Thursday, 14 February 2013

Winter Aconites

I am rather envious of my friends Mike and Annie Bosley. They usually have a fine show of Winter Aconites yet, although we live less than a hundred metres from them, I've had no luck in growing them. In theory they are not difficult and in many parts of Britain these delightful plants have become well naturalised, but the dried corms for sale in garden centres are not always easy to break from their dormancy. Hereabouts the flowers have been in bud for a couple of weeks but it was not until today, when the temperatures quickly rose (bringing floods, but that's another story), that they fully opened - a splash of colour for St Valentine's Day. The ones I photographed were not those of Mike and Annie but I noticed them along Potter's End, also in Byfield. 
Winter Aconites, Eranthis hyemalis, Potter's End, Byfield
14 February, 2013

There are about eight species in the genus, all found in south east Europe or Asia, but the one almost invariably grown is Eranthis hyemalis. A close relative from Sicily, E.cilicica, has larger flowers and is sometimes grown, but is not as reliably hardy. Even a non-botanist can see at a glance that Eranthis is a member of the Buttercup Family, Ranunculaceae, and like nearly all other members of the family, the plants are poisonous (though far less dangerous than another family member, Monkshood). The whorl of bracts, forming a frill beneath the flowers, makes them distinctive and there are other structural differences too but they are of interest only to the enthusiast. 

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