April 14, 2018

Caucasian Spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides)

Caucasian Spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides) it is the large (about 2-3,5m=7-12ft tall) dense, very ornamental climber with tuberous roots. Although its flowers are inconspicuous but they are created in numerous very large inflorescences, so plant looks very showy. 
The Caucasian Spinach is very ornamental
 There are growing very numerous shoots (even several dozen or more) from one, a few years old, root in spring. This is native to Caucasus but some forms are cultivated from over one and half hundreds of years in Scandinavia. Leaves and young spring shoots are edible. When cooked they have a mild, pleasant taste. Plant very frost hardy (to zone 5b), but wild strains can be something less resistant. The genus Hablitzia is monotypic (there is only 1 species in this taxon). Plants are not attacked by pests exclude that young shoots of some forms are dying in early spring due to probably any fungi disease. It can even to kill the plant. Young plant should be planed not more deep than they grew in pots. In my experience my plants are propagating even by self-sowing (in zone 6b).
Seeds need about 4-5 weeks of cold stratification to germinate. Seeds should be stratified by a few weeks and (when the seeds germinate in fridge) replanted to the pots. Pots should be placed on sunny window sill in room temperature. Seedlings can be replanted to garden after last frosts. Plant likes half shade and moist soil (but is resistant to short drought).
Here is info about Caucasian Spinach germination (my experiences): I kept the seeds of Hablitzia in fridge (on surface of moist sand in closed but well drained plastic box) until they have germinated (4-9 weeks depending of variety). Then I planted the germinating seeds to pots with well drained soil mix, and put these pots on window sill (on west side) in warm temperature (about 20-24 Celsius degree = 68-75 Fahrenheit degree ). Seedlings grown well though it was winter (and small amount of sunlight). They developed in healthy seedlings and in half of May I replanted them to the garden (without root disturbance). Seeds can be also sow surface in cold but frost free place (for example cool cellar) in mid to late autumn or in winter. Then seeds should germinate within 1 (2) month (in temperature about 5 Celsius degree = 41 Fahrenheit degree). When the seeds germinate take the pots to room temperature to warm and light window sill. In my experience my cultivated and wild varieties germinated within 4-6 weeks.
I grew a few strains:
Wild Georgian formrobust variety to 3,5m (12ft) tall - different from a cultivated form in many features: has red stems, larger dark green leaves and more vigorous shoots, longer and less dense inflorescences. This variety is more suitable for warmer climate (but frost hardy to zones 5/6). Originates from Georgia (Caucasus).

The seedlings
Re-sprouting plant after winter
Young shoot
The plant in flowers (plant a few years old)

This variety has red striped stems
This variety has very large leaves
The plant with ripening fruits
Wild Armenian form - dense climber, leaves a little corrugated on the edges. Less robust than Georgian form in my experience and more susceptible to fungi disease, but very ornamental.
This variety has the leaves a little corrugated on the edges
The plant just before flowering

The plant in the second year of its life
 Wild Russian form – very frost resistant, but not quite large.

Cultivated Swedish form  which is medium size (to about 2 m = 7ft within a few years) climber with pale green, small leaves. It creates very dense inflorescences. Its seeds germinate very well and in high rate.
The tuberous root of 1-year old plant
Young spring shoots

The inflorescence close up
A few years old plant in flowers (this variety is not very huge)
This variety has green stems
The flowers close up
Other Cultivated Scandinavian forms (I marked them by numbers 1 and 2). 

The Scandinavian variety "1"
The Scandinavian variety "2"

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