Monday, March 26, 2007

Raggedy Robin

Bulbocodium vernum is sometimes called "Raggedy Robin"; a name both endearing and apt; the flowers, even when freshly open, always look a little bit like somebody who just got out of bed, wearing the same rumpled clothes they had on last night. It is closely related to colchicums; some have even lumped it into that genus (it contains the same toxin as colchicums: namely colchicine, which is used medically to treat gout). It certainly looks like a miniature colchicum, with the same bright, lilac-pink color. For now, taxonomists have placed it in its own genus, so it is monotypic. Bulbocodium seems to be kind of a sometime bulb... it doesn't seem to stick around in most gardens. I do have a little patch that has persisted for about ten years; sunny, well-drained, and neglected. This little bulb is native to the Pyrenees; a mountain range of high waterfalls and higher mountain passes, that divides France and Spain. In our garden it blooms right after the snowdrops, blooming with the early spring crocuses. I've always wanted to plant blue Siberian squills around Bulbocodium, but I 'm not sure Raggedy Robin appreciates competition, though I've heard of planting it under a patch of thyme.
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So pretty!
I have never seen or heard of this great plant. Thanks for posting a photo. You are a great resource for unusual plants. My problem is that I want to get them all. Your blog is a plant siren.
My first thought was, "Hey, what's he doing with a colchicum blooming in March?" My second thought was, "That's not Ragged-Robin!" To me, Lychnis flos-cuculi is Ragged Robin. But if you compare this photo with yours, you can see a superficial resemblance. They both look like they "just got out of bed, wearing the same rumpled clothes they had on last night." My understanding is that bulbocodium is not hardy to zone 4, but seeing how they look so similar to colchicums, I am tempted to try some in my most gravelly, free draining spot.
I used to grow bulbocodium in zone 4 northern Iowa without problems... I think, like a lot of bulbs, it's more about the drainage. One thing that probably isn't clear from the photo, is that this plants is about the size of a crocus.
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