native violet (sagebrush violet)
Wed, 26 May 2004 10:27:15 PDT wrote:
>Does anyone know how long it takes
>for seed grown plants [Viola trinervata] 
>to develop bulbs or bulblets?

Hi Ken,

I used to live in the Seattle area, and would often go "botanizing" in the Wenatchee Mts, close to your home turf in Ellensburg, Washington.  I also frequented the sagebrush areas in the area towards Vantage, WA, and Yakima.

With Viola trinervata, I think you have picked a very difficult subject, and you may want to look at the great diversity of other plants in your area to find some that are more amenable to cultivation and propagation, such as some of the Penstemons.

Viola trinervata shares a growth cycle like many sagebrush and dryland plants, in having a very short season of growth in spring, after which it goes dormant to some sort of storage root, not a bulb in the true sense, but a fleshy rhizome that carries it through the dry summer. This violet is indeed among the most gorgeous of all violets, along with allied species V. beckwithii and V. hallii, but outside of their austere environment, these species are very difficult to cultivate successfully for any length of time, particularly in areas that receive more rain.

One of my favorite plants in your area, is Trifolium macrocephalum, the big-headed clover, which retreats to an underground rhizome after flowering.  The form in the Wenatchees intrigued me because the immense spheres of blooms were a salmon orange color, sitting atop sparse but concise leaflets... hardly one's notion of clover. I never succeeded in cultivating the plant for more than a year or two, and never got flowers.  Same is true with my attempts at sagebrush delights such as Viola trinervata & Ranunculus glaberriumus (sagebrush buttercup, also geophytic), and limited success with the geophytic delphineum species in the area.  I am able to grow other plants from the area, that are more forgiving in our New England climate, such as Eriogonums and Penstemons.

My guess is, that if you were able to cultivate V. trinervata (possibly so, given that you live right where it is native), that it would require 5 years or so, for seedlings to reach flowering size, as they aestivate for such a short period of time each spring, that its a slow proposition.  I would also summise, that any average gardener who'd purchase a basket full of V. trinervata (its hard to even imagine such a thing), they would most likely kill it in a very short time from watering.  There are other Viola species in your area, some lovely yellow ones that grow in more wooded locations, that would probably be more amenable to cultivation.

Mark McDonough        
Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States  
"New England", near New Hampshire  
USDA Zone 5
alliums, bulbs, penstemons, hardy hibiscus, 
western american alpines, iris, plants of all 

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