Melanthium - continued (accidentally split topic)

Submitted by Hoy on

Scents are always interesting - even cow dung! Some of my best summer memories are inextricably linked to rotting  sea weeds!

A very beautiful and special plant, Mark. Hope you get lots of seed! (Have some nice seedlings of Gentiana among others, thank you!)


[Mark McD: testing a Split Topic module, I accidentally split the Melanthium topic, thinking their might be a dialog box before it actually executed the split]


Submitted by Lori S. on Wed, 07/10/2013 - 19:16

A wonderful plant!   I had reason to look it up recently, and was surprised (in my ignorance) to find that a "Veratrum" might have narrow leaves, as opposed to broad, pleated ones.  

I appreciate the concept of "scent memories" too!   I'm fond, personally, of a whiff of skunk on the air now and then... and I can get it whenever I like by weeding out some of the multitudes of Codonopsis seedlings!


Submitted by RickR on Wed, 07/10/2013 - 23:22

The individual flowers are very geomentric.


  Really nice, and remind me of snowflakes.

Submitted by Mark McD on Fri, 07/12/2013 - 05:38

Wow Harold, that's an awesome duo of flower spikes, I need to get me some more Melanthium, such stunning plants.  What do the flowers smell like on M. virginicum?  It is reported this one can grow up to 5' tall, how tall is yours? My M. latifolium is about 3-1/2' tall.

But now I'm wondering, do I actually have M. latifiolium, or is it really virginicum?  Studying the Flora of North America, and doing a google search, it shows M. latifolium with very unusual undulate petals, down right crinkly looking flowers, whereas on M. virginicum the flowers look more like snowflakes, or as I see them, the petals arranged like the blades on an overhead paddle fan.  I think my plant is M. virginicum.

Will look into it more later, must get ready for work. ;-)

Submitted by HeLP on Fri, 07/12/2013 - 06:04

M.virginicum  is very tall this year , well over five feet.  Looks like there will be plenty of seed for the exchange

Submitted by Russell Stafford on Fri, 07/12/2013 - 08:01

The close-up of the tepals is diagnostic -- it's Veratrum virginicum.  Mark received the plant from me, which I grew from New England Wildflower Society seed identified as Melanthium latifolium.  So it was a surprise to me too.  My seedlings are still in pots and haven't flowered.


Submitted by Mark McD on Fri, 07/12/2013 - 10:52

Russell, good to see you over here on NARGS Forum, and thanks for weighing in on the ID.  Since Flora of North America retains Melanthium for 4 species, and provides a compelling argument for doing so, I'm going to use FNA as a guideline, and call this Melanthium virginicum.  But now I'm interested in getting real M. latifolium, the crinkly undulate tepals give a most distinctive look to the flowers. 

Was researching Melanthium woodii too. When looking these up, do separate searches on Melanthium names and Veratrum names; for example, I find more results on the dark reddish woodii when searching Veratrum woodii, here are some links:

Melanthium (Veratrum) woodii pages:

Melanthium (Veratrum) woodii photos:

Submitted by Mark McD on Sat, 07/20/2013 - 21:41

Melanthium virginicum again; such graceful senescence that the flowers when done, go over to a green phase and capsules start growing, but the floral starts stay intact, how polite. In this photo all flowers have gone over, but the plant in the landscape still looks great.

Submitted by Mark McD on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 09:43

Since Veratrum is in the Melanthiaceae, I decided to put this Veratrum entry here.  While digging through 4' tall weeds in my grass-overrun Allium garden, I came across this delightful little Veratrum formosanum in bloom, luckily I noticed the single narrow stalk and little maroon flowers and didn't trample it. I had planted it 3 years ago as a small seedling from Russell Stafford of Odyssey Bulbs.  At just 15" now, it is said to grow up to 2', small by Veratrum standards.  From Taiwan, it appears to be fully hardy here.

I moved it to bare earth in a bed just completely dug up and freed of weeds, in full sun.  But looking it up for cultural information, it is said to need some shade. I might need to move it to an open partially shaded spot.  Anyone have experience growing this?

Charming little flowers, love the maroon color.



Trim leaves.


Submitted by Toole on Tue, 08/20/2013 - 00:38

Mark I'm not sure if my comments are of any value to you in respect of Veratrum formosanum as our climatic conditions are so different ,however it grows well enough for me in a trough in a cool and shaded position.

It also copes with being grown in a pot .Here's a pic of a seedling flowering for the first time ,(30cm in height),in January of this year, from seed sown Feb 2009.

Submitted by Mark McD on Tue, 08/20/2013 - 06:15

Thanks Dave, I noticed when transplanting, that the roots didn't go too deep, so as you say, suitable for a pot or tough too. Four years to reach flowering, not too bad; if I get seed on mine, I will definitely sow them to increase stock of this little delight.

My plant was growing in full sun these past 3 years, but perhaps shaded sufficiently from 3'-4' tall weeds surrounding it (insert roll-eyes emoticon here); I replanted it in full sun.  I might just leave it there and hope for the best, some plants take full sun just fine, even though in nature they might be found in shady situations.

Submitted by Mark McD on Wed, 09/04/2013 - 05:19

Melanthium virginicum is setting plump seed pods. This being my first experience with Melanthium, I'm not sure what the seed will look like, but I'm anxious to find out, I'll keep you all posted here.

Submitted by Hoy on Wed, 09/04/2013 - 06:32

And whether the seed germinate or not!

Harvested the dried seed capsules about a week ago, assuming they're mature enough. Tonight I took a look at cleaning the pods, and discover what the seed is like. The 3-part capsules are hard to clean, in most only one (possibly two) of the three chambers had seed, they're like good-sized yellowish flakes with a plump central kernel.  Here's a photo as I investigate what the seed is like, and a close-up of what I presume to be viable yellowish elongated flake-like seed.

This is a job best handled by putting on a favorite movie, and sit there carefully splitting open each of three "locules" (seed chamber) on each pod, to extract the seed.