Tropaeolum brachyceras

Jane McGary
Tue, 09 Mar 2010 13:54:10 PST
Jim McKenney wrote
>I noticed today that flower buds, lots of them, are forming at the leaf
>axils of the stems of Tropaeolum brachyceras. I'm very happy about this.
>Although the plant is growing vigorously it somehow seems very frail. The
>stems are very thin and the leaves are much smaller than I expected: does it
>thicken up later in the season?

It does not get any thicker, so you have to be careful around it. I 
usually stick a twiggy branch in the side of the pot before it 
emerges, as this will keep it off its neighbors and all these little 
tropaeolums seem to flower best if they are up on a support.

I also saw a photo of how Joy Bishop had shown a plant of this by 
training it back and forth on a kind of dome of chicken wire fitted 
into what appeared to be about an 8-inch pot. Thus it was low and 
compact and covered with flowers, quite suitable for the British 
alpine growers' practice of competitive showing where the plants have 
to be transported to the venue.

I lost the top growth of this species in December but some of the 
volunteer seedlings that had not yet emerged are doing fine. 
Surviving the December freeze were T. tricolor and T. hookerianum, 
both of which are now in bloom. The latter has violet flowers.

In nature these usually climb up through shrubs, though I have seen 
them flat on the ground where no support was available. They are 
capable of surviving long drought periods and even in cultivation may 
not emerge every year from their deeply buried tubers.

The unusual-looking, rather large seeds are apparently taken quickly 
by ants, hence the numerous volunteers that grow in the bulb frames.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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