Sunday, 12 June 2016

Lotus berthelotii

Most of us are familiar with Lotus corniculatus. It is a common plant of waste ground and roadsides and was known to us when kids as Egg and Bacon, the yellow flower representing eggs and the orange streaks on them being the bacon. Along with peas and clover it is probably the among the best-known members of the huge Fabaceae Family.
Lotus berthelotii is such a striking plant that for many - including myself - it does not appear to be a species of Lotus at all. Incidentally the word 'Lotus' has been applied to several other plants including certain Egyptian water lilies such as Nelumbo.
Lotus berthelotii seems best used as a trailing plant.
My garden, 11 June, 2016
When I heard, some years ago, that it was being propagated with a view to its use as a bedding plant, I was intrigued - doubly so as the species is virtually extinct in it Canary Islands home. (It was being classified as 'exceedingly rare' as early as 1884.)  It is a perennial but as a bedding plant it will be used as an annual and, sure enough, when I saw it being offered by a nurseryman early this spring, it was with other tender bedding plants such as Lobelias and Verbenas.

The same plant in close-up
For fairly obvious reasons it is known as Parrot's Beak, and this odd shape is clear in a close-up photograph. As it is so rare the methods by which it is naturally pollinated are unclear but the job may be done by birds. The plants in cultivation are propagated by cuttings as it seems that it does not respond to pollination by hand. Sabin Berthelot, after whom the plant is named, was a biologist who lived for much of his life in the Canary Islands.

The plants are becoming widely available and I suspect that within a few years it will have become very popular.

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