• Meenal Harankhedkar, Director of Horticulture

Botanist's Lens: Fleeting petals, some of unsung and others of illustrious blossoms


'Snake's head', Fritillaria meleagris

Spring is full of blossoms that have their best foot forward after a long dormant year. For some, the beautiful blooms are rather fleeting fast. Some petals last for less than 48 hours, while others hang for a couple of weeks. Some flora are esteemed and known for their bold colors and shapes like Tulips and Magnolias, while some have dainty flowers, almost inconspicuous to the unobservant eye.

'Twinleaf', Jeffersonia meleagris

After waiting three long years, my lens finally captured the flower of Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla. “ This rare and desirable native woodland perennial was named to honor Thomas Jefferson in 1792 by the "Father of American Botany," Benjamin Smith Barton” (https://www.monticello.org/…/in-bloom-at-monticel…/twinleaf/). Twinleaf as the name suggests, has two leaves and its petals last for less than 48 hrs at the most. Some of its habitats are diminishing and it is endangered in some areas in the wild.

'Snake's head', Fritillaria meleagris by Bald Cypress tree

Another woodland treasure with fleeting petals that almost camouflages with barks, is of the 'Snake's Head', Fritillaria meleagris. Fritillaries have been around since the 16th century. However, F. meleagris populations are also endangered in the wild.

There are many similar unsung blossoms that are either not most popular in trade due to the flower petal color, size, life span or are rather too tiny to be attractive to the human eye.

It is for these unsung flowers with endangered habitats, that public gardens with woodlands like those at London Town are priceless homes. Amongst the vibrant and common in trade flowers like Camellias, Magnolias, Azaleas and Tulips, London Town is also home to beautiful botanical specimens including Daphniphyllum, Stachyurus, Illicium, Corydalis, Trilliums and many ephemerals. Years of stewardship efforts, mature woodlands, micro-climates and healthy habitats, have kept them alive and thriving at London Town.

Here's to the unsung fleeting petals, like those of the Twinleaf and the many public gardens that conserve these fragile species, all ex-situ!

#snakeshead #fritillaria #twinleaf #jeffersoniameleagris

839 Londontown Road, Edgewater, MD 21037          410-222-1919         londontown@historiclondontown.org

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