The roots contain saponins. Whilst saponins are quite toxic to people, they are poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass straight through. They are also destroyed by prolonged heat, such as slow baking in an oven. Saponins are found in many common foods such as beans[K]. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].
Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is up to 10cm long and 26mm wide. The fruit is very rarely produced in the wild. Flowers - raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. Flowering stem - cooked and used like asparagus. Root - cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and made into a bread.
Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water may reduce the germination time. It usually germinates within 1 - 12 months if kept at a temperature of 20°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and consider giving them some winter protection for at least their first winter outdoors - a simple pane of glass is usually sufficient[K]. Seed is not produced in Britain unless the flowers are hand pollinated. Root cuttings in late winter or early spring. Lift in April/May and remove small buds from base of stem and rhizomes. Dip in dry wood ashes to stop any bleeding and plant in a sandy soil in pots in a greenhouse until established. Cuttings can be made of the tops of old plants. These normally root quite easily in the growing season.
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Thrives in any soil but prefers a sandy loam and full exposure to the south. Plants are hardier when grown on poor sandy soils. Established plants are very drought resistant. Judging by its native habitat, this plant should tolerate maritime exposure[K]. Very cold hardy, tolerating temperatures down to at least -15°c, or to -25°c according to another report, but plants are subject to injury and decay by winter damp and snow. A very ornamental plant, there are some named varieties. Plants do not flower every year, requiring hot summers to initiate flowering. The flowers are produced in the autumn and are often damaged by early frosts. The scent of the flowers is most pronounced at night. In the plants native environment, its flowers can only be pollinated by a certain species of moth. This moth cannot live in Britain and, if fruit and seed is required, hand pollination is necessary. This can be quite easily and successfully done using something like a small paint brush. Individual crowns are monocarpic, dying after flowering. However, the crown will usually produce a number of sideshoots before it dies and these will grow on to flower in later years. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. Members of this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
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Polycultures & Guilds
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