Alpine Garden Society

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Nomocharis pardanthina

Background and Description
Nomocharis pardanthina First collected in 1883 "In pastures of calcareous soil of Mount Koua-la-po" in Western China by French Missionary J.M. Delavay. Nomocharis pardanthina was the species on which this fascinating genus was founded in 1889. However, it was not until 1914 when plants raised from seed collected by George Forrest, flowered in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh that it first came to the attention of horticulturists in this country. Botanically, Nomocharis lies mid-way between Lilium and Fritillaria.

In its native habitat in SW Sichuan and NW Yunnan, N. pardanthina thrives at altitudes of 9,000-13,500feet(2,700-4,100M), in scrub and forest margins where it receives abundant light,  cool temperatures, and a long winter under snow cover. These are both the secret of success in cultivation and the source of much frustration in warmer climes. Typically attaining 18 inches(45cm) in the wild, when happy in ideal situations it can double that with up to 10 nodding saucer shaped flowers of about 2.5-3inches across(6-8cm). The outer 3 tepals are generally pale pink ,unspotted and entire whereas the inner 3 are spotted towards the centre, wider and fringed. Leaves solitary on the lower stem then in whorls of 3-6 about 2 inches in length (5cm) by 1/2 inch wide(1cm), pointed. The flowers are held in the axils of the upper leaves in June and early July.

Cultivation and Propagation
Nomocharis pardanthina This genus, like many other Himalayan plants thrives in conditions commonly found in Scotland, well drained humus rich soil is required with plenty of summer moisture and full exposure to light.  In the south it is apt to become overheated and suffers from drought.  Protecting the bulb and roots from the heat is therefore recommended either by planting in front of it or by putting the bulb on the north side of a largish rock.

Bulbs are egg shaped and just over an inch long(3cm), they are loosely covered with whitish oblong scales and should be planted about 4 inches deep(10cm). Bulbs do not readily increase of their own accord, but can be induced to do so through scaling. 

The preferred propagation option is via seed, production of which is usually plentiful and should be thinly sown in deep pots in early spring giving the seedlings a chance to build up before coming through the winter. Germination is normally 20-30days.  Seedlings should be left in their pots to develop for 2 seasons, before planting out in their final sites, once planted they should be left undisturbed.

Nomocharis hybridise readily with each other and many of the plants available are the results of such hybridisation often labelled as N x finlayorum. They are splendid plants and worth any effort. 

John Humphries
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