Saturday, 16 July 2011

Bulbous Belly Border Blooms - Beautiful

Alliteration may be the lowest form of literary wit, but why break the habit of a lifetime?

Those cacomitl bulbs, purchased from the bargain basement of a cut-price supermarket, are now producing some impressively large and colourful flowers.  Like Hemerocallis, each flower lasts only a day, or quite a bit less in the case of Tigridia; by late afternoon they're already pretty much closed. Most of the time I only get to see the withered remains, but I caught these ones at about 3.30pm, just before they started to deflate.

They're growing on top of rather stunted plants, about a foot and half tall, with interestingly pleated leaves. So far they've survived drought and the unwanted attentions of the local voles who took to gnawing through the emerging shoots. As far as I'm aware, they didn't tackle the bulbs. This may be due to the unpleasant burning sensation they cause if you eat them raw.

Pretty as the flowers are, we all know that they're merely a vehicle for plant sex. I took the opportunity to have a look at their reproductive structures more closely. I can confirm that pollen is produced in large quantities and attaches easily to the sticky stigmas. I couldn't resist giving them the Luther Burbank treatment - I cross-pollinated the flowers; this was altogether unnecessary - I saw several seed pods in various stages of formation - but fun nevertheless. It should be easy to collect the seeds as they ripen. Even if I fail in this bid (I often do), it should not matter - they're known to self seed quite successfully in our climate.  I did once have some seeds from wild Mexican plants; it would have been good to compare these cultivated bulbs with those, but I must have lost them sometime in the last fifteen years. Still, if anyone would care to provide me with replacements, I'm sure I could do a better job next time around. Por favor.

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