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17 Jul 2018

Adiantum (Polypodiaceae)

The name derives from the Greek “dry” adíantos, used by Theophrastus in the Historia plantarum, probably to mean that the water flows on the fronds whose lamina does not absorb it (hence its need for constant atmospheric humidity). The Adiantum is widespread all over the world, especially in tropical and sub-tropical countries, but some are spontaneous even in very cold regions. They are rhizomatous ferns, with pinnate, simple or compound leaves that extend into many species in the characteristic fan shape. There are more than 100 species with many varieties.

Adiantum capillus veneris: the common maidenhair known for the elegance of its leaves.
Adiantum capillus veneris: the common maidenhair known for the elegance of its leaves.

Rustic cultivated species:

A. capillus veneris, the real maidenhair, spontaneous in almost all of Europe, has fronds that can reach 50 cm in length; exists in several varieties including Adiantum imbricatum, more compact, from the leaves deeply lobed and almost imbricate. This species, particularly useful in caves, natural or artificial, rocky edges of fountains in shady places, crevasses in shaded and constantly humid walls, grows practically on any substrate and often on a minimum amount of soil or mud also accumulated by chance. Adiantum pedatum, native of North America, natural, with long leaves and thick leaves, joined to the rachis by a very short petiole. Also of this species there are different varieties.

Non-rusticated cultivated species:

all these species require a minimum winter temperature of about 15 ° C, but always combined with a very strong humidity; they are therefore suitable for greenhouses where this moisture can be maintained and it is almost impossible to keep them in the apartment. Adiantum caudatum, a small species with simple feathered, gray-green, hanging fronds, which can be grown in vases or suspended baskets and whose greatest particularity consists in being “viviparous”, that is, in forming on the tip of the old fronds small tufts of leaves that emit root and can be used for multiplication. A. cuneatum, originally from Brazil, the most commonly used species for commercial purposes as a pot plant. There are a large number of varieties and cultivars, including dissectum, elegans, gracillimum. In general, given the impossibility of a description, it can be said that the more the variety is made up of light, feathery, septenate fronds, etc., the more difficult it is to cultivate it; A. tenerum, another widely commercial species, with many varieties, which has the particularity of having young pink or bronzed vegetations until the frond is developed. More resistant than the cuneatum, the Adiantum tenerum scutum roseum; more delicate, but splendid, the Adiantum tenerum farleyense.


the ferns reproduce by spores that should be seeded on an absolutely sterile substratum always kept humid at a temperature of about 18 ° C. The resulting seedlings should be repotted as soon as possible in small tufts of 3 or 5 seedlings, in terrines with fibrous ground and moist fertilizer but with good drainage, until they have grown enough to put them in separate jars. However, if this method with all the relevant precautions is used for commercial production, the simplest way to multiply a few plants is to divide the tufts, taking care that each new plant has at least one piece of rhizome. The soil must be composed of fibrous earth, peat, and earth of leaves with a little sand and some fragments of softwood charcoal. The moisture content of the mixture must be continuous but not excessive to prevent rotting and atmospheric humidity always ensured.

16 Jul 2018

Actinidia (Actinidiaceae)

The name aeriva from the Greek aktís «ray» alluding to the radiated stigmas of the female flower.

Variegations in the elegant foliage of Actinidia kolomikta, appreciated especially for sweet fruits, rich in vitamin C.
Variegations in the elegant foliage of Actinidia kolomikta, appreciated especially for sweet fruits, rich in vitamin C.

Cultivated species of Actinidia:

the genus Actinidia includes more than thirty Asian lianose species, almost always ornamental; only two or three of these are here and there in the Italian gardens; there. witty is the most vigorous; it has large glossy leaves and greenish white flowers at the beginning of summer; Actinidia kolomikta is appreciated for the beautiful leaves, the sarmentose bearing and the sweet fruits that the Russians call “Amur grape-thorns”; this species has the characteristic of exciting cats, rather than the nepeta, the valerian and the liatris, all endowed with this curious prerogative; Actinidia polygama, on the other hand, is characterized by the silvery leaves present in the still young male specimens. It is not hazardous to foresee a greater diffusion of the. chinensis. This species, in addition to making use of an interesting, wide foliage enlivened by a reddish down on the petioles and young vegetations, produces, in autumn, more or less cylindrical fruits (about 7 x 4 cm) with a very pleasant taste comparable to that of grapes plug. The dual characteristic of ornamental and fruiting plants should already be sufficient elements to arouse the interest of gardeners, but the list of the qualities of the. chinensis is still full of surprises. Among the most appreciated, we find the great vegetative vigor (the sarments can exceed ten meters in length) and the adaptability of the plant to very different climates; in fact, during a period of vegetative rest, the plant – devoid of foliage – survives intense frosts (it can only suffer damage from late frosts), while we see it thrive equally well in the warm climate of New Zealand. These valid characteristics are very small compared to the high doses of vitamin C present in mature fruits. In places with harsh winters, the harvest coincides with the fall of the leaves; the product is then repaired in a cool room (from + 2 ° C to + 5 ° C); to avoid the dispersion of moisture and the consequent wrinkling, the fruits are placed in plastic or “Kraft” paper bags. Consumption may take place during the winter. In areas where frosts are rare and of very short duration, fruits can remain advantageously on the plant and harvesting can take place between December and February. The first fruiting is irrelevant in quantity and size; after another three years, the production will reach 25 kilograms per plant (about 500 fruits); after the 15th year, you can also touch 100 kilograms with an average yield per hectare of 25 tons and more.


the male and female flowers are present in distinct plants; this characteristic prevents a plant grown in isolation from being able to bear fruit. It is essential to place at least a plant with female flowers (receptive of pollen) and a male plant (providing pollen). In the case of income crops, it is necessary and sufficient to cultivate a male specimen in the immediate vicinity of ten to twelve female plants, as the pollen is produced with extraordinary abundance and numerous insects ensure fertilization. The distance between one plant and another – at the plant – will be about three meters. Full sun exposures in hot regions are to be avoided. Perhaps the most felt among the few needs of the. it is that of fresh soil, even and especially in the summer. That said, all the elements considered here suggest that the A. can find ideal conditions of life in almost all Italian regions.

