Sunday 8 May 2011

An unfamiliar plant

Collinsonia verticillata
Snooping around a friend's polytunnel yesterday I came across a plant I didn't know - and he had forgotten its name. It stood about 45 cm tall, with four leaves in two pairs at the top of the stem, with a narrow inflorescence of beautiful pink flowers above. Each flower has an expanded lip, with a fringed margin, and four anthers on long filaments sticking out above the flower. All in all, a curious thing, and I was delighted to be given one.

A flick through Britton & Brown's An Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Canada, the old standby, suggested the genus Collinsonia, and Google Images indicated that C. verticillata was the species. It seems to be found in very rich woodland in the southern Appalachian mountains of the Eastern United States, from Ohio to Mississippi. It is regarded as endangered in Ohio and Kentucky (see the USDA PLANTS Profile for more infomation on distribution, etc). It sems to be almost unknown in horticulture on either side of the Atlantic, so growing it will be very interesting.

Collinsonia verticillata
Collinsonia is a member of the Labiatae (Lamiaceae), in the tribe Elsholtzieae, of which Perilla is the most familiar example, used for bedding and as sprouting seeds for use on salads. It is named after Peter Collinson (1694-1768), the Quaker merchant in London whose interest in plants led to a fruitful collaboration with the American John Bartram (1699-1777), the pioneering botanist and nurseryman from Philadelphia. Between them they were responsible for introducing hundreds of American plants to Europe. There are about 4 species of Collinsonia, of which C. canadensis with creamy flowers is best known (comparatively): it seems a shame that Peter Collinson is commemorated by such an obscure genus.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post, that is a very interesting plant I didn't know since yet! I grow C. canadensis, but it's growing much taller and flowers in late summer so I'll watch out for this one.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.