Not TOW - Gymnospermium

John Lonsdale
Wed, 19 Feb 2003 07:54:11 PST
> Perhaps spring really IS coming. The first deep red curved
> stems of Gymnospermium albertii are showing as they lift their heads
> out of the gravel. No sign of foliage yet, but this should appear
> shortly.
> This is an odd tuberous and herbaceous member of the family
> Berberbidaceae mostly known for woody shrubs. This seems to be the
> most common species in cultivation, yet I can't really say much about
> it. There's another half dozen species, but only 1 or 2 are rarely
> ever available and usually too pricey for me.
> Does anyone else grow these and have good luck? My single
> bulb has slowly enlarged as seen by the four shoots coming up now. It
> never reaches the 10 inch height I've seen in the literature, but
> maybe 1/2 of that. The small yellow flowers are more curious than
> beautiful.
> Anyone even know a good source for tubers or seed.

Hi Jim,

I grow G. albertii and altaicum, Bongardia chrysogonum and Leontice
ewersmanii.   The latter is the ultimate source of frustration - I get seed
every year (from Jan Jilek), it germinates and the seedlings grow on - but
it dies every summer during dormancy.  It makes weird twisted elongated
tubers that head straight to the bottom of a 5" pot the first season.  It
seems to be incredibly moisture sensitive, I'm not sure if it too damp too
long or I give it moisture too soon in the fall.  I'll keep trying.

None of these plants increase vegetatively but they will set seed, probably
needing multiple clones.  I have seedlings of the two Gymnospermium
species - some in their second year, others fresh germinations.  I love
these two, and would describe them as beautiful, especially if you have
clones with a very strong red color in the stems which contrasts beautifully
with the yellow flowers with red veins.

Bongardia is a curiosity and I only grow it because I have it.  The leaves
are kind of nicely marked at the bases but it soon becomes a rangy thing and
the flowers are far from spectacular.  Interesting though !

All of the above are completely hardy here.

I have had seed from Jan Jilek, Henrik Zetterlund at Gothenburg BG and
Vlastimil Pilous, as well as some of my own seed.  Tubers can be had from
some 'alpine' sources in the UK - e.g. Kath Dryden.

I love them and it sounds like you are growing albertii very well - nice and
compact and well colored.


Dr John T Lonsdale
407 Edgewood Drive,
Exton, Pennsylvania 19341,  USA

Phone: 610 594 9232
Fax:      801 327 1266

Visit "Edgewood" - The Lonsdale Garden at

Zone 6b

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