Ambrosina bassii

Jim McKenney
Wed, 10 Jan 2007 16:40:54 PST
I had a neat learning experience today involving Ambrosina bassii. 

At least two of us here in the greater Washington, D.C. area grow this plant
- and both of us got our starts from Jane McGary. 

My friend Alice grows her plant outside in her Arlington, Va. garden which
on the whole is a bit warmer than my garden in Montgomery County, Md.
Alice's plant first bloomed last year; mine bloomed for the first time this
year. Her plant this year began to bloom in November - or rather the spathe
opened then. The spathe on my plant did not open until mid-December or

I took my plant over to show her today, and I was hoping we might be able to
cross pollinate them. The spathe on my plant is still fresh looking; that on
Alice's plant is by now dingy.

Since the spathe on her plant was past its prime, she volunteered to
sacrifice it in our quest for pollen. That's when things got interesting. We
cut open the spathe, took a look, and were not sure what we were seeing. At
the base of the spathe was a hemispherical mass suggesting a geodesic dome
which we suspected might be incipient seeds. Projecting up and away from
that was a - a what? At first glance, there seemed to one or two anthers at
the tip of this structure. Alice thought it looked more like a stigma. 

Were the sexes of this species on different plants?

But something else had aroused our curiosity. The spathe has a pronounced
bulge on its underside. When you look into the spathe from above, it seems
to have a flat, planar bottom. What was the purpose of the bulge?

We cut into the bulge and there was another surprise: the anthers were in
there, in this separate little compartment under the compartment in which
the female flower was found. 
The spadix in this species is broad and flat and fused on two sides to the
spathe: this results in two chambers, one above the other when the
inflorescence is in its usual horizontal position. The female flower/flowers
are in the upper chamber and the male flower/flowers are in the lower. 

Very cool! But I have no idea how it works. 

We found what I'm hoping is pollen in the lower chamber of her flower -
Alice says it's dirt, but I'm rooting for pollen. We ceremoniously dumped it
into the flower of my plant and shook things up a bit - very scientific. 

I'll let you know what happens. 

Just a bit ago Alice sent me an interesting link for information about

Read all about it!

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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