Bulbs that flower without leaves--TOW

Antennaria@aol.com Antennaria@aol.com
Sun, 03 Aug 2003 20:40:02 PDT
Mary Sue wrote:

> If we want to change the topic to plants that produce flowers and foliage 
> at different times that is fine with me too. It would be a good idea to 
> decide soon however for the sake of the discussion.

It's an interesting problem.  No one has mentioned Alliums yet, but certainly 
these come into play when talking about bulbs that flower without leaves.  On 
the whole, a large number of Allium species have foliage that's in decline at 
the same time the flowers emerge (one of the criticisms of the genus).  There 
are those species however, where the foliage is absent or completely withered 
by the time the flowers arrive.  One such Allium, is the Japanese A. togasii, 
which flowers in late summer to early autumn.


I think of this as a plant with foliage first, then flowers... but it's sort 
of like determining what's first, the chicken or the egg.  There are many 
plants that have foliage for a long season, even throughout the winter, then lose 
the foliage before, during, or immediately after flowering, for a short 
dormancy of 1-2 months, then re-emerge with winter-persistant growth.  This growth 
pattern seems to be more of a pattern of opposites... flowers... while foliar 
growth is in decline or absent, an issue of active growth versus dormancy.

One Allium species that has foliage and flowers quite clearly delineated, is 
the eastern American A. tricoccum, otherwise known as "ramps".  This is a 
shade plant with broad lily-of-the-valley like leaves in spring.  The foliage 
dries up, but in mid summer (July) naked flower stems reach 8-10" (20-25 cm) 
topped with nice white flowers.  Where it grows natively, it's supposed to grow by 
the acre.  In my dryish garden, a single bulb has grown for 16 years, always 
showing fresh spring flowers, but this year was the second time it ever bloomed 
in all those years!  Here's a "ok" photo showing the July bloom head.


There are other alliums that produce foliage and stems in spring and into 
early summer... then the whole affair goes dormant... or at least gives the 
appearance of doing so.  Specifically, Allium cupanii and A. hirtovaginatum; both 
Mediterranean species, come to mind.  They grow in the spring, and produce 
sheathed buds on top of short stalks that are so thin  (same thickness as the 
stem) that they can hardly be discerned from the stems.  Sitting there now (in 
early August), looking like brown, dried lifeless stalks about 4-8" tall (10-20 
cm), the stems are actually quite alive, and will "miraculously" emerge soon 
and come into late summer flowering, quite leafless and utterly interesting.  
While not showy, the quaint late summer or autumn blooms are dainty, surprising, 
and leafless.

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States  
antennaria@aol.com    "New England"               USDA Zone 5
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