Monday, March 31, 2008

Hacquetia epipactis

This is a favorite plant. It belongs to that small group of plants whose interest derives not from their flowers but rather from colorful bracts. Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is another example. Hacquetia is a member of the botanical family Umbelliferae (also known as the Apiaceae).

The first time I saw Hacquetia epipactis (in a photograph in Anna Griffith’s 1965 A Guide to Rock Garden Plants) I immediately liked it. It reminded me of the winter aconites: there is the same central touch of yellow and the surrounding ruff of green. In the Hacquetia the bracts which surround the central tuft of true flowers are an electric chartreuse green: they really catch the eye.

In the garden the advantage of these plants which are grown for colorful bracts is the long period of seeming bloom. The bracts remain in good condition for weeks, long after the true flowers have faded and fallen.

When not in bloom Hacquetia is a tiny, unobtrusive thing. It’s only a few inches high. It has grown here for years and seems to be doing well. It’s not well known; I know I have found a gardening soul mate when a visitor recognizes it.

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