T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Centranthus ruber (Spur Valerian)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Valerianaceae
Genus: Centranthus
Species: C. ruber
Binomial name: Centranthus ruber
Common names: Red valerian, Jupiter's Beard, Spur Valerian

A native of the Mediterranean region, Centranthus ruber has been introduced into many other parts of the world as a garden escapee. It is often seen by roadsides or in urban wasteland. It can tolerate very alkaline soil conditions.
It grows as a perennial plant, usually as a subshrub though it can take any form from a herb to a shrub depending on conditions; the plants are usually woody at the base. The leaves are generally 5-8 cm in length. Their shape changes from the bottom to the top of the plant, the lower leaves being petioled while the upper leaves are sessile. 
The plant flowers profusely, and though the individual flowers are small (no more than 2 cm), the inflorescences are large and showy. The flowers have a strong and somewhat rank scent: they are pollinated by both bees and butterflies and the plant is noted for attracting insects. It is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. The flowers are usually a purplish red, but sometimes lavender or white in colour and it flowers November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June.  It self-seeds freely.



The pink and white forms of Centranthus ruber 

Red and pink form.
 

 



 

A closeup of the uppermost leaves which differ in shape to mature leaves.


Mature leaves


 

The underside of a leaf.