Asteranthera ovata: the little star
Belonging to the family of the Gesneriaceae, the asteranthera is a plant coming from the humid forests of Argentina and Chile, and it is a plant with creeping vines or 30-40cm long vines, covered by a thin hair. The bilobed leaves are small with serrated margins and obtuse apex. The color of the foliage, which is covered with fuzz, is bright dark green. It is a monospecific plant endowed with axillar hermaphroditic flowers, which are found solitary, or in groups of maximum 3. The inflorescences that are found on peduncles have 5 red petals with white lines, joined to the base. The seeds are contained in a berry with a diameter of about 1 cm.
The Asteranthera Ovata is a plant that in nature is found at altitudes between 100 and 2000 meters, and prefers a humid and cool climate, even if it fears the frost. The most suitable type of soil is that without limestone, rich in humus and moderately fertile. Being an undergrowth plant it must be kept in the shade, and sheltered from cold winds. It tolerates cold and some rare light frost quite well, but in case of frost it must be put in a fresh greenhouse or in a winter garden.
The propagation is done in the fall using the seeds, in an unheated seedbed or, in late summer, by cutting the well-developed roots. Preferably close to walls and protected areas with rather large stones. the plant generally does not need pruning, but it is advisable to remove the dry leaves, for purely aesthetic reasons. Repotting may be annual, based on the growth of the area covered.
The soil must be kept humid, but stagnation must be avoided. You can provide for fertilization twice a week during the summer, using a liquid produced specifically for green and flowering plants, or a nitrogen fertilizer in grains.
Diseases and cures
If grown in the suitable soil the Asteranthera ovata does not fear rot and fungus, and resists very well to the attack of aphids and cochineal that are not very attracted to this plant. The intense frost, however, can make the leaves wilt, so in winter it is advisable to keep the plant protected to avoid burns.
Asteranthera ovata is the only representative of its kind.
Its common name in Chile is “estrellita” which means “little star”.