Plant of the Month - May 2018

Piptanthus nepalensis

Piptanthus nepalensis S Turner

Piptanthus nepalensis

Photograph © S Turner
This upright, mostly evergreen shrub is one of 2 species in the pea (Leguminosae) family, subfamily Papilionoideae. The leaves of shiny, quite leathery green leaflets make a good foil for the attractive yellow flowers, unmistakably pea-like in loose heads. These are followed by 8cm flat brown pods hodling several seeds. First introduced in 1838 and native in the Himalayas from India to western china, this specimen was grown from wild collected seed and can be seen at the front of the Himalayan Bed (Area N11) at the entrance to the bearpit.

Tulipa sprengeri

Tulipa sprengeri S Turner

Tulipa sprengeri

Photograph © S Turner
Later in the month, Tulipa sprengeri, the last tulip to flower, makes an arresting sight where it has colonised the woodland (Area Q10) beneath the grove of Betula albo-sinensis var. septentrionalis. Atop tall, straight stems, the pointed petals are clear red, the outer ones with backs of buff with olive green. Tulipa sprengeri is the only tulip to colonise in this way; the deep bulbs do not tolerate disturbance and propagation is by seed. This species is native to Turkey, but no longer seen in the wild.

Other Plants to look for in May can be found here

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