Amaianthemum muscitoxicum and other Melanthiaceae

Tom Mitchell
Thu, 19 Jun 2008 11:54:27 PDT
Veratrum and the other genera in the Melanthiaceae are my favourite  
garden plants. They may be slow but, boy, are they worth the wait.  
Anyone who likes growing these plants and who has access to back  
issues of The Plantsman should look up a great paper by Brian Matthew  
in the June 1989 edition. In it he reviews Veratrum and extols its  
virtues as a garden plant. Happy to send a photocopy to anyone  

For anyone who cares, the taxonomy of the family has been overhauled  
recently in a fascinating series of papers by Wendy Zomlefer, at the  
University of Georgia, and her colleagues. Based on her molecular  
studies, it seems that what used to be Melanthium should be  
considered part of Veratrum. Amaianthemum is monophyletic and is the  
genus most closely related to Veratrum. What used to be Zigadenus has  
'exploded' into Stenanthium, Anticlea, Toxicoscordion and  
Schoenocaulon, leaving poor old Zigadenus as a monophyletic genus,  
represented only by Z. glaberrimus.

I grow most of the Veratrum species and several Zigadenus, sensu  
lato. To answer Jim W's question, yes these plants do have a  
noticeably swollen stem base which, at its widest, is perhaps twice  
the diameter of the stem, although I suspect that to describe it as a  
'bulb' would be misleading. I'm also currently growing Stenanthium  
gramineum from seed that I bought from JJA last year. It's still on  
their list, if anyone else wants to try it. It germinated well after  
sitting outside in a pot in a cold frame over winter (zone 7/8, min  
temperature this winter -7 degrees C).

If anyone has seed of Amaianthemum muscitoxicum, Veratrum fimbriatum,  
V. insolitum, or any of the former Melanthium species (especially V.  
woodii) to spare I would be immensely grateful. Later this year I  
should have seed of most of the Veratrum species (and lots of other  
good stuff) to trade.

Best wishes,


On 19 Jun 2008, at 18:21, wrote:

> Also somewhat similar  plants include Veratrum woodii, with
> darker flowers in a woodland setting ( a slow grower, but excellent
> once established) and Stenanthium gramineum also on my wish list.
> 	I can't put my finger on Jane's 'Bulbs of NA' for comparison,
> but I am curious how 'bulbous' these actually are. Do they really
> have a bulb of thickened stem bases that are semi-bulbous.
> 	Regardless, all worth pursuing.		Best		Jim W.

More information about the pbs mailing list