A mystery solved, sort of - Sternbergia colchiciflora

totototo@telus.net totototo@telus.net
Sat, 03 Feb 2007 10:33:19 PST
On 2 Feb 07, at 22:34, Brian Whyer wrote:

> > Brian wrote about bulbs flowering down in the ground:
> > Try to flower on "very" short stems if they are kept
> > >too dry over winter, presumably they have not formed a proper root
> > >system and cannot get enough water.
> > 
> > I wonder if something like this is going on with one particular bulb
> > of Fritillaria eduardii I have. Even though it's planted right with
> > 3 or 4 sibling bulbs, this one always tries to flower a month
> > earlier than the others and doesn't emerge properly. Maybe it has
> > some genetic error that lowers its vigor, but it doesn't die because
> > of being coddled in
> cultivation?
> I have had F. raddeana do this, flowering OK the first year then
> dwarfed for the following 2 years before saying goodbye. One of the
> AGS frit group members told me they received snow melt before
> flowering, and then occasional storms, so should not be kept too dry
> at any time. Probably why mine gave up in pots.

The two high-altitude western erythroniums, E. grandiflorum and E. montanum, 
suffer from the same problem, failure of the flowering scape to properly 
elongate in near sea level gardens. Near Victoria, there are relatively low-
altitude populations of both, E. montanum on the San Juan Ridge west of Jordan 
River, E. grandiflorum on Mt. Prevost NW of Duncan BC. Both abt. 2000' altitude.

The E. grandiflorum population goes totally dry in the summer, but it is on the 
steeply sloping north face of that small mountain. The E. montanum population 
is moister in the summer, but it too is on the north face of the EW-trending 

Somewhere I've gotten the idea that the problem isn't lack of moisture so much 
as lack of sufficient winter chilling. Some, perhaps all, western erythroniums 
require winter chilling for their seeds to germinate; sow freshly gathered seed 
of E. oregonum or E. revolutum in the summer and it will come up the next 
spring. Sow it later on in the fall and there's a good chance germination will 
be delayed a year.

Which suggests that if you get another specimen of F. raddeana, try putting it 
in the refrigerator early in the fall and leaving it there for the winter. 
Spousal complaints "why is the refrigerator full of plants in pots???" can be 
dealt with by blaming me or the PBS-list or anyone else handy who's willing to 
take the rap.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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