Plant of the Month: Eranthis hyemalis 'Schwefelglanz'
Eranthis hyemalis, the winter aconite, is a tuberous rooted herbaceous perennial in the Ranunculaceae family which is native to Europe, favouring woodland habitats. The Latin epithet 'hyemalis' means 'winter flowering' and is valued as one of the earliest of all flowers to appear in many gardens where they make perfect foils for taller growing subjects such as Snowdrops and Hellebores. Being woodland plants by nature, they respond to strengthening sunlight of late winter/ early spring days - they come up, flower and then disappear underground before the canopy can develop too much above them.
It is worth noting that all parts of the plant are poisonous when consumed by humans, as with many members of the Ranunculaceae, though the degree of toxicity reported varies wildly.
Several selections have been made of this normally 'buttercup' yellow species; from 'doubles ' - 'Flore Pleno', 'Noel Ayers' and 'Lady Lamortagne' through the bizarre 'Grunling', with green streaking on the petals onto those in the darker yellow, more orange colour range - ' Aurantiacus', 'Orange glow' and 'Schlyters orange'.
'Schwefelglanz' could be thought of as being at the other end of the range, being a pale sulphur/straw like colour. Raised by Ruth Treff of Darmstadt, Germany in 1997, the name translates as 'Sulphur Gloss' or 'Sulphur Glow' depending on which account you come across. Here we see two flowers of E.h. 'Schwefelglanz' compared with the more normal garden form of E. hyemalis.
Seed raised plants produce a high percentage of individuals which are identical to the parent plant. The image shown is from Jim and Jenny Archibald seed (JCA 442.020), supplied by the German plantsman Hermann Fuchs. Seed sown in 2004, took five years to produce their first flowers, all of those that have flowered have been true to this seed-raised strain. The relatively large flowers have hairstreaks of apricot veining along the length of each petal adding to its charm; a hands-and-knees job in the garden but worth the effort.
Cultivation is best in the garden though pot cultivation makes the plants easier to appreciate out of the winter weather. Plant the corms 2" (5cm) deep and 3" (8cm) apart in soil that doesn't dry out completely when they are in full growth. As the season progresses and trees and shrubs take on their leaves, any excess moisture in the soil should be removed - pot grown specimens need to be dried off a little
E.h. 'Schwefelglanz' is almost identical to the much older cultivar 'Pauline' (shown here with the more normal garden form of E. hyemalis), the colouration is the same, down to the streaking on the petals but the flowers do seem to be smaller by comparison, the whole plant seeming less vigorous in growth.E.h. 'Pauline' was discovered in a patch of other Eranthis hyemalis by Patricia Dales and gained a PC in 1986.