Melanthium - bunchflower

Submitted by Mark McD on


Planted out in 2010, then more or less forgotten about until a beautiful branched spire of bloom appeared recently, is Melanthium latifolium (EDIT update: this is Melanthium virginicum, I would use "strike-through" text formating except is doesn't exist on this forum) , a little known member of Liliaceae from Eastern USA. Melanthium species have tunicate bulbs with short, vertical rhizomes.

The USDA still lists it as Veratrum hybridum. Below is a link to a discussion on the close relationship between Veratrum and Melanthium in Flora of North America, explaining why they maintain Melanthium as distinct from Veratrum, with 4 species ascribed to the genus.  Stated in FNA: "traditionally, Melanthium latifolium has been known by the misapplied name M. hybridum Walter (N. L. Bodkin 1979).

Melanthium latifolium is found in a limited north-south range in eastern USA:

Mine is planted in full sun, which it seems to be enjoying; habitat description is "dry, rocky, wooded slopes", so might be a good candidate for more shade.

It's been flowering for weeks, a beautiful plume of individually large and uniquely shaped blooms. The blooms have a peculiar scent, best described as a light combination of cow dung and sweet perfume, sounds worse than it is, I find it intriguing and keep checking it out.  As the flowers go over, they age to a chartreuse color, making the bloom spike prettier than ever.



A couple close up view, then a photo of the foliage which I show reluctantly, as the plants is swamped with clover and other weeds.



Submitted by Longma on Wed, 07/10/2013 - 10:42

What a wonderful plant that is Mark ! Ticks all the right boxes for us, and one we'll certainly be trying to grow ASAP. 

Did you grow it from seed? 

I was given a single small potted seedling three years ago, this is its first blooming. I certainly do hope it sets lots of seed, will make an offer to share some here if it makes seed.  Passed by it during my luch hour, and caught that barnyard scent a yard or so away :-)

Testing a new plugin to the forum whereby Moderators can split topics, I accidentally executed a "Split Topic" action on this topic, believing I would be presented with a dialog box interface before it actually executed the split, I guessed wrong.  Sorry about that. To follow the remainder of this topic, follow this link:


Not that us Moderators are aware of, unless there's a a plugin module that is a reciprocal to the Split Topic function recently added.