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Wisley's Alpine Diary

This entry: 13 March 2008 by Paul Cumbleton

Log 17....Hepatica!

Wisley’s Alpine Log

By Paul Cumbleton

Log 17 … 13 March 2008


After months of planning, our “Hepatica Spectacular” exhibit opened last Saturday. It took three days to remove the normal exhibit of alpines and bulbs and then install the Hepatica. We wanted it to live up to its title of spectacular so we put a lot of effort into each individual plant as well as the overall effect. We even cleaned each leaf of every plant till they shone!

Meanwhile, logs were being planted…

….while up to ten people at a time were plunging pots:

Finishing touches were added and with literally only minutes left before our deadline we were ready. We were really pleased with the overall effect:



You will observe that we used pine needles around the plants – we had originally intended to use leaves, to suggest a deciduous forest floor typical of Hepatica habitat. However, the high winds of recent days threatened to blow the whole lot away, so we had to change to the pine needles which knit together and stay put.

So what have we got out on display? The majority are forms of Hepatica nobilis, both European types and many of the var. japonica forms from Japan. I will give cultivar names where they exist, but quite a lot of our plants are selected but un-named seedlings. Here is a kaleidoscope of just some of the amazing flowers to be enjoyed:

Above:  H. nobilis var japonica 'Seizan'

Below: An un-named form

  This one is H. nobilis var. japonica 'Beni Suzume' :

Next, a blue double of the San-Dan form:

This is the same plant to show the whole thing:

Next is  H. nobilis var. japonica 'Shiyou'

The huge range of forms and colours in the Japanese forms arise largely from mutations affecting the reproductive parts of the flower, and the Japanese place plants into various categories based on the exact nature of the form. As an introduction to this, here firstly is a ‘normal’ single flower:

In this (wonderful blue!) example, right in the middle are the greenish coloured female organs (stigmas & styles). Around them is a whorl of white male organs (anthers & filaments). Sometimes, the anthers mutate and turn into another whorl of petals, while the female parts remain normal. These may be regarded as “semi-doubles”. Here are some examples of this, with the anthers changing to varying degrees in different plants: The first is an un-named plant of the Ni-Dan form:

  This is H. nobilis var japonica ‘Wabune’ :



The last one is another un-named one.  Each form is given a descriptive name (such as “Ni-Dan” as shown above). Note these are not cultivar names, just a descriptive name for the form of the flower.

Other mutations may lead to the female parts also becoming “petaloid” as it is called, and this gives various forms of fully double flowers such as the following:

  Above: H. nobilis var japonica 'Kouraku'

Below: H. nobilis var japonica 'Kousei'

Another un-named one:


Most fully doubles are sterile, but just occasionally they may produce the odd normal anther or stigma and these are highly prized as sources of breeding material to produce further remarkable forms. Here is an example where just a few stigmas have remained normal: First, H. nobilis var japonica ‘Karako'

There are all kinds of “intermediates” between the forms I have described. All this gives the huge range of forms that are available today. In this example, the stigmas are normal but the anthers are completely absent:

Next time I’ll continue with Hepatica, talk about cultivation…. and of course show more pictures! But I will leave you with one more picture here – one of my personal favourites: H. nobilis var japonica ‘Kimon’

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