Sternbergia question

Angelo Porcelli
Sat, 11 Feb 2006 12:11:24 PST
Sternbergia lutea is a fairly variable species but, of course, to can
appreciate this variability one has to see wild stands, which I am lucky to
do. While I have never found a different shade of yellow so far (i.e. a
butter yellow or even a white form), nor a double form, although flowers
with 8 tepals aren't rare, I have found visible variations in flower shape,
size and leaf width. Some plants have pointed tepals, often longer that
average, which give the flower a distinct star shape. Other have rounded
tips and often wider tepals than average, the ones I call the small tulips.
In the last days of the flower life, the tepals open wide, especially if
days are warm and sunny. Some have short peduncles at flowering, other are
well displaied like a rainlily on a 15cm (6") stalk. Leaves have a more or
less evident silver median stripe and leaf can be narrow or over 1cm wide.
Now, I see S.sicula is considered a species and it is said to differ for the
well marked silver stripe. I believe the most quoted Italian botanist
(prof.Pignatti) considers it like S.lutea ssp.sicula and not true species.
My opinion is that form is just one coming from more xeric enviroments,
which could be more true from Sicily or Crete rather than Apulia.
Just yesterday I had time to visit a lutea population close to the sea,
which is very unusual for this species. There I met a couple of wide leafed
forms. Indeed I am not sure if these wide leafed plants are also the large
flowered ones, because at flowering leaves are almost absent. The main
problem in collecting these plants, apart the lack of time, is to dig them
among the boulders ! As you can see from a photo of mine, they grow mainly
in really stony soils, not useful for agricultural purpose. Digging one of
those plants often means a broken bulb-neck and a tuff of leaves in a
disappointed hand. Many people aren't aware that Sternbergia lutea grows
very deep in these cracks and to remove one of them, without killing, takes
a bit of patience and a good pick axe !
Seeds question. I have heard from several people that they have never got a
seed on their sternbergia, especially on this angustifolia form, claimed to
be very fioriferous.
 I have always wondered how some can claim to have a superior strain, if
they lack a term for comparison. I often get the suspect this story is
similar to the Crinum powelli alba, reputed superior to the horrible rosea
clone. As for the seeds, I don't understand if it's a matter of unsuitable
climate or sterile forms, which would be quite odd seeing here they all set
seed freely. Also clusiana and candida did for me last year, at their very
first flowering.

Angelo Porcelli

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