A mystery solved, sort of - Sternbergia colchiciflora

John T Lonsdale john@johnlonsdale.net
Fri, 02 Feb 2007 06:20:40 PST
Yesterday I was corresponding with Janis Ruksans and I mentioned the
following to him:


"I also have a mystery - for the last two years I have had 3 bulbs of
Sternbergia colchiciflora that are large and healthy and have set seed every
year.  But I have never seen a flower!  I am always looking for flowers but
never find them, but a month or two later a really large seed pod appears on
each plant.  Any idea what is going on?"


Janis replied:


"I was looking for Sternbergia colchiciflora, too. It is a very tiny,
beautiful sternbergia producing small bright yellow flowers at soil level
before the leaves come out what happens only in spring. 

Now I have many different stocks that all have come from Turkey and they
enjoy beautifully me every autumn. Possibly I went there too early because
the autumn was very dry and tardy but 

this species has a unique feature---in very dry seasons the flowers can stay
inside bulbs and they don't come out of the soil. All the parts of flower
are left only half--developed and the 

pollination happens inside the bulb; after that the development of the seed
pod which normally appears on the surface in spring starts. I have never
observed it myself because I normally 

water my plants in autumn and they flower nicely but such cases are
described in Journal of Russian Botanical Society (1926)."


The intriguing is thing is why do some plants do this and others not, and
what really causes it.  I start watering my plants in mid-September and they
stay moist thereafter.  Maybe this species needs some water earlier?  Any
ideas?  I spent ages trying to get this plant - now I just want regular
flowers (although the seed set is an obvious bonus).







John T Lonsdale PhD
407 Edgewood Drive,
Exton, Pennsylvania 19341, USA

Home: 610 594 9232
Cell: 484 678 9856
Fax: 801 327 1266

Visit "Edgewood" - The Lonsdale Garden at  <http://www.edgewoodgardens.net/>

USDA Zone 6b


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