Lycoris hybrids

We’re at about the mid-point of Lycoris season in my garden.  L. longituba, L. squamigera, and the early L. radiata var. pumila have finished flowering.  L. radiata var radiata and L. x albiflora are still a couple of weeks from blooming. This week, it was the turn of two very interesting hybrids.

Lycoris ‘Satsumhiryu’

Lycoris ‘Satsumhiryu’ is probably the most intensely colored Lycoris in my collection.  Its fairly large flowers are an incredible, saturated red-purple color with metallic blue highlights.  I haven’t been able to find much information on this Japanese hybrid, but judging by the flower color and shape, its parentage surely includes Lycoris radiata and Lycoris sprengeri.

Mystery Lycoris

In late 2013, I purchased a bulb of the common, pink Lycoris squamigera from a well-known nursery in the Raleigh area.  The foliage produced in the spring of 2014 was consistent with L. squamigera, but when the plant bloomed in August, 2014, I had quite a surprise.  Instead of being pink, the flowers have a yellow base color overlaid with reddish pigment. Darker stripes decorate the backs of the sepals and petals.

The amount of red pigment seems quite variable, depending on the age of the flowers and the amount of sun they receive.  Sometimes pale yellow predominates:

Mystery Lycoris in 2014

And sometimes the red/orange pigment is very strong.

Mystery Lycoris in 2015

I contacted the nursery owner, thinking that perhaps tags had been switched, but he didn’t recognize the plant.  His best guess was that it arrived incognito in a shipment of L. squamigera bulbs from Holland, although how such a striking plant ended up among L. squamigera is a mystery.  The closest match I have found is L. x chejuensis, a natural hybrid involving L. chinensis (yellow) and L. sanguinea (orange).  To see L. x chejuensis, scroll to the bottom of this Japanese Lycoris website.  Perhaps my plant is a garden hybrid of the same parents, but if so, who made the cross and how did it end up in a batch of L. squamigera?

Whatever its identity really is, I really hit the jackpot with this bulb.


Some recent sightings…

Tobacco hornworm, the caterpillar of the Carolina sphinx moth (Manduca sexta)

Eldest offspring’s jalapeño plant was growing well and producing plenty of peppers until this big fellow showed up.  Hornworms feed on a wide variety of solanaceous plants, so I’m keeping a close eye on my Brugmansia and tomato plants.  On occasion, while prowling the garden at night with a headlamp, I have found adult moths visiting nocturnally fragrant Lilium formosanum and Crinum ‘Mrs. James Hendry’ flowers.

leaf roller
Greater canna leaf roller, the caterpillar of the Brazilian skipper butterfly (Calpodes ethlius)

About a week ago, I noticed that something was cutting flaps in the leaves of my canna plants and stitching them shut with silk.  Peeling the flaps open revealed the caterpillars of the Brazilian skipper.  In late summer, my cannas are often infested with lesser canna leaf rollers (caterpillars of a nondescript moth, Geshna cannalis), but this is the first time I have seen greater leaf rollers.  Brazilian skippers are tropical butterflies that sometimes stray to the NC piedmont,usually in late summer.

Fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) eating sweetgum leaves


Unlike the greater canna leaf rollers, fall webworms are a familar late summer sight in my garden.  They feed on a wide variety of hardwoods.  This year, they’re on sweetgum and possumhaw.  In previous years, I have found them on sourwood, black cherry, and American persimmon.

Recipe: grilled calamari salad

squid salad

And now for something completely different–the very first Sweetgumandpines recipe post, inspired by the longfin squid that we caught while on vacation in Maine. If you like fried calamari but have never had it grilled, you don’t know what you’re missing.  The subtly sweet taste of fresh squid goes really well with garlic, lemon, and the smoky flavor of a hot grill.

Ingredients:  Squid, lemons, olive oil, whole garlic cloves, dried red pepper flakes, sea salt, salad greens and other fresh vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes, etc.).


1. Obtain your squid.  If you aren’t in a position to catch your own, frozen squid is fine.  Look for whole squid, as cut rings will be difficult to grill.

2.  If you’re using fresh, whole squid, cut off the tentacles just behind the eyes.  Pop the beak out from the center of the ring of tentacles.  Remove the skin from the tubes, pull out the viscera and the gladius (a.k.a the pen, the vestigial shell that looks like a strip of plastic).  I sometimes find it easier to cut the tube into lengths 3-4 inches long and then flip the pieces inside out to clean.  Alternatively, you can slice the tube open along its length, which, if the squid are small, will also make it less likely to vanish between the bars of the grill.

3.  Mix equal volumes of freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil.  Add crushed, coarsely chopped garlic, a pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes. The amount of juice/oil  should be sufficient to completely coat all of the squid pieces.  For fifteen longfin squid 8-12 inches long, I used the juice of four lemons.  The number of garlic cloves is dependent on your preferences.  I am of the opinion that it is impossible to have too much garlic.

Marinate the squid for two or three hours in the refrigerator.

4.  Heat a charcoal or LP gas grill to high temperature and cook the squid for about two minutes.  Turn the squid, and cook for a minute or two longer.  The squid should shrink and become more opaque, but you don’t want to overcook.  Properly cooked squid is delicate and tender.  Overcooked squid is somewhere between rubber bands and jerky.

If the gaps between bars on the grill are wide enough that you risk losing the tentacles, lay down a sheet of aluminum foil smeared with olive oil, and cook the tentacles on top.

5.  Squeeze a little more fresh lemon juice on the cooked squid and serve warm on a bed of fresh salad greens.  I generally don’t use salad dressing, but I imagine a light citrus vinaigrette would go well with the squid.  For the salad shown above, I threw on some pickled whelks (called “pickled wrinkles” in Maine) which added a similar hint of vinegar.


