Shrub up to 3 m with light brown fissured bark. Branchlets subquadrangular, pale-yellow tomentose. Leaves opposite, petiole 10–30 mm long, stipular line well marked, blade narrowly elliptic or lanceolate, apex acute, base cuneate, margin slightly crenulate to subentire, 10–20 × 2–4 cm, sub-coriaceous, upper surface glabrescent, tomentose underneath. Inflorescence, 10–20 cm long, subtended by progressively smaller leaves towards the apex, with flowers in paired 3-flowered cymes; peduncles 1–3 cm long. Flowers sessile or with pedicels 1–3 mm long. Calyx tubular, tomentose, tube 10–16 mm long. Corolla tubular, orange, exterior tomentose excluding the lobes, interior glabrous, tube 20–34 mm long, lobes 2.3–3.5 mm. Stamens sessile, inserted near or slightly below the throat, anthers 2.3–3 × 0.9–1.2 mm. Ovary ovoid, tomentose, 6–8 mm long, style 15–25 mm long, stigma, globose 0.7–1.1 mm long. Capsule elliptic to narrowly ovoid, thickly tomentose, 10–17 × 5–8 mm. Seeds not winged, truncate at apex, elliptic or oblong 1.2–1.4 × 0.4–0.5 mm. (Norman 2000; Coelho & Miotto 2018).
Distribution Brazil Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro States
Habitat Rocky grasslands and thickets at elevations above 2000 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 8-9
RHS Hardiness Rating H4
Conservation status Near threatened (NT)
Buddleja speciosissima is a small shrub restricted to two mountains – Serra do Itatiaia and Serra Fina – in the south-east of Brazil, and is considered near threatened . This species grows into a small, scrubby shrub, the foliage felted when young, and with exotic looking orange tubular flowers. It has perfect (hermaphroditic) flowers unlike many Buddleja from the Americas, which are usually dioecious (Coelho & Miotto 2018). The flowers are self-fertile, a trait of Buddleja species which are rare or widely separated (Chen et al. 2011). Hummingbirds have been observed feeding on the flowers, and the long corolla tube of the flowers is possibly an adaptation to pollination by hummingbirds (Norman 2000). An additional trait, also unusual for a Buddleja, is that the flowers emerge from a large felted flower-bud, forming a calyx that persists to later enclose the seed capsule.
The species has recently been introduced into horticulture in the UK via the Arven nursery situated in north-west France (USDA zone 8b), where it has been grown successfully for several years after being raised from seed collected from the Serra do Itatiaia (Y. Gloaguen pers.comm. 2020). Flowering from early summer onwards ex-situ, its natural habitat at significant altitude makes it more or less hardy and semi-evergreen in temperate regions, and it has proved able to survive temperatures as low as –14ºC (N. Macer pers. comm. 2020). Generally, its preferred conditions are similar to other near-hardy Buddleja, requiring well-drained soil, full sun, and some degree of shelter from the harshest winds.
B. speciosissima is very similar to B. longiflora Brade, another near-threatened neotropical species found only on Serra do Caparaó (Minas Gerais, Brazil) at elevations above 2000 m (Coelho & Miotto 2018).