Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, June 2010
Chorispora bungeana - by Joan McCaughey

Of all the many wonderful plants that I was privileged to see in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kazahkstan, one with a quiet beauty that stayed in my memory was Chorispora bungeana.

I had never seen or heard of this plant before and it seemed to be dismissed as 'just a little crucifer'.

It grew on gravelly slopes below the snow line around 2500-3500 metres with pale grey ferny foliage and lavender coloured flowers, some plants being more floriferous than others.

The upper two photographs show it growing in the Chimbulak area north of Almaty.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a couple of seeds which were sown in autumn 2008 and to my delight, they germinated and survived to reward me with 2 flowering plants this summer, one of which I gave to someone with more experience of growing alpines than me.

As I write, the remaining plant, pictured below, is still in full bloom, having come into flower just too late for an Irish AGS show near the end of April so the only way I can share it with you is online.

It is growing in a pot against a north facing wall, where Paraquilegia anemonoides also grows well,  and my impression is that it prefers a cool temperature to full sun and likes good drainage. It survived outside in the coldest winter we have had for some time, and I have since read that the Chinese botanists are studying it for its ability to survive freezing temperatures.

Apparently some of the other members of this family have become noxious weeds in America but I don't think this applies to C. bungeana.

I would be interested to know if anyone else grows it in the British Isles and Ireland.

As well as its pretty little flowers it has a beautiful perfume and  it reminds me of a very pleasurable time spent exploring the flora of the Tien Shan Mountains.