Some bulbs of western North American Fritillaria

Jim McKenney
Thu, 19 Jun 2008 18:05:24 PDT
I’ve been digging and sorting bulbs all week, and it’s always a pleasure
when the one turns out a pot and finds something good. Some of the frits
Jane McGary has sent out over the years have done well here; in particular,
I’m happy to say that some of the Californian species seem at least willing
to give things here a trial.  

I noticed today that we don’t have any images of the bulbs of the western
North American Fritillaria on the wiki, so I’ve added several: there are now
images of the bulbs of Fritillaria biflora, Fritillaria roderickii (biflora
‘grayana’), F. liliacea and F. striata. As western North American frits go,
these are related and the bulbs are similar.  They were photographed against
a quarter inch grid. Take a look here:…

Many of the western North American Fritillaria make me think lily more than
fritillary, and the bulbs of the species illustrated show why. These are the
oddest bulbs: long, sausage or finger like upright scales connected (loosely
sometimes!) at the base like some severely stressed lily bulb. 

In the image of the bulbs of Fritillaria biflora, you can see lots of small
ones. Were there attached to the larger bulbs before I dug them? I don’t
know; perhaps gentler handling would have provided an answer. I’m pretty
sure most have been living a separate existence for at least a year and
maybe two, but one can make out what seems to be one of these small bulbs
forming at the base of one of the bigger ones. 

I’m still feeling my way with these Californian species, but I’m convinced
that those from the southern half of the state require, under our
conditions, to be dry, very dry, by the end of May.  Does that make sense to
those of you who have grown these successfully? 

A first trial with Fritillaria striata was a failure here. I began to wonder
if this species was heat intolerant. But a Google search on the weather of
the counties where it grows in California turned up this reassuring
information: the summer temperatures within its native range sometimes
exceed 100º F. I’ll bet the soil there does not stay continuously moist for
long after late April.

It would be helpful to hear from some of you who live within the ranges of
these species.  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where the solsticial lilies are peaking. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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