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Begoniaceae

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Begonia 'Richmondensis'
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Claude Lafond)

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Description

Just two genera making up a whole botanical family certainly doesn’t seem like much. Even stranger, the genus Begonia represents 99% of the family – 1,500 species, many of them with very showy foliage and different habits. Some are epiphytes, while others are climbers or shrubs, and some are perennials and other annuals. But all begonias have one feature in common: asymmetrical leaves.

History

The first Begonias arrived at the Montréal Botanical Garden in 1937. But it was mainly between 1956 and 1962 that the collection underwent exceptional growth, thanks to the efforts of the Garden’s first curator, Henry Teuscher, and the collaboration of Edgar Irmscher, one of the great Begonia experts.

Irmscher (1887-1968) was a German botanist who published a number of seminal taxonomic studies on this genus. His collection and many of his manuscripts are conserved at the Berlin herbarium.

During this period, Teuscher corresponded regularly with Irmscher, and sent him herbarium specimens from the species in the Garden’s collection – mainly plants purchased from dealers or obtained from other botanical gardens. At the time, only a few of the Garden’s Begonia species, sent by C.K. Horich from Costa Rica, had been collected directly in the wild.

Over the past several years, the Botanical Garden has significantly increased the number of species in its collection.

We have recently obtained several interesting species through the network of botanical gardens, the American Begonia Society, exchanges with experts and excursions to Africa.

Where and when

Begoniaceae and Gesneriads Greenhouse: all year long!

Based on articles by Denis Barabé in Quatre-Temps magazine.

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