Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pinellia Pedatisecta... The Unbidden Dragon

Pinellia pedatisecta just showed up in our garden, unbidden... at first I thought it was a patch of seedlings from one of the Asian jack in the pulpits that we grow; perhaps Arisaema consanguineum (the foliage was reminiscent). Then one day these odd inflorescences arose... certainly "jack" like but not like any jack in the pulpit I knew. A hunch led me to a description and picture of Pinellia pedatisecta; also a native of Asia, but not a true jack in the pulpit (Pinellias are sometimes called "green dragons", not to be confused with Arisaema dracontium, one of our two native jacks that is commonly called THE green dragon). P. pedatisecta is in the same family (Araceae) as the Arisaemas, and the foliage is a dead ringer for some of the Asian jacks. The "flowers" are jack-like, consisting of a greenish, modified leaf (the spathe) that curls around a very long, yellowish "jack" (spadix). I have no idea if it is, in fact, from an evolutionary standpoint considered an early or primitive form of arum, but structurally it certainly appears so; one can see in its floral structure how the more elaborate jack in the pulpits came to be; with a simple leaf wrapping around the spadix, enclosing and protecting the reproductive structures.
I'm not sure how this pinellia arrived in a garden in Iowa; I suppose it snuck in with a nursery-bought plant. I would not have purchased it, as there are two Pinellia species that are definitely invasive. Ternata is the worst (sometimes called the dragon from hell), and I would never have that in my garden at all, but pedatisecta has a mixed reputation, so I've left it growing, but in one summer I already see it popping up where it has no business being. I'll give it one more probation year with very careful attention to removing its seedheads. It is an interesting plant, with tropical-looking foliage (it is the tallest Pinellia at 18 inches), and it has a very long blooming season, basically late spring through the entire summer. I would be pleased to have it continue to have a spot in the garden... however there are some rules that it will need to follow.
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You have SUCH a variety of plants These are fun! I was just noticing them in a catalog. I think, however, that I'll let YOU grow them! ;-)

But how do you keep track of "everybody?" Maps and/or markers both?
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