Sun break photos

Jane McGary
Tue, 02 Mar 2004 10:29:17 PST
Mark McDonough asked,
 >I'm literally bowled over by the photo of the breath-taking Fritillaria
>stenanthera (Rhinopetalum) and the sheer number of flowers. I've read 
>about how
>difficult these are.  How have you cultivated your fine specimen?  What's the
>consensus regarding the taxonomic status of the genus Rhinopetalum as a 
>genus from Fritillaria?

My impression is that Rhinopetalum is regarded as a separate genus only in 
the Soviet botanical literature, which is often cited by our 
seed-collecting friends, the Czechs. ("Rhinopetalum" or "nose-petaled" 
refers to the prominent nose-like hump on the reverse created by the deeply 
indented nectary.)

Not all members of this section are difficult to grow, and F. stenanthera, 
the object of Mark's compliment, is reputed to be the easiest. I think F. 
bucharica is also easy in the bulb frame, and it increases faster too. In 
this wet climate, these plants do require protection from excess moisture. 
Where winters are drier, they might be grown outdoors if they could be kept 
dry in summer. Coming from Central Asia, they can be expected to be 
cold-hardy. The bulbs, which are few-scaled, increase slowly, and the early 
flowering season here means that I get little good seed from them most 
years, even with hand pollination. I also have F. ariana, F. gibbosa, and a 
Chinese mystery (via Paul Christian) that may prove to be F. ferganensis or 
F. karelinii.

The pictured plant represents the increase of a single bulb grown from seed 
around 1995. As mentioned, it is a particularly good color form (the usual 
color is "flesh-pink," and plants I grew from seed collected in Kazakhstan 
are rather lavender-hued). It grew as a single bulb for about 5 years, then 
split into six, and has increased a little since then. It is in an unheated 
bulb frame, in my standard gritty soil mix in a 10-inch pot, fertilized 
with soluble fertilizer once in fall and 3 times in spring, kept dry in 
summer and repotted every other year. The temperature about 6 weeks ago in 
this frame was in the low 20s Fahrenheit, so you can see that the foliage 
is quite frost-resistant.

Mark asked,

>I have always wondered about the multitudes of Gagea.  The photo of G.
>fibrosa shows a handsome plant.  Where is it from?  It looks like a bright 
>Ornithogalum of sorts (based on narrow wiry foliage and starry flower shape).

Gagea is said to be most closely related to Tulipa. They are little plants 
with rather long leaves, and you have to let them build up a good clump to 
get the effect shown. G. fibrosa is very widely distributed in the eastern 
Mediterranean and as far as the Caucasus. The species epithet comes from 
the dense mat of fibers around the cluster of tiny bulbs. They are easy to 
grow from seed, flowering in 3 years. The flowers close up in dim light.

Regarding Tulipa orithyioides (the spelling "orithyoides" I got from Josef 
Halda's seed list, and Janis Ruksans's catalog has "orithioides"; they may 
both have transliterated it from Cyrillic), it is slightly fragrant and has 
two or three flowers per stem. I agree with the idea that it must come from 
the mythological Orithyia (or however it may be spelled). If the first 
element is from "orei" and not "ori," then Jim McK's suggestion may also 
apply, allowing for the vagaries of linguistically and orthographically 
challenged botanists; however, I would guess the second element then to be 
"thuias/thyias" 'maenad, wild woman of the hills' rather than "thuia" 
'juniper'. Thus we imagine Vvedensky naming this little tulip as a maenad, 
or bacchante, wandering on the hills. The subject would need to be pursued 
in the Flora of the USSR, which I don't possess. If someone would like to 
photocopy the appropriate page and mail it to me, or tell me where I can 
see it on the Internet, I can perhaps figure out the derivation. It may 
finally stimulate me to download that software that lets you read web pages 
in different writing systems.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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