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What is Bomarea?

By Bethney Foster
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bomarea is a genus of tuberous rooted, flowering plants in the Alstroemeriaceae family and the Liliales order. There are about 100 different species in the Bomarea genus. Most of the species grow as vines and can be found in Mexico and areas south. The plants are found throughout the tropics, the Andes, and into Chile. While cultivated in some parts of the world, some species are considered pests in their native habitats.

Many of the species are climbing plants, growing into trees, while a few grow as ground cover. Most species can be found in the under-canopy of the forest. A few species are coastal natives and can be found in the fog belt of Chile.

Flowers of the Bomarea are produced in a cluster at the end of growing shoots. Each drooping cluster may include up to 45 trumpet-shaped flowers. Each flower has three outer tepals and three inner tepals, and these may be in different colors.

Colors of the showy flowers include red, orange, and yellow. Many of the flowers will change colors as the petals continue to open. Some species’ flowers are tipped in yellow and many have dark spots.

The flowers produce a capsule-like fruit. When ripe, the fruit splits to allow its bright orange and red seeds to be dispersed. Birds are the primary dispersers of the seeds.

The leaves of most Bomarea species are thin and pale green. They are elongated and pointed. The species may grow to heights of 13 feet (4 m).

The plant produces a long rhizome of roots and potato-like tubers underground. Each plant may have as many as 20 root tubers, and the tubers may each be as much as 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. The roots of many of the Bomarea plants are boiled and eaten in some parts of the world, and a few species are considered to have medicinal uses in healing traditions. The plant's wide distribution may be because it has long been used as a food source.

In cultivation, Bomarea species are attractive to hummingbirds and are best grown in filtered light. They prefer humus-rich, draining soil as a garden plant. In more temperate climates, the plants go dormant after the first frost and return in the spring to bloom summer through autumn. In colder climates, the Bomarea species can be grown in containers and brought inside during winter months.

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