Identification of a Fritillaria please.

Jane McGary
Mon, 22 Apr 2013 08:16:02 PDT
Eileen wrote:
>I was sold 3 Fritillaria bulbs as F. davisii. However the flower 
>looks more like F messanensis [looking at the archive photo by M.Sue 
>Ittner] but and this is the problem; one plant has 8 flowers and the 
>other 2 plants,4 flowers and 3 flowers per stem, respectively. Do 
>they come multi headed?
>They are approx 7-10" tall growing in 10cm pots in multi purpose compost.

Fritillaria davisii is somewhat variable in color, as is F. 
messanensis. However, I have not seen more than two flowers per stem 
on very robust, mature plants of either here. (As far as I know, F. 
messanensis never has more than three flowers per stem, and one or 
two is usual.) My tallest F. davisii are about 6 inches (15 cm) in 
the post-flowering stage, when like many other species this one's 
stem elongates a bit. One typical characteristic of F. davisii is 
that its basal leaves are very shiny, almost glazed-looking. F. 
messanensis has leaves arranged alternately up the stem, while F. 
davisii has a basal pair of leaves. When trying to identify 
fritillarias with brownish or purplish and green flowers, it is more 
useful to look at the foliage and the nectaries than at the flower 
form and color, since the latter can vary so much.

I wonder if Eileen's plants are Fritillaria biflora? It can produce a 
larger number of flowers per stem, and it also has rather shiny basal 
leaves, but the leaves are a different shape than those of F. 
davisii. The bulbs are also different in structure: F. biflora's 
bulbs consist of several finger-like scales quite loosely attached at 
the base. F. biflora, a Californian species, is common in cultivation 
in the UK, often under the cultivar name 'Martha Roderick'.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

More information about the pbs mailing list