Claytonia sibirica

16 Apr

Claytonia sibirica is a native annual with white to light pink flowers, often with darker pink nectar guides. It can seed itself aggressively when happy, but since it has a minimal root system it is simple to weed out. The whole plant is edible, and in fact it’s two most common names (candy flower and miner’s lettuce) allude to how edible it is. The almost succulent foliage has an odd sour/bitter aftertaste many don’t like much, but it is a good filler for salad with other sweeter greens.

The flowers themselves are fairly small, usually a quarter of an inch across, rarely much larger, but they are well liked by all kinds of bees and flies from tiny little solitary bees to big bumbles and hover flies. As a winter annual, it will often start flowering in the first few warm stretches in February or even earlier, but with dead heading or reseeding, can keep flowering through the summer. Because of this, it makes a great basket and pot filler, where its simple charm will fill the gaps between showier species.

Naturally these are usually found in moist woodland, where it is a spring ephemeral, dying back as the weather dries out in early summer. In the garden, it seems as happy in full sun as shade, and will keep growing so long as it is watered and occasionally dead headed. My original plants, collected from under a big leaf maple in the woods above my house, were mostly white with pink lined nectar guides. Over the years I have selected towed darker pink ones, and it definitely seems the case that the more sun they get, the more pink they have in their flowers. Shaded plants seem lighter, but the ones coming up in full sun show more of a range to a nice medium pink, with darker nectar guides.

Many consider this a borderline weed, but for its simple easy culture, it’s ability to attract a wide range of the smaller pollinators, and just the fact I like it, lol, I would not want to be without this charming little native annual.

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