A Few Rare And Unusual Perennials

A perennial is a plant that lives longer than two years. Biennials are plants that live two years and annuals are plants that live a single year. Flowering perennials will bloom during a certain time of the year, die back and then, grow once again from the remaining root system. The sunflower is an extremely popular perennial, but there are many more rare and unusual perennials out there just waiting to be discovered. Here are just a few.

The Snowdrop

Close-up of white snowdrop against blue sky with cloudsGalanthus, which is referred to as the snowdrop, is a genus of flowers that includes around 20 different species of perennials. Many of these species are becoming endangered and as such are harder to come by. Collecting them in the wild has become illegal in many areas as they strive to undertake new conservation efforts before it is too late.

The snowdrop usually flowers in late winter, but there is a handful of species that will flower in spring as well as autumn. Aside from their flowering time, they are very similar in many ways. The visual differences between them sometimes only a matter of size.

All snowdrop species grow from a bulb that produces a stalk and several linear leaves. The flower of the snowdrop has no petals, but instead a series of six tepals in two layers. The flower is white and the tepals usually have green markings on their tips.

This perennial has appeared several times throughout history in popular literature. It is believed to be the mysterious herb known as moly in Homer’s Odyssey. There is also a well-known Russian fairy-tale called The Twelve Months that tells the story of a little girl who must collect snowdrops in the middle of winter.

The Toad Lily

The Interesting Bloom of a Unique Toad Lilly

Tricyrtis, or the toad lily as it is known in America, is a rare genus of Asian perennials that can be found growing near the Himalayas and other parts of eastern Asia as well as Japan. Toad lilies are widely sought after because of their unique appearance.

The tepals of the lily are arranged in two layers of six each. The tepals on the outside secrete nectar and are decorated with bright purple polka dots. Inner tepals usually have similar spots of a slightly different color.

Toad lilies prefer to grow near forests where they can spend their time in moist soil. They grow in areas where there is plenty of shade and will flower sometime between summer and fall. The lily is extremely tough and can survive drastic changes in weather.

Swamp Pink

 Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nieminen, Gene
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nieminen, Gene

Helonias bullata or swamp pink is an endangered perennial that grows in different locations throughout the eastern United States. The flower itself is rather small and they grow in clusters at the end of a long stem that can grow up to 3 feet tall. The majority of remaining swamp pinks are grown in New Jersey, but six other states have small populations of the plants.

The swamp pink blooms early in the year and is very noticeable. This has lead to increase poaching of the plant over the last few decades, which has further decreased their numbers. They survive best in their natural environments where the soil is highly saturated with water. Many of the plants do not survive the move to a new location.

Despite the flower itself being rather small, the roots are large and extensive. Poachers who are unaware of how large the roots can grow are often unable to keep the plant alive in a stable environment.

Some efforts are being taken to preserve the remaining swamp pink population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services have started a volunteer program labeled “Adopt-a-Swamp-Pink Population”.

Should you encounter one of these rare perennials in the wild you should take the time to stop and enjoy its beauty, but do not try to remove it from its natural habitat.