Friday, November 4, 2011

early morning frost

early morning frost --
hairy purple-spotted toad
lilies still blooming

I am always happy and amazed to see our clump of hairy toad lilies blooming in autumn when other perennials are going dormant. Hairy toad lilies are not toads at all, but small, orchid-like flowers with purple flecks. The amphibian reference refers to the blotches on the flowers and the hirsute reference refers to the hairy or fuzzy stems and buds. The genus name, Tricyrtis, comes from the Greek for "three" and "convex," because the three outer petals have tiny swellings at the base. 
          Close inspection of the flowers reveals an exquisite design. The six outer, down-curving petals are each marked with a yellow spot at the base for attracting insects. The star-like stigma in the center is a complex arrangement of parts in threes and sixes that stands above the petals. The florets of these sturdy plants keep blooming in clusters for weeks, even after a frost. In its native Japan, Tricyrtis hirta grows on shady rocky cliffs and stream banks. Mine do fine in rich, moist soil and partial shade, multiplying each year.

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