Six on Saturday #28, May 19, 2018

Last weekend, the weather shifted from fairly cool spring to full-on summer, with highs around 90-93 F (~32-34 C) and high humidity.  Over the past few days, the temperature has moderated, but only because tropical air streaming up from the Gulf of Mexico has brought frequent showers and thunderstorms.

Since I missed last week’s Six on Saturday (because I was attending Montrose Garden’s spring open-house and eldest offspring’s last track meet of the season), this six includes photos taken over the past ten days.  Oldest photos are first.

1.  Chionanthus virginicus (fringe tree)


There are a few wild fringe trees in the woods nearby, but I planted this specimen beside the path leading to the front door.  It’s a male tree, so its flowers aren’t as showy as a female’s, but it doesn’t drop fruit on the path in autumn. [Correction:  The internet says I was mistaken.  It’s the male trees that have more impressive flowers.]

I recently read that the invasive emerald ash borer has started attacking C. virginicus, so we may have limited time to enjoy this tree.

2. Allium siculum (honey garlic)


This species is often labeled Nectaroscordum siculum in bulb catalogs. By either name, it’s a good choice for piedmont gardens, because it blooms after most of the spring bulbs but before the summer bulbs like Crinum and Eucomis get started.

3. Cypella herbertii


This is the first flower of 2018 for my clump of Cypella herbertii.  This little irid is amazingly hardy for a plant that is native to Argentina and Uruguay.  It flowers for much of the spring and summer and remains green for most of the winter.  Even when frozen to the ground by very cold weather, the foliage starts growing again as soon as temperatures rise above freezing.  Flowers open early in the morning and usually last only one day, but each inflorescence produces new flowers sequentially for several weeks.

4. Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip poplar)


Although Liriodendron is one of most common deciduous tree species around here, I rarely see the flowers, because they open high in the forest canopy.  The twig bearing this one broke off in the wind and landed on my garden path.

5.  Terrapene carolina carolina (eastern box turtles)

The garden’s resident box turtles are enjoying the wet weather.


I hadn’t seen this adult male box turtle in the garden before, but he turned up twice this week [update: three times].  The notch at the front of his carapace is distinctive, so I won’t have any trouble recognizing him if I find him again.


This smaller female is a garden regular.  The kids have named her Penelope.  We offered her a fresh strawberry on Friday morning, and she ate most of it before disappearing into the flowerbeds.

Percy Shelley hasn’t made an appearance yet this year.

6. Mutinus elegans (elegant stinkhorn)


Look what else the rain brought out.  I’m not sure what the scientist who named this species was thinking.  Elegant?


Slugs and snails enjoy munching on the stinkhorns.  Their  smell also attracts American carrion beetles (Necrophila americana), but I was unable to get a good photo of the surprisingly alert insects.  As soon as I get close, they scuttle down to the ground and bury themselves in the mulch.

Want more Six on Saturday?  The Propagator is our host, so head over to his blog.


Ammocharis coranica


Ammocharis coranica is a very easy amaryllid to grow.  Its range includes the summer-rainfall and arid Karoo regions of South Africa and extends into Angola and Zimbabwe.  Consonant with such a broad habitat, it seems to be opportunistic, producing new growth whenever water is available, regardless of the season.  If watered year-round, it will remain evergreen, but it will bloom most reliably if given a dry dormancy.  For convenience, I store my bulb completely dry in the cool, dark crawl space of our house during the winter.  When I bring it out in the spring, it starts growing very rapidly and usually flowers within two weeks of the first watering.  The flowers are very fragrant, though rather short-lived.  Often, a second or third inflorescence will follow in a few weeks.

The leaves, forming a loose rosette, continue lengthening as long as water is available but turn yellow and detach at the level of the bulb when the soil dries out.  In the photo above, the leaves have blunt, squared-off tips, because they died back to the bulb last autumn.  Any new leaves that emerge from the center of the bulb will have more tapered tips.

I suspect A. coranica would be hardy in the piedmont if the bulb were planted deep enough, but the rather short inflorescence is probably better displayed in a pot.  My plant has not produced any offsets, and it does not seem to be self-fertile.  I should have bought more than one bulb when I had the chance.

(Note to self:  when photographing plants late in the day, remove white I.D. tags that reflect the setting sun.)

Columbine hanky panky

Red-flowered wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

When we moved to this house eleven years ago, I brought an envelope of Aquilegia canadensis seed from my old garden.  The wild columbines have thrived and spread throughout the garden, and the drifts of little red flowers are now one of my favorite sights in the spring.

In the past few years, though, a few oddities have cropped up.  Typical A. canadensis flowers have red sepals and bright yellow petals, but I now have several plants that are definitely purple with pale yellow to cream petals.

