"Of Garden Origin"--Epimedium x rubrum
I bought three new plants yesterday. (
, remember!) They aren't natives. This plant has a plethora of common names [check
for a good laugh], and about 60 species currently in cultivation. The common name we were familiar with was "barrenwort." Little did we know this innocent plant was hiding a rowdy reputation!
So let's just get this out of the way right now.
has a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Since it appears that the most effective means of use of
as an aphrodisiac would require direct injection of the extract into the penis, I'm sure my new population won't be in high demand. I hope. Moving on.
We wanted the barrenwort for use as a ground cover in a shady spot. Barrenwort, while an exotic, is not listed as an invasive in North Carolina. Since we are in a constant battle with
(both of which ARE listed as invasive here), barrenwort appears to be a safe alternative that will behave itself. We'll keep you posted. Being rhizomatous, there is no question that it will spread, but I can find no report of aggressive behavior. Barrenwort requires well drained soil, and once established can handle some dryness of the soil. It has the perfect look for a "forest floor" plant. In fact, it is the way the leaf approaches the stem that I particularly enjoy. At the back end of the leaf, which appears symmetrical up to that point, the leaf goes somewhat wayward--a little asymmetry that appeals to my twisted view of things. Some refer to the leaf as "heart-shaped" -- you can call it what you wish. I like "wayward." ;)
Epimedium x rubrum
is not usually evergreen, and when it re-emerges in spring, the new growth has a red tinge before it takes on its standard green for summer.
keeps a red edge throughout the season. It returns to a reddish color in the fall. It grows well under trees and likes acid soil, making it a great companion for our mountain laurel at the edges of the bed. Depending on the variety you find, the blooms (which are adorably delicious) can be any number of colors--white, pink, red, yellow or violet. For a slew of bloom images, go
. For an excellent evaluation of multiple cultivars courtesy of the Chicago Botanical Garden, click
Barrenwort is reportedly deer resistant. Rabbits, however, may be a different story. New plantings may need to be protected in their first year if you are rabbit prone. It does attract bees, which may benefit from its early blooming in April through May.
You can find different varieties of barrenwort at nurseries all over the country, as this plant has been in cultivation for literally hundreds of years. And that is why this one is "Of Garden Origin." It has been cultivated for so long, that though it has Asian roots, that ancestor is pretty far removed. It is an almost "complete" cultivar. If you have some dry shade, you might want to find one you can add to your landscape!