Plant of the Month June 2016

Tulipa sprengeri (Sprenger’s Tulip) is a wild tulip of the family Liliaceae. It originated in Turkey where sadly it is now thought to be extinct. It was introduced to Europe in 1892 by a German gardener Muhlendorff who found it near Amasya and named it after Carl Sprenger, a commercial gardener who first described the plant. Too many bulbs were taken from the wild including other rare plants and supplied to Dutch and other companies. No wild bulbs have been recorded since the First World War.

The leaves are bright green and lanceolate. The spectacular single flower is borne on a stem 20-30cm long. The six obovate tepals are long and pointed and can vary in various shades of orange and red.

At Reveley the three outer tepals are backed with orange and are more pointed than the wider bright red inner three. Seed was scattered at the top of the woodland walk over four years ago. The first flowers were noticed last year and now they have multiplied to make a fine show amongst the long grass and cowparsley.

The bulbs tend to root deeply, about 15cm and are difficult to transplant without damage, but it readily self seeds. Sowing seed seems to be the best way of cultivating it. It is one of the last tulips to flower so rarely hybridizes. From seed to flower takes at least four years. I think you will agree it is worth the wait.

NB A tepal is one of the outer parts of a flower (collectively the perianth) where it may be impossible to distinguish between the sepals and petals.

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