Saponaria cypria

Saponaria cypria     copyright  2002 Mark McDonough

This choice soapwort was grown from NARGS seed in 1999, collected at
1600 m, Troodos Mountains, Cyprus.  Its been grown in a pot half plunged
in bark mulch, left to fend for itself over winter.  For the past three winters,
the foliage rosettes remained evergreen, appearing surprisingly hardy for
a Mediterranean plant.  The upper elevations of the Troodos Mountains
do experience cold temperatures and snow in the winter, yet I'm still
surprised that it has proved so hardy.  In the wild, it grows in screes
and rocky slopes, under pines or by streams.  Endemic to Cyprus.

Two features of this plant stand out as remarkable.  The first is that
it begins flowering very late, starting mid to late July.  In the wild, it is
reported that flowering occurs between July - September. The second
feature is the long, hairy, red calyxes, which remain attractive 
even after the flower petals have passed.

Saponaria cypria     copyright  2002 Mark McDonough

In the view above, looking straight down on the flower, notice that all parts of
the flowering stem, including small cauline leaves, are glandular, covered
with fine sticky hairs.  The unscented flowers do a good impression of 
Silene caroliniana ssp. wherryi.  In this view we also get a good look
 at the small, leathery, nearly succulent leaves, reminiscent of a 
dwarf, dryland Penstemon.

Saponaria cypria     copyright  2002 Mark McDonough

All photos by Mark McDonough
(taken July 2002)

After the flower fade, the sticky red calyxes remain like little firecrackers
to extend the floral show. It is reported that the flowers open in the evening
and close about noon the following day.  I can't verify this as I haven't watched
that closely, but the flowers appear not to be as ephemeral as suggested
and actually last 2-3 days before fading.

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This page was last updated on 07/28/02