This is the tallest of the Pinellia species, reaching nearly fifteen inches in height (35 cm). The central leaflet is always the longest and can reach about four inches (10 cm) in length.
New inflorescences are formed continuously during the growing season. Each quite capable of producing a viable seed, which is why this species is an enthusiastic spreader when in a happy location.
Fan-leaf Chinese green-dragon is the only common name I've run into for this species and it may be a rather fanciful one, dreamed up by the nursery listing it, since that's the only place I found it.
This poor tuber was found laying on its side on top of the soil, the victim of one of our local squirrel digging contests, no doubt. The spathe had started to grow toward the light at an acute right angle.
You can see how the roots emerge from the top of the tuber.
The blackish bits are remnants of the papery tuber covering; the brownish
bits the remainder of old roots.
Safely potted up after its photo session, it's now straightening out, spath pointed skyward, as it should be.
Turned upright here, you
can see the spathe elongating and the unfolding leaf below it.
We are not often given the opportunity to observe the unfolding of a leaf; we hurry past this little miracle, bent on weeding, planting or pruning and don't notice what is happening at ground level.
Nature's tidy packaging always amazes me.
Whether a leaf, flower, the crosier of a fern or the emerging embryo of a
seed, all the parts are there in miniature, intricately folded.
P. tripartita, from southern Japan, is much better behaved in the same bed as P. pedatisecta. It has seeded around a bit, but by no means excessively.
The distinctive, polished foliage remains pristine all season. Give it a ring-side seat so you can enjoy it.
Each leaflet can range from three to
eight inches (8 - 20 cm) in length on plants that can reach eighteen inches
tall (45 cm) when fully mature, but are generally closer to a foot (30cm)
The three to four inch (8-10 cm) spath is often
somewhat hidden by the foliage, unlike that of P. pedatisecta, but
the spadix rises another six to ten inches (15 - 25cm) until late summer
when it droops back to the ground.
There are two forms of P. tripartita that are on my lust list.
One source notes that the main difference between P. tripartita 'Atropurpurea' and the species is Atropurpurea's "strong affinity to attracting gnats (or small flies) as pollinators, which seem to perish once entrapped in the lower chamber" of the spathe. I wonder if this is related to the red spathe interior color?
Native to China and Korea, P. cordata is considered by many to be the best of the species in cultivation. The clone 'Yamazaki', named in honor of its originator in Japan, is said to be larger than the species with better patterned leaves.
As soon as it started to awaken, I fell in love. Two cravings - purple foliage and variegated foliage - were satisfied in one neat package.
From tiny tubers arise shiny, deep purple, tightly rolled leaves on dusky petioles.
As the leaf unfolds, the white vein markings become visible.
Fully open, the dark green, glossy heart-shaped leaves (hence the 'cordate' in the name) resemble some forms of Cyclamen in their markings or one of the Asian hardy gingers. The leaves reach three to five inches (8-13cm) long and about half as wide.
The relatively long leaf petioles (stems) - to eight inches (20 cm) - remain a dusky purple.
Just planted in the garden, I see that the leaves are not erect, so that the overall plant height appears closer to six inches (15cm).
Dan Hinkley, in his The Explorer's Garden notes that he has some seedlings of P. cordata with entirely green leaves. While charming, I'm sure, I want the variegation!
Even more exciting is the underside of the leaf - deep purple with green vein markings! Oh, be still my heart! This plant thrills me to the core.
Unfortunately, it's said to be much slower increasing than other species. I'm hoping "they" are incorrect because I can't have too much of this child. I will be looking for the leaf stem bulbils to plant on and increase stock as quickly as I can, since it is said to be reluctant to set seed in the garden.
This may not be quite as hardy as some of the species although it is being grown outside with no mulch in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (zone 5b) where temperatures have reached -10°F / -23°C.
The tiny spathe, only about three inches in length (7-8 cm), peeks out from beneath the leaves and pops up between them.
The thread-like spadix curves out from the mouth of the spathe for almost
four inches (10cm) and then points up.
On one spathe on my plants, the spadix corkscrewed away from the spathe. "Cute" is an apt descriptive adjective for this tiny tot.
The inflorescence is said to have an apple, pineapple or bubble gum fragrance. I can't say that I noticed anything, but often spathe scent is illusive or only lasts a few hours upon opening.
The spadix emerges from the tip of a tightly furled new spathe.
I am glad that my plants were in a pot when they
first emerged. Had I planted the dormant tuber in the garden, it's likely
that, in the hurly-burly of spring gardening, I would have missed seeing the
foliage unfold and watching the progress of leaf growth; both fascinating
Some sources insist that P. cordata is the only species with an undivided leaf. They are wrong. Pinellia peltata has a similar leaf shape without the vein markings.
If you don't have any of the Wild, Wonderful Aroids in your shady garden, you owe it to yourself to get one (any of them but P. ternata!)...you'll be glad you did. See ya' later!
Where to find Pinellia. The following nurseries usually offer one or more selections of Pinellia species and cultivars. Check their websites for current offerings:
All graphics are by Marge. All photos, except the following, were taken by Marge: P. tripartita 'Atropurpurea', P. tripartita 'Polly Spout' and P. peltata are copyright Allan Galloway; used with his kind permission . Do not use these images without written permission from their owner!
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October 15, 2012