Sunday, 11 March 2012

Waiting for an evening puff of cloves from the sad pelargonium


Walking through our front door - into the acclimatisation chamber between London outdoors and the Entwisle home - I'm waiting to be greeted by a waft of cloves as I arrive home in the evenings.

That's because we are house-minding a pot of Pelargonium triste. The Night-scented Perlagonium is a succulent perlargonium from South Africa with clove-scented flowers in March. For the rest of the year it has a big fat Buddha-like trunk and long trailing stems that sag over the edge of the pot.


Kew Gardens has three specimens of this pretty pelargonium, two in our behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery  and one in the Temperate House. One from the Tropical Nursery is holidaying in our Kew Gardens home as test of its hardiness away from the tender, loving care of the Kew horticulturalists.

And why does this pelargonium have a big fat bottom? To survive the dry season in the southern part of Western Cape in South Africa. When it rains, the sad stems emerge again, unfurling their carrot-like leaves over the sandy plain. It also has a big fat bottom so the locals in Namaqualand can tan their leather a deep red-brown colour.

In nature this pelargonium grows in with the stems spreading out widely from the tuberous centre. In a  pot, it can hang down over the edges adding an extra dimension to this attractive indoor plant. Eli Biondi, one of the enthusiastic horticulturalists working in our Tropical Nursery, reminded me the species name triste means sad, a reference to the slumped stems.


The flower stalk, though, sticks up way above the pot, upright and happy, producing yellowish flowers with a purple stripe, as well as (so I'm told) the evocative clove perfume. According to PlantZAfrica.com, my favourite website for South African garden plants, the clove perfume suggests Pelargonium triste is pollinated by moths.

So far this is all the floral activity I'm greeted with when I open the door. I have a feeling these flower buds won't transform my alcove into a clove den before the plant returns to the nursery next weekend. But if they do, I'll post a picture.


1 comment:

Merricks said...

Looking forward to the flower. (It always staggers me that we don't really know whether or what moth it may be that pollinates a plant...)