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Corydalis popovii - plant of the month March 2011



Distributed in the western Pamir-Alai of Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on clay slopes at between 600 and 1900 m, Corydalis popovii is one of the most striking and largest flowering species of the whole genus. The flowers are typically pale pink to purplish pink in its most startling forms, though white forms are known. The spur is long and straight for most of its length but is often strongly curved, or almost coiled in extreme cases.

A member of the section Leonticoides, the perennial tuber is best described as 'corky' in appearance, enlarging outwards each year. Although these misshapen, long-lived tuber often divides if you wait long enough (though never freely), you will need to buy two from any of the few nurserymen currently listing the species in order to produce seed, or if not persuade a generous friend to let you share their crop, better sown straight from the pod, but sometimes germinating even from a late autumn or winter sowing. In well-drained sites some growers have established self-seeding populations outdoors, but alpine house or cold frame cultivation is far more usual, and more reliable. The plant shown is growing in the Per Wendelbo memorial Garden in Gothenburg Botanic Gardens, Sweden.



At the recent Alpine Garden Society Early Spring show, Corydalis popovii displayed its easily-recognised, darkest crimson-nosed flowers in profusion, earning Mike Chadwick (who has exhibited the same specimen at this Show several times previously) a Farrer Medal.

Ray Drew