Empodium

Empodium

Empodium is a small genus of perhaps 7 or 8 species, from South Africa and Namibia where they are found in winter-rainfall areas. Along with Hypoxis and Spiloxene, Empodium sits within the Hypoxidaceae and indeed some species seem to flit between their own genus and those of their relatives.

They grow from a small corm producing lance-shaped or broad, usually pleated, sometimes hairy, leaves some 10-30cm long in the Autumn, along with (or just after) tufts of small, star-shaped flowers. In all of the species these are greenish externally and bright, vivid yellow inside. Some of the species are delightfully and very strongly perfumed and I have heard mention of the scents of lemon, coconut, pineapples and even bathroom cleaner!

They like a sharply-drained, gritty compost in cultivation and although they are not garden hardy in the UK, their increasing presence on the show benches of the Alpine Garden Society, suggests that they are doing well as pot plants under alpine house conditions.

Empodium plicatum

Empodium plicatum

Bright yellow, starry flowers emerge from dry ground each Autumn at around the same time as Rhodophiala bifida and autumnal Sternbergia.

Up to four, deeply pleated leaves appear more or less at flowering time. The flowers in this species are scented, strongly so, and some find this strength too much for them. Others, it seems, cannot smell the flowers at all.

A native of clay or loam this likes a fertile well-drained soil and frost-free cultivation in good light, but it is not difficult.

Picture Andrew Massyn under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence, with thanks.

Empodium plicatum SALEemppliplisale 10.50