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Winter getaway – Caryophyllaceae part I

Follow-up to Friday’s seeds – let’s go up the mountains and then travel to the Dobrogea region (close to the Black Sea, Romania) to see a few Caryophyllaceae.

I’ll start with Arenaria; yes, usually not overly ornamental plants but easy to please and cheerful when in flower. Arenaria ciliata shown below; another Arenaria found at high altitude is A. biflora.

Arenaria ciliata at about 1100 m alt.

Cerastium alpinum ssp. lanatum, the alpine mouse-ear, can be found at alpine level in quite a few mountain ranges, not only in the Carpathians; it grows on rock crevices, nooks formed between boulders, also on stabilized rock screes and alpine meadows. It is quite adaptable and the woolly foliage makes a nice addition to the large, white flowers; something good to try for any ‘not that advanced’ rock gardener (myself included).

Depending on the traveling time, there are always various Dianthus species to admire from the alpine level to the foothills of the mountain, like D. petraeus, D. tenuifolius, D. carthusianorum and D. glacialis, to mention just a few. Over the years I’ve presented and offered seeds of some of them, except D. glacialis.

Dianthus glacialis

Gypsophila petraea, a cushion forming alpine baby-breath, endemic for Carpathian Mts. usually grows on conglomerate boulders and crevices on the rock walls; often in localized areas. Excellent species for rock gardens and not difficult to grow based on from my previous experience; unfortunately, most of the capsules were immature and I found very few seeds.

Gypsophila petraea; in the image below with Asperula

Moehringia is an overlooked genus in my opinion. I like Moehringia muscosa for its fine texture and although I didn’t have a shaded rock crevice to offer, it did quite well this summer in my garden in a less than favourable position (‘protected’ by Primula sieboldii). The picture in the wild was taken in Barsei Massif (also part of Carpathian Mts.).

Quite a few Minuartia species grow at alpine level and lower; among them, Minuartia verna, the spring sandwort is a rewarding, easy to grow species so don’t be shy to give it a try.

Two cushion forming species of Minuartia from the Bucegi Mts. would be worth having in a rockery: Minuartia recurva and Minuartia sedoides. Especially M. sedoides looks similar to Silene acaulis, but of course that the flowers, when present, signal the different genus. Sometimes they grow interlaced with one another and it is even harder to distinguish them.
One year I must make a special effort and collect seeds of these species.

Minuartia sedoides with yellowish flowers, Silene acaulis and rosettes of Primula minima

Minuartia recurva

I previously showed and probably everyone knows Silene acaulis (first image in the gallery). I’ve also shown with other occasion the cute Silene pusilla (now growing in my garden as well :), so please browse through the gallery to get an idea of the habitats these species are growing in (click to open full size images).

Most pictures are from the Bucegi plateau (alpine level). The ‘green’ boulders’ composed of Silene acaulis, Minuartia and other cushion species, which punctuate the barren rocky areas, are in fact small plant communities.  The cushion-type plants are colonizers of these harsh habitats on rapidly draining rocky/sandy soils, and thus very important as pioneers for the installation of other alpine species.

Here’s one more good example with Minuartia sedoides and Primula minima taking good roots in the partly decomposed cushion.

Minuartia sedoides with Primula minima

I didn’t mention Sagina, Scleranthus and probably few others but it’s time to come down the mountain. From the South-Eastern Carpathian Mts. to Dobrogea region there is about a 4 hour drive; it won’t take long to get there – stay tuned…

Records

with Geum reptans

Our night temperatures have plunged to new record lows of -30˚C; our spirits are following the same trend. Short of being able to fly away to a sunny destination, I made a trip into the past summer days.

Geum reptans

Geum reptans – in habitat, Carpathian Mts.

Geum reptans sits at the top of my ‘to collect’ list. I would have a lot to say about this mountain Geum. After seeing it in full splendour, there is no denying that it holds the record of the largest flowered Geum species. From my present frozen perspective however, size is not as important as their irradiating glow, which could (metaphorically) melt the ice away.

I am convinced now that it is a total calcifuge species. In the natural habitat we found individuals growing majestically on granitic boulders or isolated populations scattered over sloped rocky alpine meadows only where the underlying substrate was predominantly of silicaceous nature; amongst them were rosettes of Soldanella pusilla and Primula minima. Needless to say that, the drainage they enjoy in these conditions is nothing short of being ‘stellar’.

Geum reptans - solitary on a versant boulder

Geum reptans – splashed over a big boulder, on a stabilized scree

Geum reptans - on a rocky alpine meadow slope

Geum reptans – on a rocky alpine meadow slope

In a few early flowered plants, the magnificent rose and fluffy seed heads were just beginning to ripe, so I couldn’t collect seeds last year; another record – of disappointment this time…

Geum reptans - immature seed heads

Geum reptans – immature seed heads

Propagation: I wrote about the germination and showed seedlings in other posts. The seeds from a previous collection have germinated very well. Seedlings developed strong tap roots and weren’t too fussy, but I didn’t manage to keep them going longer than two years. Not enough drainage was surely a big problem, especially in my newly planted rock-plants containers. I hope one day I’ll broke another record: of growing this mountain avens in my rock garden!