Schizostylis/Hesperantha a confused genus

Jane McGary
Sun, 16 Feb 2003 09:16:26 PST
Thanks to Alan Kennedy for his introduction to Schizostylis (syn.
Hesperantha coccinea) and mention of some interesting tangential topics.

Alan writes that he believes the name Hesperantha to be used for the former
Schizostylis in the USA, but I have not observed this to be true; nursery
catalogs I've seen recently still use Schizostylis. It does make things
clearer for gardeners, since Schizostylis is well known as a fall-blooming
perennial hardy to USDA Zone 8 (possibly colder, given a dry winter),
whereas Hesperanthas are mostly known as spring-flowering bulbs that are
much less cold-tolerant.

Schizostylis does not flourish in my garden, but it does well in the
slightly warmer conditions of Portland, Oregon, about 1500 feet/500m lower
in elevation, and in other parts of the Willamette Valley.

It is not surprising that the cultivar situation is so confused. Seed is
readily set and easily collected, so it often appears in seed exchanges and
even in commercial seed catalogs erroneously under cultivar names, and gets
passed around in the small nursery trade this way. This is a problem with
many, many plant groups; I am constantly finding out that what I had
thought to be a cultivar (e.g., Narcissus 'Nylon' or 'Joy Bishop') is
actually a group of similar plants from the same cross, or what
rhododendron growers call a "grex" and lily growers call a "strain."

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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