Field of Science

Summer flowering woodland perennial - ramp

While woodlands are alive with spring flowers, there isn't much flowering going on in the forest understory during the summer.  The reason for this is simple: there isn't much light and making fruit and seeds requires energy. However in the spring before the canopy closes off the light, lots of plants must compete for the limited number of pollinators.  A few plants have a different solution. Geophytes, plants with underground perennial structures (bulbs or corms), store energy during a photosynthetic season and then use their stored energy to flower and fruit either before or after their green, leafy growth period in the spring.  You are probably used to geophytes that flower before their leaves come up, but in our woodland areas a few flower after the leaves die back, and you often miss seeing them in flower because you aren't out there looking for flowers except in the spring. TPP wasn't looking for them either, but just stumbled upon some summer flowering in the wooded nether regions of the gardens: wild leek/ramp (Allium tricoccum).  This was a surprise because this species while having resided in the wildish, wooded portions of our gardens for a few years now, has never flowered before. So it gets added to the list!  All you see is a cluster of naked scapes about 30 cm tall with a terminal umbel of white flowers typical enough of whatever family the genus is now placed in. In case you didn't know, the lily family has been chopped up quite a bit by molecular data. OK, quick check, and Allium is now in the Amaryllis family many of which bear their flowers in umbels. Didn't have time to photograph it, so this image is courtesy of Fritzflohrreynolds via the Wikimedia Creative Commons. 

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