Holiday snapshots, botanical and otherwise

View from the Raven’s Nest, Schoodic Peninsula

One of the reasons why posting has been sparse here recently is that we took our annual beat-the-heat trip to Maine a couple of weeks early this year.  For the most part, not much was different between late July and early August.  The friendly snowshoe hare who lives in the garden of the little house we rent was still there…


…and the local eagle stopped by to say hello again:


As in previous years, we spent our time fishing for mackerel, jigging for squid, cooking the mackerel and squid, and hiking along the intensely picturesque eastern Maine shoreline.

Quoddy Head State Park.  Lubec, Maine is in the background and Campobello Island, New Brunswick is at far right.  This is as far east as you can go in the United States.

What was different, if only subtly so, was the array of flowering plants.

In August, I have seen a few Campanula rotundifolia (harebells) flowering on cliffs and headlands.  In July, there were many more plants in bloom.

Campanula rotundifolia

At Quoddy Head State Park, I saw a single white specimen:

C. rotundifolia, white form

Also at Quoddy Head, the last flowers of Kalmia angustifolia (sheep laurel) could be seen in the bog.  In previous years, there have been only seed capsules.

Kalmia angustifolia

In the woods, I found another member of the Ericaceae. Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipes) lacks both leaves and chlorophyll and is parasitic on the mycorrhizal fungi of various tree species.

Monotropa uniflora

Like the sheep laurel, I have seen Silene vulgaris (bladder campion) in previous years, but always in seed.  This year, plants were still blooming.

Silene vulgaris

I finally was able to identify some of the Iris plants that grow near the sea.  On the headlands near the splash zone, I find very small irises that I assume are Iris hookeri (beach head iris).  A little further back, at the edge of the trees, I often find much taller irises growing where little streamlets are blocked by rocks or sand and form miniature bogs.  I wasn’t sure if the taller plants were the same species, growing larger due to the local environment, or a completely different species.  This year a few of the larger plants were still in bloom, and I could see that they are Iris versicolor (northern blue flag).

Iris versicolor

And I never get tired of photographing Chamaenerion angustifolium (fireweed), one of my favorite wildflowers.

Chameanerion angustifolium, Rosa rugosa, and Spiraea alba growing beside the Quoddy Narrows.

Six on Saturday #33 (August 11, 2018)

After several weeks, I finally have time to complete a Six on Saturday post.  This week’s entry is a miscellaneous collection of plants that bloom during the hottest days of summer.

1. Rhexia species (Meadow Beauty)


This is basically a weed that infests my bog garden and mini-bog planters.  It spreads by underground rhizomes which must have arrived, unnoticed, in the pot of some pitcher plant or orchid.  The flowers are very showy, but like those of many other Melastomataceae, they only last one day. The petals don’t wilt or shrivel as the flower ages; by late afternoon, a gentle tap will cause them to simply fall off.

2. Iris dichotoma (vesper iris)


I bought this plant last autumn, so this summer is the first time it has bloomed.  The flowers are significantly smaller than I was expecting, but they are quite attractive.  As suggested by its common name, this is an evening/night-blooming plant.  The flowers open in late afternoon and have faded by the next morning.

3. Iris x norrisii ‘Wine and Roses’ (candy lily)


Obviously, the “lily” in the common name of this plant is a misnomer.  It is a hybrid of Iris dichotoma (vesper iris) and Iris domestica (blackberry lily).  You’ll often find it in the plant trade labeled as x Pardacanda norrisii, because I. dichotoma was formerly classified as Pardanthopsis dichotoma, and I. domestica was formerly Belamcanda chinensis.  The hybrid grex is quite variable, and I really like the bicolored flowers of this clone.

4. Bouvardia ternifolia (firecracker bush)


This is a difficult flower to photograph, because digital cameras often overexpose strong reds, and the flowers stick out in all directions, making focusing a challenge.  I think the exposure of this picture is OK, although it may still appear oversaturated on some monitors.  The flowers really are as intensely red as they could possibly be.

B. ternifolia is native to Mexico and Central America, and at the northern edge of its range reaches southern Arizona, New Mexico, and southwest Texas.  I didn’t really expect it to survive in our much wetter and colder climate, but it has now made it through four winters with numerous cold snaps and snowfalls.  In warmer climates it grows as a shrub.  Here in NC, it dies back to the ground every winter, sprouting again in late spring and blooming from July until the first autumn frost.  I have it planted in a particularly dry and sandy part of the garden.

5. Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’


‘Autumn Minaret’ is a hybrid of the very tall Hemerocallis citrina (syn. H. altissima) and sometimes masquerades as the species.  I really like its tall, airy inflorescences and the fact that it blooms over a very long period (for a daylily). My plant has been blooming for about a month, and the >5′ (152 cm) inflorescences still have many unopened buds.  I recently obtained a small plant of the true H. citrina, so it will be interesting to compare the two in future summers.

6. Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant)


The final entry this week is another very tall plant and a North Carolina native (though it is more common further west).  It grows about 7-8 feet tall (2-2.4 m) with thick stems bearing large, coarse leaves.  I’m only showing three inflorescences of about thirty in the clump. It’s not a plant for a small garden, but given the huge number of butterflies and bees that it attracts, I don’t begrudge it the space it requires.

Oh, one more thing…Sometimes the Rhexia petals don’t get a chance to drop before someone comes along and munches on them.


As always, head over to The Propagator to see his very interesting Six on Saturday and links to those of other participants.