Wildflower Sunday – Calla palustris

On the aesthetics of processing seeds

The water arum is a plant with lots of qualities: shiny, healthy heart-shaped foliage, white swirled flowers, red fruits, AND something else you get to see only if you look for seeds: amber coloured, trembling, translucent jellyfish-like insides, protecting the slick & spotted seeds.

Nature’s art…no Photoshop involved.

Calla palustris fruits

Calla palustris fruits remains after extracting the seeds

Calla palustris

Calla palustris


C-section – Roscoea tibetica

Update: I have serious doubts now that this is R. tibetica (or bhutanica) and although I had intentions I won’t add to the general confusion by offering seeds. I am waiting for other opinions regarding its identity (maybe R. australis?)…..probably it will be a looong wait.

Yesterday morning I had the wonderful surprise to find Roscoea (tibetica) in ‘labour’. The capsule was just starting to split open showing the seeds. The smallest of the genus, R. tibetica has a particular way of developing the capsule at soil level (easy to miss it), inside the stem actually, and I thought it would be interesting to show it, especially because this is also the final confirmation of its identity.

Roscoea tibetica capsule

Roscoea (tibetica) showing split capsule

Roscoea species have arilate seeds, so if ants are around (or earwigs) it’s wise not to miss the ‘delivery’. A bit of help is needed to extract the seeds without the stem being destroyed – a clean, small cut, followed by a bandage application (cheesecloth works perfectly) to secure the leftover seeds (the flowers open in succession so not all the seeds mature at the same time).

Size, shape and arils are good characters for Roscoea ID, especially considering that there is quite a bit of confusion going around – R. tibetica has seeds with deeply lacerate arils.

I presented Roscoea tibetica in the Little plants series; this year grew better in part-shade, sharing a container with A. fargesii seedlings. This is a great little Roscoea for the rock garden. Easy to grow from seeds, it can be quite variable; the form shown in the featured image has small purple flowers barely showing from among the stems, so one cannot really call it a showy plant. More than this, it starts growing sometimes in June, it flowers in late June, and by mid-August the seeds are ripen – ‘living in the fast lane’!

One for collectors and people in love with ‘little plants’ :)

Good read on Roscoea: The Genus Roscoea – Jill Cowley, RBG Kew, 2007. Speaking of which, reading again about R. tibetica and R. bhutanica, it seems that my plant fits more likely with the later: “Leaf blades usually 2-6 at flowering time, slightly auriculate… Inflorescence enclosed in leaf sheats. Flowers opening just above leaves, one open at a time…..Seed aril shallowly lacerate.”

Happy to hear other opinion…

Eating our way into the ‘future’ – Allium tricoccum

Allium tricoccum (wild garlic, ramps)

Allium tricoccum is one of the first species to appear in early spring in the woodlands of North America. After a long winter, the onion-garlic scented, fleshy leaves look very delicious; actually they contain lots of vitamins and minerals. Leaves will completely disappear being replaced in the summer by flowering stems bearing a single inflorescence with white flowers, followed by capsules with black seeds (3 in each fruit – tricoccum). The bulbs and leaves of A. tricoccum have been traditionally used by the Native Americans, then by the European settlers and all the following generations.

Allium tricoccum spring rosette

Allium tricoccum foliage in early spring – easy to spot and smell!

Last year I didn’t collect seeds because I thought this is such a common plant around here. But I had forgotten to check the facts – it turns out that we are continuing to eat our way into the ‘future’, and what was once a very common spring sight in most North American woodlands is now rapidly fading away! Since they become more popular, with ramps festivals held annually and served in fancy restaurants as ‘local and organic’ food, they have become over-harvested everywhere.

In Quebec, wild harvesting of Allium tricoccum is currently prohibited, and in a few of the U.S.A. states it has become a ‘special concern’ species!

Allium tricoccum colony

Allium tricoccum (ramps) colony – a common spring sight (for how long?)

As it happened with other species, the regeneration doesn’t occur fast enough to keep up with the unsustainable harvesting and entire populations may disappear from one year to another.

Allium tricoccum starting to flower

Allium tricoccum flowering stems

Another notorious example of woodland species that we have managed to erase almost entirely from our woodlands through overharvesting is Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), and there are signs in some areas that mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) may follow it in the near future.

Uvularia al dente

Chasing bees and butterflies is great fun but there is work to do and besides seeds I also have an overdue mea culpa note on Thalictrum isopyroides – read it here if interested.

Talking about seeds, last week I collected some of Uvularia grandiflora. I will keep writing about this wonderful but under-used woodland plant until more people start growing it! It is hard to estimate when the seeds are ripen, so for those who want to collect their own seeds here’s a tip I learned the hard way: the capsules will get from green to greenish-white to white (but still remain firm and crispy) before splitting to release the seeds. The seeds are equipped with elaiosomes and ants will carry them away quickly.

Uvularia grandiflora capsules

Uvularia grandiflora capsules – ‘al dente’

It is a gradual transition, easy to over-wait thinking they are not ripened yet. Just like when boiling pasta al dente; you think it’s not quite there and a few seconds later it’s already overdone.

Uvularia grandiflora split capsule

‘Over cooked’ Uvularia grandiflora capsule

Note: I assume that everyone reading this enjoys pasta, at least eating it if not cooking.

Actaea x ludovici

Last week’s ‘discovery’ after a random wander through some woods. I stumbled into an area with A. pachypoda fo. rubrocarpa, A. pachypoda and… another Actaea which was looking like A. rubra (growing nearby) but not quite. What then? Well, it was the rarely seen hybrid between A. pachypoda and A. rubra – Actaea x ludovici!

Actaea x ludovici

       Actaea x ludovici

Red fruits like A. rubra (not shiny) with bigger black dots; thicker pedicels than in A. rubra and the raceme is more open reminding of A. pachypoda.

The hybrid berries contained a few seeds! What would come out of them, I really can’t tell… Flora of Michigan presents a short description; in mature exemplars the thickness of the fruits stalks and colour are a very good indicator, although there are other more detailed differences.

Meet the parents:

Actaea pachypoda
Actaea pachypoda – Doll’s eyes (the pedicels will become red when the fruits mature)
Actaea rubra
Actaea rubra – Red Baneberry
The fruits have slender pedicels and smaller ‘dots’ (the eye formed by the persistent stigma. Also, worth noticing that the raceme is more compact and the fruits are shiny when mature.

It seems I have a particular relation with the baneberries. Last year I also found the very rare Actaea pachypoda fo. rubrocarpa (which the obviously outdated Flora of NA says that it may not exist!). I still have to stumble onto A. rubra fo. neglecta…

Actaea pachypoda fo. rubrocarpa
A. pachypoda fo. rubrocarpa 
Magenta coloured fruits with red pedicels as thick as the axis of the raceme and with a pronounced swollen base, like in A. pachypoda

And just a note for those not interested in the botanical aspect – these are all wonderful plants for the shade garden!