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"Sleeping Beauty" of the Summer Gardens Awakens!

Bulbs might seem mysterious given their aboveground and belowground growing phases. Have you seen the flowers of Lycoris/Magic lilies? Lycoris is one of the most unique bulbs. They go through a period of deep 'summer sleep' which is dormancy during hot summer days. Leaves of Lycoris come out of the ground in spring like most bulbs, but this bulb doesn't flower in spring at all. Infact, the leaves die back in late spring without flowers and then the 'deep summer sleep' begins following which only flower stalks come out of the ground in late summer, without any leaves. Tender flower stalks growing without any leaves, now that seems mind boggling!

How does a plant grow flowers without any leaves? In some bulbs, during summer dormancy, only the aboveground plants parts are morphologically dormant (not growing); the belowground parts remain physiologically active (growing). These below ground parts are getting ready to send out flower stalks in late summer/early fall.

Lycoris genus belonging to the family Amaryllidaceae, it is most definitely one of the families with stunning geophytes. What are geophytes? Plant physiology of geophytes simply put is, very complicated and, still fully unexplored. Common geophyte vegetables are carrots and onions. "Geophytic species are plants with a life-form in which the perennating bud resides in an underground storage organ. Geophytes are usually referred to as species with a very short aboveground growth period, whereas in the unfavorable period of the year, they survive in the form of specialized underground storage organs—bulbs, corms or tubers. After the period of active growth and flowering during spring, the senescence of the aboveground tissues followed by root senescence occurs, while the plant enters a dormant period without visible organogenesis".

Amaryllidaceae is a large family with bulbs like, Daffodils, Onions, Chives, snowdrops etc. Another interesting fact about this family: "Plants of the Amaryllidaceae family, including 75 genera and about 1,100 species, are among the top 20 in the most widely considered medicinal plant families. A number of pharmacologically active compounds, such as phenols, alkaloids, lectins, peptides, etc., have been identified and characterized from this family."

Currently blooming in the spring walk, Lycoris leafless flower stalks still seem to baffle even the most avid gardeners. Now that's an 'awe inspiring geophyte'. 'Sleeping beauty' of the summer gardens has awaken!


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