August 27, 2017

Pampas Lily of the Valley (Salpichroa origanifolia)

Pampas Lily of the Valley (Salpichroa origanifolia) it is perennial native to temperate areas of South America but naturalised in North America, Europe, Africa and Australia. It is wild relative to numerous solanaceous edible fruits as for example Ground Cherries (Physalis spp.). It is somethimes grown as ornamental or for its fruits. 

It is low (to about 60 cm = 2ft tall), wide (spreading by woody rhizomes), something scandent herb (trying to climb). It creates a profusion of small white flowers – similar to Common Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) and next white oblong berries (10-18mm = 0,4-0,8 inch long), which are edible and very fragrant (with mild taste). The species epithet „origanifolia” in latin name refers to similarity (in shape) of leaves to Oregano (Origanum vulgare). But they are not aromatic and are inedible (only medicinal). It is regarded as noxious weed in Tasmania and prohibited there.
Growing: It loses its aboveground parts in cold areas but regrow in spring from its roots. It is said to be very cold and frost hardy and I heard that it can survive winters outside without mulching in Europe as north as in Bulgaria (the rhizomes grow very deep, even below freezing zone in soil, so the plant can survive in frostly areas, although it is frost sensitive). It is self-incompatible and to creating fruits it needs at least two genetically different plants. In first year from seeds it starts to flowering in late summer, but later in next years, if plant is in good condition, it blooms from June to August or September and fruits starting to ripenning in August. It is pollinated by bumblebees (much larger than flowers, so the pollinating looks very interesting). It can be propagated by seeds (sown surface and kept moist, warm, in light place – easy) or dividing of rhizomes.

There are a few other Salpichroa species in South America - if You have available the seeds of any of them please write to me.

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