Plants of Sítio Roberto Burle Marx

By Nicole Tarnowsky

Jun 4 2019

Roberto Burle Marx was an artist, a landscape architect and an early advocate for conservation in Brazil. He combined all of these talents to create a beautiful home and garden called Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, now a national historic landmark in Brazil as well as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Working with botanists throughout his career, Roberto Burle Marx traveled to many different habitats within Brazil, discovering new plants to bring into cultivation in his own garden. This included tropical bromeliads, philodendrons, orchids, legume trees and more. Many of these plants were new species, first named by the botanists that visited the Sítio. It is unusual for botanists to discover new species already in cultivation, but Burle-Marx's carefully curated garden contains many treasures. 

The popular houseplant, Fishbone Prayer Plant, was named for Burle Marx: Ctenanthe burle-marxii. This plant was found growing in the wild in Sao Paulo, Brazil, brought back and cultivated in Sítio Burle Marx, and described as a new species by botanist Helen Kennedy, a frequent guest to the Sítio.  Below see the type specimen of this and other plants collected by botanists in Roberto Burle Marx's garden.

See more in person at the Garden, Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx

A Closer Look