Thursday, March 6, 2014

CLEOME, Spider Flower, Spider Legs, Grandfather's Whiskers, Cats Whiskers.

Curtis's Botanical Magazine, vol. 40, 1814


Class and Order.


This is undoubtedly the same plant that is described and figured by WILLDENOW, under the name of CLEOME  pungens, in his Hortus Berolinenfis ( Berolini, Apud G. Reimer,1827-33); but we see no reason to support it to be distinct from CLEOME spinosa of Linnaeus.
The author himself observes that they are very similar, but that this differs in being more lofty and in having constantly five, never seven, leaflets, and in being clammy. But the latter circumstance is particularly mentioned by JACQUIN, in his description of spinosa; and Mr. Anderson assures us, that the leaves of our plant, when young and vigorous, had frequently seven leaflets. As to the height there is no remarkable difference in his account and that of JACQUIN, if there were any weight in such a distinction.
Though generally considered as annual and indeed usually flowering the first year, yet in our stoves 
[Ref 1] it is a perennial, or at least a biennial, and blooms perfectly in the second year.
Native of the West Indies. Cultivated by MILLER before the year 1731. Flowers in July and August. Propagated by seeds, and is constantly kept in the stove [Ref 1]. Our drawing was taken at Mr. VERE'S at Kengsington-Gore, in July, 1812.

[Ref 1] Stove: To keep warm, in a house or room, by artificial heat; as, to stove orange trees. 

The older varieties blooms do have an offensive smell, self seed all over the place, are tall and leggy and have thorns.
The more modern cultivars perform really well have a pleasant slight mint scent or none at all, they are thorn free and are little more compact, some are sterile.
Technically a annual but sometimes can last two seasons around here depending on the severity of the winter and spring frosts.
Cleome are great lookers in the perennial border with its attractive blooms and foliage, and give extra height to the back of the border. Blooms are sun fast and plants and blooms handle the summer heat well. These are visually high impact plants that can be planted in mass for a very small cost. Keep water up to them in high heat like today 33°C + (At the time I wrote this)

My advice is "Give them a home"!!! you will not regret it.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Photo credit and copyright Iris Hunter.


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