Talinum paniculatum; was Re: What's blooming this week -20 September

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Thu, 22 Sep 2011 07:34:29 PDT
Mary Sue mentioned Talinum paniculatum. 
This odd plant, a relative of  Phemeranthus (many of which are still known as Talinum) and Lewisia and a member of the Portulacaceae has been grown here on the East Coast for a long time as a self-sowing annual. But as Mary Sue points out, it really is a soft shrubby perennial.  It was commercialized as Jewels of Opar, a confusing name because it seems to point to a name used in one of the old Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan stories, yet is confusingly similar to the Biblical place name Ophir, a city famous for its jewels.  It’s native to Mexico and the Caribbean. 
If you want to keep it from year to year, simply dig it up, shake off the soil, and put the succulent roots into a plastic bag (after they are dry – if they are not dry when you put them it the plant will continue to grow). My experience suggests that they are tough as nails. 
I described it above as an odd-looking plant. Imagine a fleshy Impatiens with wire thin flower stalks set with tiny bright magenta flowers which are soon followed by tiny shiny ruby red seed capsules. There are never many flowers open at one time, and the seed capsules are as ornamental as the flowers, yet if given space and not tangled among other plants,  this plant does have a real presence in the garden: there is something about it which allows it to produce  a much bigger impact than the resources at hand might suggest.
But watch out: here it self sows, in some areas it’s weedy and invasive. 

Jim McKenney

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