Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, April 2015
   Fritillaria sewerzowii  - by Joan McCaughey

Fritillaria sewerzowii   (F.severtzovii, Korolkovia sewerzowii)  


In 2008 Liam and I spent a holiday in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kazakhstan photographing the interesting flora and fauna. Towards the end of the stay our guide had collected some seeds from plants which had been dug up by wild boars and left to wither on the roadside. As a memento of our time there he gave us a few seeds but with no idea what they were and no guarantee that they would grow.

On return home in July I duly sowed the seeds in a small pot, labelled them ‘Boar Rejects’, and left them outside against a sheltered north west wall. Spring 2009 saw tiny monocot seedlings appear. These were weakly fed and watered and left outside with similar treatment for another 2 years.

By autumn 2011 little bulbs had appeared and were repotted in several pots and left to grow on – surviving the severe winters of 2010/11.

In 2014 there were several reasonable sized plants of various colours and forms of leaves but still no flowers. Patience was getting thin and they were left under the greenhouse bench this time until this year when once again they were watered as the leaves appeared in early spring.

At last in March 2015 one plant produced flowers and was finally identified as Fritillaria sewerzowii. It has distinctive grey-green foliage, unlike any of the other ‘boar rejects’, and quiet green brown flowers. I have never seen it growing in the wild but apparently it grows in scree like conditions on steep hillsides and woodland edges. There is a photograph of it taken in the Tien Shan by Christopher and Başak Gardner in their beautiful book ‘Flora of the Silk Road’. Its home is Central Asia, principally in the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains.

I presume the plant is named after the 19th- century Russian zoologist, N.V. Severtsov, the father of Turkestan  zoology, who spent years in painstaking study of the flora and fauna of the Pamirs, a forerunner of modern ecology.

By chance last autumn I got seeds from Gothenburg Botanic Gardens, including those of F. sewerzowii and now have a pot of little seedlings – perhaps they will flower sooner.

While feeling that plants are best seen and left in their natural habitat, as at present I am less able to explore the wild, it is lovely to have a memory of them in an Irish garden - with thanks to the wild boars – and, given patience, who knows what else will appear.