A possible hybrid:  A. canadensis x ?

Columbines are notoriously promiscuous in cultivation; although there are numerous distinct species in the wild, they do not seem to have effective anatomical or genetic barriers to hybridization in the garden.  I suspect that someone in bee-range of my garden has been growing purple Aquilegia vulgaris (a European species) or one of its hybrids, and pollen has been transferred to my A. canadensis.

This year, for the first time, another color has appeared.  This plant with very pale flowers is also a dwarf, less than half the height of typical plants:

hybrid or mutant A. canadensis?

If I want to keep a pure stock of A. canadensis, I probably ought to dig up all of the unusually colored plants.  However, I think they have some value as garden plants, so I have let them grow.  I cut the inflorescences before seed is mature, but the hybrids could still pollinate A. canadensis plants.  In the long run I suspect that A. canadensis genes will dominate due to their better adaptation to this habitat.  In any case, this is a wholly artificial population, and it is fun to watch genetics in action.

Six on Saturday #27, May 5, 2018

Here we go again.  Six more plants blooming on a Saturday.  When you are finished here, get on over to The Propagator’s site for more Six on Saturday.

1.  Philadelphus inodorus (scentless mock orange)


I grew this pretty native shrub from seed obtained from the NC Botanical Garden’s annual members’ seed list.  It seems to be primarily a species of the Appalachians, but the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has records for Orange and Randolph Counties in the NC piedmont.

2.  Melittis melissophyllum ‘Royal Velvet Distinction’ (bastard balm)


I bought this European perennial partly for its pretty flowers, but mostly for its common name.  It’s Latin name suggests that it is popular with bees, but I haven’t been able to track down the origin of “bastard balm”.  For the first two years, it produced a fairly sad little flowerless rosette, and I wondered if it didn’t like our climate or soil.  But, this year it has grown three flowering stems that are about a foot tall.

3.  Iris tectorum (Japanese roof iris)


As with many other Japanese species, Iris tectorum loves our climate.   After the flowers fade, the foliage remains neat and tidy throughout the summer and autumn, dying back only in midwinter.  I started with a single plant ten years ago , but I scatter seed every autumn.  Now there are scattered clumps and large drifts throughout the garden.  Some of the older clumps suffer from iris borers in late summer, but there are always enough seedlings to replace them.  I think it might be nice to get a few of the white form to intersperse among the typical lavender flowers, but the whites have suddenly become hard to find at local nurseries.

4.  Arisaema triphyllum (jack in the pulpit) 


This is another plant that is slowly spreading through the garden.  I started my garden population from seed of local wild plants, but at this point I’m on the third or fourth generation of cultivated plants.  A. triphyllum isn’t as bizarre as some of the Asian Arisaema species, but I like our little native.

5.  Amorphophallus konjac (konjaku, voodoo lily)


Hey, who planted this stinking aroid so close to the house?  And right next to the beautifully fragrant Persian musk rose, too.  Oh, yeah, it was me.

There are three flowering this year.  The burying beetles and blow flies are so pleased

6.  Sarracenia flava (yellow pitcher plant)


Fresh young pitchers of one of our native carnivorous plants emerging from my bog garden which is in desperate need of a renovation.

First bloom: Eucrosia aurantiaca

Inflorescence of Eucrosia aurantiaca

Currently blooming for the first time in my greenhouse is an unusual South American bulb that I purchased in 2015.  Eucrosia aurantiaca is an amaryllid from south central Ecuador, where it grows in semi-desert hills and canyons dominated by Acacia scrub [1].  With its extemely elongated stamens and style, it resembles the related species Eucrosia mirabilis (see previous blog post), but the slightly flared yellow tepals of E. aurantiaca are altogether more attractive.  E. mirabilis looks more like a mop or strange jellyfish.


I grow my E. aurantiaca rather like a succulent or cactus.  It is planted in a terra cotta pot with a fast draining mix of sand, permatill, and a little potting mix.  It spends the summer outside in full sun and has a long, dry dormancy in the greenhouse during the winter.  Because the greenhouse is heated for lowland tropical plants, the temperature never dips below 60 F (~15 C), and I don’t know how E. aurantiaca would react to cooler temperatures when dormant.  Under these conditions, I find Eucrosia species easy to grow and bloom, certainly more so than many Hippeastrum which do not seem to appreciate the hot summer and warm winter.

My E. aurantiaca bulb has not offset, so hopefully it will prove to be self-fertile like E. mirabilis.


Meerow, A. W. (1987).  A monograph of Eucrosia (Amaryllidaceae). Systematic Botany 12: 460-492.