More by chance than by intention, I discover plants that are fairly rare in residential gardens. Invariably, my discoveries are plants that are native to dry summer climate regions, because it is that population within which I seek plants for my own garden.
Incidentally, gardeners who search for plants from climates other than their own garden’s climate are called “zone deniers.” Gardening with plants from exotic zones might appeal to one’s sense of adventure but it involves more challenges than I would enjoy.
Here are three attractive rare plants that I have encountered recently
Blood Flower (Haemanthus albiflos).
Image from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org)
An evergreen South African bulbous geophyte, related to the Amaryllis. The generic name translates as “blood flower,” reflecting the red flowers of the first species found, H. sanguineus. The specific name of the plant I acquired from the Monterey Bay Area Cactus and Succulent Society means “white flower,” so I now have a white-flowered Blood Flower. The plant is sometimes called “Elephant’s Tongue” for its leaves or “Shaving-brush Plant” for its unusual flowers. This is a very low-growing plant, suitable as a rock garden specimen or indoor plant.
Source (among others): Telos Rare Bulbs <http://telosrarebulbs.com>
Blue Chilean Crocus (Tecophilaea cyanocrocus).
Image from The Scottish Rock Garden Club (http://www.srgc.org.uk)
A very rare geophyte that is native to Chile, but presumed extinct in the wild since 1986. Plant hunters rediscovered it in 2001 and brought back corms. It has been propagated in botanical gardens and is slowly becoming available commercially. The plant, a member of the iris family, has blossoms that resemble those of the Crocus, a different member of that same family. Its flowering stems grow up to four inches tall, and the deep gentian clue flowers, with a whitish center, are just one inch across. In the northern hemisphere, it blooms February to March.
Source (among others): Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com)
Golden Fuchsia (Deppea Splendens).
Image from http://www.strangewonderfulthings.com
Another plant that probably is extinct in the native cloud forests of southern Mexico (Chiapas) and Guatemala. This plant flowers in late summer with spectacular clusters of pendulant golden yellow tubular flowers topped by violet-red calyces. Even its leaves are attractive. The plant is not a Fuchsia, but a member of the very large coffee family. One of its many relatives is the Gardenia. Its seeds were first brought to northern California in 1981 and distributed selectively. Most of the plants grown from these seeds were killed by frost, but a few plants survived in the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Huntington Gardens, and are now slowly becoming available commercially.
Source (among others): Annie’s Annuals & Perennials (https://www.anniesannuals.com/)
Avid gardeners could select these or countless other uncommon plants to enjoy for their beauty and rarity. Not all rare plants are attractive or even garden-worthy, so plants that meet those criteria and will also flourish in our dry summer climate are welcome treasures.
Enjoy your own rare plant discoveries.