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Polygonatum, A pictoral guide

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 Here it is finally. A pictoral guide to the species of Polygonatum, or at least those that I grow that have flowered, been dissected, and put under the dissecting scope to look at the nasty bits.

 I'll do it alphabetically starting with an eastern North American native, biflorum in its many guises that now include a  puzzle of synonomy with a plasticity of variation that baffles me and obviously several other people who have written papers on it. It seems the current consensus, circa 1940 something, (besides researchers not finding any consistent morphology that would lead one to more than one species) is that ploidy levels are the cause of the variation.

 The pictures start with some from Kansas. These are somewhat uniform, but two are distinct in "feel" and would be included under the name commutatum, yet is now P.b.commutatum. The first five are all of one clone that was native on the property where I once gardened.

 The next is another from Kansas from a woodlot a few miles away that was somewhat smaller altogether with less flowers. And the one immediately following is also from there, but is a dwarf that has yet to reach larger than 40cm in height and has pencil thick rhizomes with short internodes.

 The last are all from Tennessee taken in situ except for the rhizome shot. These are large plants for the most part with stems easily to six feet with leaves 25x15cm.

P.biflorum 240.JPG
 P.biflorum 249.JPG
 P.biflorum 424.JPG


Here is one more from TN, and then..
 The TN plant here is fairly typical with a few flowers per leaf axil and not too tall.
 I have many more, but not all have photographs. I spent several hours dissecting about twenty clones of P.biflorum and making line-drawings and taking measurements. So much variation even within a population!

 The next four are Polygonatum cryptanthum. Not much to say about this one. It is in the series Bracteata, a somewhat closely related group of plants. This one has cinnamon-like fragrant flowers.

 Then several Polygonatum cyrtonema. It is a nice species and not what people typically sell as cyrtonema, but a razor blade and a dissecting scope says otherwise. The filament details are very important! I do believe P.arisanense is a different species from what I have seen, but I do not grow that plant yet. This almost looks evergreen with thick textured leaves. It does not offset too frequently for me with most plants still only producing one stem each season, some after 8 years.


 Polygonatum_cryptanthum 247.JPG


 Here are some of Polygonatum falcatum which happens to be a really nice Japanese species. The first are the silver striped selection offered by Asiatica.

 The next (mixed with silver striped form) is one that Hinkley (Heronswood) offered a many years ago as said species and then questioned the identity thinking it may in fact be stenanthum or macranthum. I have read elsewhere that stenanthum is the incorrect name for macranthum. Which is correct? I don't know yet, but I do know that what Heronswood sold is falcatum because the filaments are identical to those in a paper on the filaments of the Japanese species.

 The next are Polygonatum filipes. This is a superb species from China with short stems rarely more than 20cm long, but most of that is parallel to the ground. The abaxial leaf surface is densely pubescent. The nicest part of the plant is the extremely long pedicels with an abundance of white tubular flowers. It has fragrance similar to that of odoratum, if I remember correctly.

  Polygonatum_falcatum_ SilverStripe_2.JPG

Here is Polygonatum hirtum in a few differing forms.

 The dwarf really is dwarf and vigorous also. I thought it may be another closely related species that had be synonomized, but it was completely identical to my other P. hirtum which all fit the key nicely.

 The hirtum as obovatum may be distinct. It did not flower this spring when I was dissecting so maybe next year.

 The second group of five are Polygonatum humile, another of the commonly available species. It has cinnamon fragrant flowers and spreads quite vigorously. The last two are of a humile from Jilin Province collection by a friend. They may look like humile, but the rhizomes are distinct in being very thin, 1-3mm, with long internodes and have the strange habit of coming out of the ground and then arching back into the ground. I got no flowers this spring after my transplant from Kansas to Tennessee so maybe next year I can confirm the identification.

Polygonatum_hirtum_ Dwarf_3.JPG
 Polygonatum_hirtum_ Dwarf_4.JPG
 Polygonatum_humile_ Jilin_Waddick.JPG


Continuing again...

 The first is that hideous variegated form of P.hybridum.

 Followed by two of P.inflatum - another of the bracted species. This one is Cheju Giant as offered by Plant Delights. Not sure what is giant about it, but I guess I'll give it more time.

 Then several of the beautiful Polygonatum kingianum in the pink and orange forms. The only bad thing about this species is that it needs something to climb on to stay upright. Otherwise you end up with a mass of stems mounded up on the ground all connected to one another by way of the cirrhose leaf tips. And another year of the "pink" "kingianum" that is white flowered in 2010!




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