Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pinellia Peltata... Just Downright Odd

The pinellias all are at least on the unusual side of beautiful, but Pinellia peltata from eastern China is just downright odd. Peltate refers to leaves that are "plate-like"; roundish and held up flat by a stem that attaches more in the middle of the leaf than at the edge (may-apple leaves would be a good example). Pinellia peltata is rarely offered in the catalogues; I've never seen it in another garden, and I've stumped some pretty sophisticated gardeners with it when I've shown it to them here. It has extremely unusual little jack in the pulpit-like reproductive structures whose color sort of reminds me of squash blossoms. The jacks arise close to the ground on separate, short stems, and the long, curled spadix reaches the ground; I've assumed it must be fertilized by little beetles or such that use the long spadix to climb up into the spathe. Here in Iowa peltata tends to go dormant in the summer heat, so its spot needs to be marked. It does have another quirk in that it develops very long stolons (underground stems), and offset plants can pop up from these, quite a distance from the mother plant. I've therefore made a little barrier around one of my two plants to keep it from popping up in some primroses. The second plant is in a spot where it's welcome to ramble; this second plant was just a bare root piece of the original plant that I just heeled in, and it took right off, so this seems to be a pretty tough little Pinellia.

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