Begonia lyman-smithii is a rhizomatous species native to Mexico, and has a vulnerable conservation status due to loss of habitat. In-situ, it grows only in a small area of limestone hills in northern Oaxaca, Mexico, preferring to grow in crevices in the limestone. While some ABS members grow this species, it isn’t widely in cultivation. Happily, it doesn’t require a terrarium and is easy to grow.

Begonia lyman-smithii

A young plant of B. lyman-smithii, showing the spunky white dots on its leaves

B. lyman-smithii has beautiful dense, rust-colored wooly hairs that line its leaf edges. As a young plant, the leaves have spunky white dots on its leaves that complement the hairs.

This species is named for Lyman Bradford Smith, 1904-1997, an American botanist born in Winchester, Massachusetts and mostly home-schooled during his childhood. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1930, was a world authority on Begoniaceae, and was a curator at the Smithsonian’s Department of Botany from 1947 until his retirement in 1974. Dr. Smith published extensively in The Begonian from 1941 to 1993. This Begonia was described by and named for Dr. Smith by Kathleen Burt-Utley and John Utley in 1987.

Lyman Bradford Smith

B. lyman-smithii | Photo by Mike Mack

If you are growing this beautiful Begonia, you are encouraged to pollinate, collect seeds, and donate them to the ABS Seed Fund, so that it is more widely in cultivation!