Parallel regions

Jane McGary
Fri, 20 Nov 2009 15:12:06 PST
Ken Hixson wrote:
>         In addition, plants that may grow in, for instance, the 
> Pontic region
>of Turkey, may include plants from sea level, and plants from alpine
>peaks.  They are not equally hardy.  Some may grow submerged
>in water from snowmelt, and be completely dry and dormant a month later.
>Trying to grow them in standing water here would be foolish.
>There are numerous instances of plants that survive under a snow cover
>that not only insulates and protects the ground from freezing, but also
>keeps plants from being wet while cold.  Such plants moved to a milder
>climate that doesn't keep them dry in winter, fail at warmer
>temperatures than they withstand in their native area.  One example from
>this area would be Lewisia--they can take cold, they can't take cold and
>wet--or, often, warm and wet.  Lewisia rediviva can die under either
>condition, but will tolerate something like minus 30F if kept dry when

Alpine geophytes that grow just below melting snow are often 
difficult to grow in low-elevation gardens. We would all like to have 
a lot of Bellevalia forniculata, for instance, which has "meconopsis 
blue" flowers, but although I've grown it for years it does not 
flourish. I can't grow Crocus pelistericus or C. scharojanii either, 
although these are not snowmelt plants, because their life cycle 
defeats me. Olsynium douglasii, a very common spring bulb in vernally 
moist areas quite near me, does not flourish in the open garden, nor 
does Fritillaria pudica, its common companion; but Camassia quamash 
from the same meadows is an excellent garden plant here.

As for Lewisia rediviva, which although not a monocot is certainly a 
geophyte, I wonder how forms from coastal Californian populations 
would do in areas where there is winter rainfall? This is a common 
species of the intermountain West, which is dry much of the year but 
wet in spring and sometimes in fall; I grow it in a bulb frame, as 
most people do. I was startled to see it growing in the California 
Coast Range next to Fritillaria purdyi, though. (The bulb frame is a 
good place to grow any deciduous Lewisia.)

Yet there are some snowmelt bulbs that adapt well to ordinary lowland 
gardens. Crocus sieberi comes to mind, and Oxalis adenophylla. A 
number of the subalpine Tropaeolum species grow in conditions I would 
call snowmelt, at least in the Andean foothills.

So it's always worth experimenting in spite of what we know about 
natural habitats, if there is sufficient material to do so without 
the danger of depleting cultivated stock too much.

Jane McGary

More information about the pbs mailing list