Part 2 – The Flower
As I mentioned in Part 1, it’s been cold here. You may wonder why I find it strange to have cold weather in Canada in winter. But here in Victoria, BC, we’ve grown a bit soft in recent years, as one mild winter followed another. As gardeners, we’ve done a lot of “zone busting”: planting Zone 9 perennials in our Zone 8 (at best) climate and expecting them to come back meekly every year. So, it’s a rude surprise to find ourselves looking out our windows to visions of icy rain, mixed precipitation, temperatures below freezing and, yes, snow.
However, there has been one very bright spot in my garden. Flowering through it all has been a Hesperantha coccinea, indifferent to frost, then snow; finally bowed beneath a heavy load of the white stuff.
[Click on any photo to enlarge]
Hesperantha coccinea, formerly known as Schizostylis coccinea, is a flowering plant in the family Iridaceae, native to Southern Africa and Zimbabwe. Iridaceae is the Iris family and the African Iridaceae include such familiar garden flowers as Gladiolus, Crocosmia and Crocus, which are cousins of Hesperantha coccinea, whose common names include “The Winter Gladiolus”.
Flowers of all African Iridaceae are hermaphrodite and trimerous, thus consisting of two whorls of petal-like members (an outer and an inner series of tepals), with three stamens inserted opposite the outer tepals, and an inferior ovary of three united carpels sharing a common style. The style is three-forked apically, with each branch either developed into a broad entire or fringed lip, or comprising a short to long linear structure which may itself be divided.
—https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2803647/ Annals of Botany, “Radiation of Pollination Systems in the Iridaceae of sub-Saharan Africa”, Peter Goldblatt and John C. Manning
The “three-forked style” of Hesperantha coccinea gave the plant its former name, Schizostylis coccinea. “Schizo” means split and “stylis” refers to the style which indeed is split into three long, protruding branches. I have to confess that I have very little knowledge of botany, although I own three books: two of them describing “Botany for the Artist” and one of them titled “Botany for the Gardener”. As I haven’t made much progress with any of these books, I recently purchased “The Botany Coloring Book” by Paul Young and I’m hoping this will help me gain some mastery of the subject. I had a hard time understanding the “split style” until I came across a clear and beautifully drawn illustration of the parts of Crocosmia in Sarah Simblet’s book, Botany for the Artist. The flower is drawn in cross section and the split style can be seen to the upper left of the main part of the flower.
The weather forecast calls for rising temperatures by the weekend. We will likely return to our usual rainy winter weather, but just as the Hesperantha was the last flower of this season, the snowdrops will soon be the first flowers of the next. I can already see signs of it.