Secrets are inevitable in a woodland garden as large as the David C. Lam Asian Garden: hidden paths; subtle jokes with design and placement of plants; and, of course, secret plants. Sometimes, plants are initially kept secret because of “security by obscurity”, since plant theft is an ongoing issue. When the plants are of a sufficient size that the theft risk is reduced, they are then replanted in a more prominent location. Other times, plants just happen to be sited in an out of the way place as Peter Wharton (curator of the Asian Garden in 2005) experiments horticulturally to discover the best micro-climate for success with the plant. This out-of-the-way Paris polyphylla is an example of the latter.
I don’t think a common name exists for this plant, and a literal translation of the Latin, “many-leaved paris” doesn’t do it justice, so apologies if you prefer common names–the scientific name will have to do. Paris polyphylla is in the same family as the more-familiar Trillium, the Melanthiaceae. If you’re familiar with this genus or Trillium, you will note that the traditional family for these genera, Trilliaceae, has now been subsumed into Melanthiaceae (I’ve updated the BPOTD entries for Trillium)–for references, see the Melanthiaceae account on the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group web site (note: corrected thanks to Fred in the comments below).
Paris polyphylla can be quite variable in physical appearance. Despite my not being horticulturally familiar with the range of variation in the species or my lack of experience in Paris taxonomy, I can say this with some confidence after glancing at the account of Paris polyphylla in the Flora of China. Why? The first clue is that there are a number of varieties–this suggests a fair amount of genetic variability within the species. Secondly, a huge hint is the high number of “occasionally to” and “sometimes” characteristics in the plant description, like so: “Leaves 5-10(-22)”, meaning leaves typically 5 to 10, but occasionally to 22. Or, “Outer tepals (3 or)4-6(or 7)”, meaning typically 4 to 6 outer tepals, but sometimes 3 or 7. I count twelve numbers in parentheses in total; hence, there are lot of exceptions to the typical characteristics with this species!
If you’re interested in other photographs of this plant, check out this thread on the garden’s discussion forums, with some images taken last year. Depending on your taste, you might find some of them superior to today’s photo.
Speaking of secrets: a mythical beast is soon to make an appearance on the grounds of UBC Botanical Garden. Its arrival will be announced here in the near future.
Today marks the beginning of the fourth month of Botany Photo of the Day, which seemed like an opportune time for me to do a bit of renovation. The most significant thing is that I’ve finally created a Flickr group for Botany Photo of the Day submissions, and added mention of it to pages throughout the site. I’ve also updated the page about Botany Photo of the Day, highlighting some of the mentions and kudos received from various web sites.
One of the renovations I still need to do with this site is add a list of links to other sci- and/or photo- and/or edu-weblogs. In the meantime, I’d like to point out Deep-Sea News, a scientific / public education weblog about the world’s largest environment. On the topic of the sea, it is conspicuous that Botany Photo of the Day has yet to feature any algae. I’m in discussions with someone to highlight an alga once a month, as they are as deserving of note as flowers.
Lastly, I want to thank you for visiting and reading Botany Photo of the Day. The site is perhaps a small thing in this big world, but I and the other occasional writers appreciate the opportunity to share our passion for plants with you.