Winter in northern California is brightened by a number of flowers that thrive in that season: English primroses, anemones, violas (including pansies), and snapdragons, for example. And cyclamens, which are flourishing at the moment — gorgeously, in pots, outside the Gordon Biersch restaurant in my neighborhood.

Cyclamen flowers come in various shades of white, pink, purple, and red. Here’s a pale pink variety (Stirling) and a red variety much like the ones outside GB:

From Wikipedia (with etymology from the OED):

Cyclamen … is a genus of 23 species of perennials growing from tubers, valued for their flowers with upswept petals and variably patterned leaves. Cyclamen species are native to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin east to Iran, with one species in Somalia.

It was traditionally classified in the family Primulaceae but recently has been reclassified in the family Myrsinaceae.

Cyclamen is Medieval Latin, from earlier Latin cyclamīnos, from Ancient Greek κυκλάμινος, kyklā́mīnos (also kyklāmī́s), probably from κύκλος, kýklos “circle”, because of the round tuber [so there probably is a cycle in cyclamen!]. In English, the species of the genus are commonly called by the genus name.

In many languages, cyclamen species are colloquially called by a name like the English sowbread, because they are said to be eaten by pigs: pain de pourceau in French, pan porcino in Italian, varkensbrood in Dutch, “pigs’ manjū” in Japanese.

Cyclamens have a tuber, from which the flowers and roots grow. In most species, leaves come up in autumn, grow through the winter, and die in spring, then the plant goes dormant through the dry Mediterranean summer [or the dry California summer].

… Each flower is on a stem coming from a growing point on the tuber. In all species, the stem is bent 150-180° at the tip, so that the nose of the flower faces downwards. Flowers have 5 petals, bent outwards or up, sometimes twisted, and connected at the base into a cup, and five sepals behind the cup.

One Response to “cyclamens”

  1. primroses | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] into summer in these parts, the winter-blooming flowers are coming to the end of their season; from this posting, about […]

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