A brilliant Allium

Antennaria@aol.com Antennaria@aol.com
Wed, 21 May 2003 20:38:00 PDT
Jane McGary <janemcgary@earthlink.net> wrote:

>The alliums are starting to flower, including 
>the western species. The brightest one in 
>the bulb frames, and new to me, is Allium 
>scorzonerifolium ssp. xericense. I bought it 
>as a bulb from Monocot Nursery last year. 

Back in the early 1980s when I lived in near Seattle, Washington (Pacific 
Northwestern USA, for those who live in other parts of the world), I obtained 
bulbs of this fine Allium
 species (the species is from Spain and Portugal).  I'm drawing a blank 
regarding where I got it, I need to check my old records, but I do believe it 
came misidentified and I keyed it out (there are relatively few 
yellow-flowered Allium species).  It is a refined bright yellow-flowered 
plant.  It might have come from Mike Salmon in England... I've been buying 
seed from his list over the past 20 years.  After verifying the identity of 
the plants, I shared plants with my Seattle area friend and allium 
afficionado; Jerry Flintoff.

When I moved back to northeastern USA, I failed with my attempts to grow this 
plant.  However, the type species; A. scrozonerifolium ssp. scorzonerifolium, 
was perfectly hardy here and bloomed for over the past decade and more.  The 
type species is rather different, in that it has bulbils in the inflorescence 
(var. xericense has no bulbils, it's a totally floriferous form), and 
accordingly is said to be invasive.  In the 12 years or so that I've grown 
it, I have not found the type species to be invasive, perhaps because it has 
a low bulbil count, with only a few bulbils per inflorescence and many more 
showy yellow flowers than bulbils.  The type form has smaller, less brilliant 
yellow fowers, and grayer foliage, and a few rather inconspicuous bulbils.  
It is shorter, growing only 6-8" tall.  I may have lost this species, as the 
area where it's growing has become overgrown.

Jerry Flintoff has shared replacement bulbs of var. xericiense with me at 
least 4 times in the past, and they just aren't hardy here, and I lose the 
plants after each winter tried. I'm not going to ask again until I build my 
pit greenhouse.  Jane, if you get enough of this going, you'll have to put it 
on your list.  By the way, bulbs from last year's list; A. membrenaceum and 
A. hyalinum, are budded up!

And yes, Allium scorzonerifolium ssp. xericense is a summer dormant species 
that dries up after flowering, much like it's kin species A. moly.

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States  
antennaria@aol.com    "New England"               USDA Zone 5
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