Recent wiki additions--Veratrum, Lachenalia, Nothoscordum

Jane McGary
Sat, 17 Apr 2004 20:00:31 PDT
Mary Sue wrote,
 >I recently found my husband had taken a picture of our rare fringed corn 
lily, Veratrum >fimbriatum. I've been admiring the leaves as they emerge 
lately on my hikes. They really are >impressive. This plant flowers in late 
summer and at that time can be a bit scruffy after all kinds >of insects 
have had a chance to eat it and without rain for months everything can be 
dusty. Still I >was rather surprised to read that this species was 
unattractive in Bulbs of North America. I'm not >sure I'd call it 
beautiful, but the flowers are very intricate and certainly interesting.

Writers who remark that Veratrum species are unattractive are generally 
referring to the plants in flower. Many species have small, green flowers 
that don't appeal to gardeners. However, few serious gardeners fail to be 
attracted to the foliage of veratrums, especially if it is not damaged by 
slugs and snails.

I grow V. californicum (one of the more attractive in flower) in the 
garden, having collected seeds from the roadside nearby and sown it in 
situ. It took almost ten years to flower but now flowers every year. The 
rootstock is a large bulb, or sort of bulb (I'm not sure just what one 
should call it) with heavy feeding roots. Digging a mature plant is quite a 
project. The bulb makes offsets, eventually producing a large colony in 
moist soil. The leaves are beautiful in spring, and they seem to develop a 
resistance to slug predation over the years, so even without bait they 
eventually look good. They do, however, wither by midsummer.

Veratrums are a feature of alpine meadows all around the Northern 
Hemisphere, where they are striking as they are often the largest plants in 
the community. Their common name is "false hellebore," which I can't 
understand as they don't resemble hellebores in any respect except in 
having green flowers. They are quite poisonous. Alaskan native people used 
them as a wound dressing; they regarded the plants as so powerful that they 
left a small gift in the hole after digging a plant to propitiate the 
plant's spirit.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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