it.  Maybe, the present one will be the one to cut through the red tape and make Trinidad and Tobago’s magnificent double Chaconia our national flower.

If you have any gardening news or tips you would like to share, or if you are having a problem in your garden, e-mail me at thehappygardner@tstt.net.tt

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