Saturday, April 18, 2009

Plumbago europaea: a good plant from the Azerbaijan trip

This is one of the plants that Stephan Lura collected in Azerbaijan last fall. It's flowering nicely in the greenhouse now but according to the literature is hardy to USDA Zone 6. Since it was collected from an area with hot and humid summers and cold winters, it ought to love the east coast at least as far north as Philadelphia. This seems to me to be a plant that could be of some horticultural value. Apparently P. europaea has been in cultivation in Europe for some period of time. I see it described as a purple mound of fragrant flowers late in the season. And its tough. Sounds good.

Stefan reports that he has germinated, if I remember correctly, over 80 of somewhere around 100 taxa collected: a good percentage by anyone's measure. A number of these plants are interesting because they represent rare wild collections of common plants, many herbs, that have been in cultivation "forever." That's a great thing and quite exciting to a very few people. It seems to me however, that there are a few taxa, the Plumbago among them, that may be of more widespread interest.

The region that this trip collected in has been a glacial refugium, an area to which southward creeping glaciers have "pushed" northern plants. As the glaciers receded northward topographic isolation (by seas and mountains) has "trapped" large numbers of taxa. Because the area is isolated, over time evolution has produced a large percentage of endemics: an interesting flora and one we want to investigate. This trip was a good start. We're trying to create gardens that require fewer "inputs", i.e. water, fertilizer, pesticide, and general coddling. This flora from a "tough climate" could yield some useful plants.

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