Online Encyclopedia

CYCLAMEN

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 682 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CYCLAMEN, in botany, a genus belonging to the natural order Primulaceae, containing about ten species native in the mountains of central'Europe and the Mediterranean region. C. europaeum (Sow-bread) is found as an introduced plant in copses in Kent and Sussex. The plants are low-growing herbs with large tuberous rootstocks, from the surface of which spring a number of broad, generally heart-shaped or kidney-shaped, long-stalked leaves, which in cultivated forms are often beautifully marbled, ribbed or splashed. The flowers are nodding, and white, pink, lilac or crimson in colour. The corolla has 'a short tube and five large reflexed lobes. After flowering the stalk becomes spirally coiled, drawing the fruit down to the soil. Cyclamen is a favourite winter and spring flowering plant. C. persicum is probably the best known. It is a small-growing kind bearing medium-sized leaves and numerous flowers. C. giganteum is a large, strong-growing species; not quite so free flowering as C. persicum, but in all other respects superior to it when well grown. C. papitio differs in the fringed character of the petals. It has been obtained by selection from C. persicum. There is also a very beautiful crested race, probably derived from C. giganteum. The plants are raised from seed, and, with good cultivation, flower in fifteen to eighteen months from date of sowing. Seed should be sown as soon as ripe, in July or August, in pots or pans, filled up to 2i in. of the rim with broken crocks for drainage. The soil should consist of fibrous yellow loam, leaf-mould in flakes, and coarse silver-sand, in equal parts. Sow the seed thinly—4 in. to a in. apart—and cover with a very thin sprinkling of the soil. Protect with a square of glass covered with a piece of brown paper for shade, and place on a shelf in a warm greenhouse. The soil should never be allowed to get dry. When the seedlings appear, remove the covering, care being taken that they do not suffer for want of shade, water or a moist atmosphere. As soon as the third leaf appears, repot singly into thumb-pots in slightly coarser soil, so that the crowns of the little plants are just above the level of the soil. In December transfer into a little richer soil, consisting of two parts fibrous loam broken into small bits by hand and the fine particles rejected, one part flaked leaf-mould, passed through a half-inch sieve, half a part of plant ash from the burnt refuse heap and half a part of coarse silver-sand. Keep through the winter in a moist atmosphere at a temperature not below 50° Fahr., and as near the glass as possible. In March they should be ready for their next shift into 5-in. pots. The potting compost should be the same as for the last shift, with the addition of half a part of well-sweetened manure, such as a spent mushroom bed. Keep in a warm moist atmosphere and shade from strong sunlight. In June remove to cold frames and stand them on inverted pots well clear of one another. Slugs show a marked partiality for the succulent young leaves and should be excluded by dusting round the frames occasionally with newly slaked lime. The inverted pots serve as traps. The frames may thus be frequently syringed without keeping the plants unduly wet. Shade heavily from direct sunlight, but afford as much diffused light as practicable. Ventilate on all favourable occasions, and close the frames early after copious syringing. By the end of the month they will be ready for the final shift into 7-in. pots. Much care must be used in handling them, the leaves being large, tender and numerous. The soil is as for the last potting. The frames should be kept close and heavily shaded for a few days after potting; then gradually reduce shade and increase ventilation. By the end of July the elegance of the foliage alone should well repay the care bestowed on them. From this time onwards very little shading will be needed, the object of the cultivator being to harden the growth already made. With the advent of cool weather in September, remove to flowering quarters in a warm greenhouse. Flowering will begin in November and will continue through the winter and spring. The damping off of the flower-buds may occasionally prove troublesome during winter. This may generally be traced to checks, such as sudden changes in temperature, too low a temperature, careless watering, &c. During spring plants that are flowering freely will require weak manure water about twice a week. Plants selected to bear seed should be set aside for that purpose, and as soon as the capsules are found to be developing properly they should be reduced to six or seven per plant, and all flower-buds picked off as soon as they are large enough to handle. The production of strong seeds is of the utmost importance. Plants grown for market purposes, either for decoration or for seed, are sown later than the above, are kept cooler, and during summer receive more ventilation and less shade. This results in the production of plants with much smaller and more erect leaves, which travel well. They are flowered in spring and early summer. The species grown for this purpose is C. persicum. A few species are hardy in dry sheltered positions, such as rockeries, under walls and old trees, provided the positions are well drained. Such are C. europaeum, with reddish-purple flowers in summer; C. hederifolium in autumn; and C. neapolitanum, with large leaves marbled with silver and rosy-pink flowers.
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