Tropaeolum brachyceras

Jane McGary
Mon, 05 Apr 2010 08:52:54 PDT
Jim McKenney wrote,
>Tropaeolum brachyceras began to bloom here today. I feel as if I have been
>promoted to a higher level of the gardening experience.

It is common for this and other Tropaeolum species to "sulk" for a 
year from time to time, with no ill effects, as Jim mentioned. I once 
forgot one in a paper packet in a cubbyhole in my desk, and it sat 
there for more than a year before I found it; planted, it revived and 
eventually flowered. Coming from very arid parts of South America, 
these geophytes are well adapted.

Also in flower here (sorry, I am not one-upping you, Jim) are the 
frequently grown T. tricolor and the infrequently grown T. 
hookerianum ssp. austropurpureum. The latter is a small, 
frail-looking species like T. brachyceras, and this particular plant, 
from Watson & Flores seed, remained dormant last year after flowering 
heavily for the first time the year before that. It has bright violet 
flowers similar in form to the bright yellow ones of T. brachyceras.

I find these plants flower best if they are able to climb up a 
support, so I stick a twiggy branch in their pots.

As far as I can see, these small trops never increase vegetatively 
and must be raised from seed. The seeds have elaiosomes (fleshy 
appendages) that attract ants, so if I don't catch them in time they 
are transported around the bulb frames, and the trailing, delicate 
stems of the seedlings have to be spotted and avoided during weeding.

Regarding Adam's question about its cold-hardiness: This winter large 
plants in full growth in the unheated frames lost their top growth 
when the outside temp. dropped to 14 degrees F, and I did not have 
them wrapped; however, I suspect the tubers are all right, because 
the stray seedlings growing between the pots, which had their stems 
right on the soil surface, did not freeze back and a couple are 
flowering. Plants in the wild probably experience occasional light 
frost, but they tend to grow up through dense evergreen shrubs where 
the foliage is protected. My interpretation is that the plants are 
fairly cold-hardy as long as they're not wet when they freeze; that's 
why I grow a lot of "perfectly hardy" bulbs under cover.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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