Sparrmannia is a taxonomically complex genus with an as yet indeterminate number of species, formerly belonging to the family Tiliaceae, now abolished, according to modern classification, it is part of the family Malvaceae.
There is confusion regarding the spelling: Sparmannia or Sparrmannia? In 1782, the son of Carl Linnaeus, when publishing this genus, made a typo, writing the name of the genus with one “r“, but the name of the species – with two. Both names were used until 1989 when the variant Sparrmannia was finally adopted, as it is obvious that Linnaeus intended to name the genus after Anders Sparrman (1748-1820), a Swedish botanist and physician, a student of Carl Linnaeus. Sparrman was the first botanist to collect specimens of Sparrmannia africana and introduced it to European gardeners around 1778. But now both versions of the name came in handy.
Now there are 2 different kinds, consonant, but different in spelling. The genus Sparrmannia includes only 2 species – Sparrmannia africana and sparrmannia multicolored (Sparrmannia discolor).
The genus Sparmannia includes a single species, Sparmannia ricinocarpa. Sparmannia macrocarpa and Sparmannia subpalmataare considered synonymous with castor sparmania, but some authors consider them to be independent species.
Sparrmania is low evergreen trees or shrubs. The branches and leaves are covered with soft hairs. The leaves are heart-shaped, whole or lobed. Flowers with 4 sepals and 4 petals, white, collected in umbrella-shaped inflorescence. The fruit is a capsule covered with prickly hairs. It grows in tropical and Southern Africa, on the island of Madagascar.
This is a large densely branched shrub or a low tree with a rounded crown, usually about 4 m in height, but can reach 8 m. Branches are soft, at a young age covered with hard, bristly hairs. The leaves are large, up to 27 cm long and 21 cm wide, heart-shaped, with 3, 5, 7, or 9 veins from the base, often divided into 3-9 lobes, but in inflorescences, the leaves are usually simple, covered on both sides with soft hairs, toothed at the edges.
Sparrmannia africana grows in humid places along the edges of forests, on the slopes of rocks and hills, in ravines and along streams in South Africa and Madagascar.
The flowers are white, 3.5 cm in diameter, with yellow and red-purple stamens in the center, formed in umbrella-shaped inflorescence closer to the ends of the branches. The buds are white-green, hanging, the outer surfaces of the sepals and peduncles are covered with short bristly hairs. When blooming, the peduncles rise, the white petals open wide and expose bright two-tone stamens, giving the flowers greater attractiveness. The outer stamens are yellow, with purple tips, sterile. And the inner ones are reddish-purple, with pollen.
The stamens are sensitive to touch. When an insect touches the stamens, they swell towards each other, which contributes to better pollination. Flowering in nature occurs from the end of winter to the beginning of summer. The fruit is a rounded capsule about 2 cm in diameter, covered with spiny hairs.
This species is widely cultivated, it has won the award of the English Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). For its resemblance, the plant is often called African or Indoor Linden.
Sparrmannia africana has a rapid growth. In the garden, she prefers a slightly shaded and well-protected place from strong winds, she is afraid of frost. In Europe, sparrmania is better known as a pot or caddy crop. This is an excellent large plant for warm, bright and spacious rooms with good air circulation.
Sparrmannia discolor is a shrub or small tree up to 2-3 m tall with simple, heart-shaped, toothed leaves. Umbrella-shaped inflorescence appear in the leaf axils on the apical parts of the shoots. It grows in Madagascar in humid forests. It is not cultivated, it is collected from the wild for the sake of obtaining plant fiber.
We will also introduce you to the castor sparmania that has dropped out of the genus – please note that this is not a woody plant, but a herbaceous one. There is a common name for this plant – Mountain Stock Rose.
Castor sparmannia (Sparmannia ricinocarpa)
Castor sparmannia (Sparmannia ricinocarpa) – grows in meadows, in wooded areas along rivers, on forest edges, in deserts and along roads, in hedgerows. Its range extends from eastern Cameroon east to Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia and south to South Africa, and is also found in Madagascar and Reunion.
It grows in the form of a low herbaceous shrub and with thin hairy shoots rises to a height of 3 m. Leaves are alternate, leaf plates linear-lanceolate in outline, deep 3-7 lobed, 2-19 cm long and 1-18 cm wide, with a heart-shaped base and a pointed top, irregularly scaly-toothed at the edges, covered with hairs on both sides.
Petiole up to 8 cm long, pubescent, stipules up to 8 mm long, bristly. The inflorescence is umbrella-shaped, with 3-25 flowers each. Flowers are bisexual, with 4 petals, white, buds sometimes with a purple tint, stamens are numerous (about 50), yellow. In nature, flowers can appear almost year-round. The fruit is an elliptical capsule 2-2.5 cm long, covered with bristles that cling to the skin of animals and settle. It is grown for the sake of obtaining vegetable fiber.