Bulbs that flower without leaves--TOW

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sun, 03 Aug 2003 10:20:08 PDT
There are a few terms that refer to the presence of leaves at flowering 
time, and these are useful to know:

anthesis: flowering, the time of flowering (e.g. "leaves present at anthesis")
precocious: of flowers that appear before the leaves develop (the epithet 
is praecox)
synanthous: of leaves that appear with the flowers
hysteranthous: of leaves that develop after the flowers

I am not an "expert," but I can mention that there are quite a few Crocus 
species that flower before the leaves are fully developed, and some before 
the leaves can be seen above ground. In fact, the degree of development of 
the leaf at anthesis is one trait by which the species are identified. 
Brian Mathew considers the leaves "synanthous" if even the tips are visible 
at flowering. He also uses the term "sub-hysteranthous," which I assume 
means leaves barely visible. The most obvious hysteranthous species is 
Crocus nudiflorus; also C. medius int he same section. C. scharojanii is 
said to be hysteranthous, a fact which can be confirmed by someone from the 
very small group (not including me) who have managed to flower it. C. 
kotschyanus and C. vallicola flower without their leaves up. The 
dry-growing crocuses of section Crocus (the saffron group) are mostly 
hysteranthous or nearly so. Some autumn-flowering members of section 
Reticulati are: C. cancellatus, C. hermoneus. The big pattern here is that 
fall-blooming species tend to flower before the leaves develop, though 
there are some fall-bloomers (C. cartwrightianus and its descendant, C. 
sativus or saffron, for example; or C. ochroleucus) that have visible 
leaves at flowering.

I have a very curious Ornithogalum that covers all the bets: O. fimbriatum 
bears flowers on very short stems, right on the ground, in late winter; 
then the leaves wither; and then, in late spring, it send up a taller 
flowering stalk without the leaves present. Possibly this is in response to 
more moisture than it is accustomed to in the wild?

Judy Glattstein wrote that only Colchicum luteum flowers with leaves 
present, but in fact there are some Colchicum species that have leaves 
visible at flowering; C. doerfleri comes to mind, and I seem to recall that 
C. kesselringii has visible leaves at its late winter flowering period. 
There are a number of spring-blooming colchicums, mostly quite small so not 
familiar in gardens. I wish the botanists would settle down and describe 
the genus Colchicum thoroughly so we amateurs can sort out what we are 
growing; a monograph has been proposed by Christopher Brickell, and Dr. 
Perssoon (sp.?) in Sweden has named many new species in recent years.

Several species of Sternbergia flower in the nude, e.g. S. colchiciflora. 
And one of them never flowers at all, as far as I can tell: S. candida, and 
if you have flowered it, I wish you would tell me what you did to it, 
because I have been growing it for many years with never a bloom.

Best regards,
Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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