Sunday 2 May 2010

Two more frog-coloured frits

Over the past few years I've been raising a batch of seedlings of Fritillaria graeca subsp. thessala, most of which are now flowering. It is interesting to see the subtle variation in flower shape and coloration within the group, evident in the top three photographs.

The close relationship to F. pontica, a relatively familiar garden plant (lower two images), is also evident. Both occur in northern Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans (alongside others within the complex). They could be confused from a casual glance at the flowers, but close inspection shows a number of small differences. F. pontica has round-shouldered flowers, without tessellated markings on the segments - while F. graeca subsp. thessala (subsp. graeca from southern Greece has different features) usually has much squarer 'shoulders' and conspicuous tessellation, but that both these features vary can be seen in the middle picture. Both have conspicuous dark, rounded nectaries at the base of the segments, but in F. pontica there is a darker rim of colour on the inner rim of the bell that does not seem to feature in the other plant. Both have three bracts at the base of the pedicel; they are erect in subsp. thessala but more downwards-pointing (and therefore lop-eared-looking) in F. pontica. A further distinction, not visible now, is that the bulbs of F. pontica produce strange antler-like branches bearing small bulblets, which give rise to tufts of young plants at the base of the parent plants.

Both are easy to grow outside here in well-drained soil that becomes dry in summer and has full sun while they are in growth. F. pontica at least is very happy under late-leafing deciduous trees.

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