Centranthus for Graham Rice

Posted by on June 6, 2007 in Garden | 5 comments

Centranthus2Graham Rice just did a post about the always lovely Centranthus ruber, or Jupiter’s beard. I have a lilac/lavender variety that I have only ever seen once.  I wish now that I had bought every one I saw.  But this one is quite tough and self-sows just like the others, so I’ve been moving the seedlings around my garden just to make sure I’ve got back-ups. 

A friend saw this in my garden and gasped and said, "Where did you GET that?"  I had to break the news to her that she was married to the owner of the nursery where I bought it.

It’s truly a lilac color, not the common rosy pink.  Here’sCentranthus another photograph of it with one of the rosier versions in front for contrast.  Click to enlarge the photos.

5 Comments

  1. Well Amy, I’ve looked them up and the most obvious differences between C. ruber and C. lecoqii are these:
    In C. ruber the stems are usually branched while in C. locoqii they are not;
    In C. ruber the leaves are up to 60mm wide, in C. locoqii they are never more than 12mm wide;
    In C. ruber the leaves are usually held at right angles to the stem and tend to clasp the stem at their base, in C. lecoqii the leaves are usually held more upright and do not clasp the stem.
    Needless to say, the situation is complicated by the fact that the two species hybridise with each other, and both also hybridise with C. angustifolius (from France, Italy and Switzerland) which has very slender 2mm wide leaves.
    In all there are six perennial Centranthus species, C. lecoqii and C. longiflorus from Greece are the only ones with lilac flowers and C. longiflorus is mainly distinguished by the tube on each tiny flower being 12-18mm long, 10mm in C. locoqii.
    So, my conclusion is that your implication may well be correct – the plant you have is perhaps a hybrid especially as the flower spray is rather open and not gathered into a tight head as it should be in C. lecoqii.
    It would be interesting to move a seedling to a garden with no centranthus there or anywhere nearby and see what the self sown seedlings look like. If it’s a hybrid, they should be rather variable.
    You know, all this reinforces my respect for the botanists who make these determinations every day (albeit not from photographs). Sometimes gardeners are very rude about botanists and their conclusions but when you’re dealing with differences of a millimetre or two and niceties of the angle at which a leaf is held – well, it’s clear how tough it can be.
    Anyway… it’s a lovely plant, Amy, send me some seed!

  2. Amy, that’s a seriously beautiful centranthus. I do like the regular old red valerian, but that one is a keeper.

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  4. That lilac Centranthus in your June 6th 07 post is very interesting. I was wondering if you had seeds to share? Great blog very informative.
    Frans
    Portland OR

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