15 Jul 2018

Aconitum (Ranunculaceae)

The name derives from the Greek akòniton “poisonous plant”. The genus includes evergreen perennials originating from the northern hemisphere, some indigenous in Italy, with variously lobed leaves, laciniate or palmitoleate, showy flowers in the form of a helmet grouped in spikes, roots more or less tuberized, very poisonous, like the whole plant. Some alkaloids are extracted from them, the main one being aconitin, scarcely used even in medicine because of the very high toxicity; the most frequent use is in anti-neuralgic drugs, but care should be taken with the doses for the products containing it.

The intense violet blue characterizes the cluster inflorescences of the conitum carmichaelii.
The intense violet blue characterizes the cluster inflorescences of the conitum carmichaelii.

Cultivated species of Aconitum:

A. carmichaelii (about 1 meter), violet-blue flowers in late summer and autumn; Aconitum napellus (cm 50 – m 1), the most important and one of the most poisonous, especially in large tubers, aboriginal and very frequent on the Alps and the Pre-Alps, blue or purple flowers in July and August; there are many varieties with white and pink flowers and many cultivars have been taken from them; Aconitum variegatum, with flowers often variegated in white and light blue, spontaneous on the Alps and in the northern part of the Apennines up to Tuscany.


the Aconitum, or rather its cultivated varieties, are suitable plants to be used in semi-shady gardens in cool places; they require permeable and porous soil and form beautiful spots of color. It is multiplied by division of the tufts in spring, it can also be sown, but the germination is slow.

14 Jul 2018

Achimenes (Gesneriaceae)

From the Greek alpha privative and cheimino “I’m in the cold” to indicate that it is too delicate plants to withstand low temperatures. Perennials, rhizomatous, with short-stemmed flowers, long tubular corolla and 5 brightly colored petals. They are native to Central and South America and can not withstand temperatures below 13-16 ° C. The rhizomes are small, scaly (each flake is a modified leaf) and need a fairly long winter rest, completely dry in a warm place, to avoid any danger of rotting. A lot of light, never direct sun.

The cultivation of the delicate Achimenes requires careful care.
The cultivation of the delicate Achimenes requires careful care.

Cultivated species Achimenes:

A. coccinea, with small scarlet flowers; A. longiflora, the type species native to Guatemala, has purple flowers, but many hybrids of these two species have been produced by crossing them between themselves and the A. grandiflora and the A. tubiflora, producing cultivars with flowers ranging from purple to pink, to white, to red in every shade. The seeds are in fact usually sold “in mixture” and so are the rhizomes.


despite being greenhouse plants, in central-southern Italy, they are also used in the garden and can also be grown in the apartment, provided that the brightness needed for the flowering can be provided; their height varies from 20 to 60 cm, so the taller species will need supports appropriately arranged in the vase. The rhizomes are put into cultivation in February, in pots or terrines, about 6 cm deep in a soil composed of fibrous earth, peat and leaves earth, to which will be added sand or agri-perlite, at about 18 ° C and the waterings will have to be moderated at first, until growth has begun, to gradually increase them. It is important, however, that the vase has an excellent drainage. The repotting, if you want to do, can be done when the plants have reached 5 cm, depending on more or less vigorous growth, so as to obtain a uniform height. After flowering the waterings will be gradually thinned out until complete cessation, the dried stems cut and the tubers left in dry rest until the following February, either by removing them and placing them in dry peat, either leaving them in their pot. The multiplication is carried out by seed, in March, at a temperature of 21-27 ° C, or in open by cuttings of shoots that will easily root.

12 Jul 2018

Acer (Aceraceae); Acero

These are deciduous trees, whose sizes vary from those of a shrub (Acer palmatum), to those of large trees, such as the Acer pseudoplatanus. The seeds are winged and united in pairs. The gems are opposite and this characteristic is what differentiates substantially, as regards the morphology, these plants from those belonging to the genus Platanus. The flowers are very inconspicuous. Depending on the circumstances, the A. are cultivated for timber (in many precious species), for the foliage that in autumn is often covered with beautiful colors, and sometimes for the bark, which reminds the skin of a snake.

The characteristic leaves of the Acer
The characteristic leaves of the Acer

Cultivated species:

the Aceraceae family finds its maximum diffusion in North America, where there is a large number of species.  In Italy, six Acer live in the spontaneous state: A. campestre, A. lobelii, A. monspessulanum, A. opalus, A. platanoides and Acer pseudoplatanus. These are distinguished from each other, for the leaves that, in our species, are always palmata-lobed, for the size, for the habit and also for the habitat. It is particularly suitable for this use because it bears well the pruning, very heavy, which is subjected to its foliage not to overshadow the screw. It is a plant of mediocre dimensions, which, in general, is not used by us for ornamental purposes. It is a large tree, with fine wood, which prefers fresh areas; It has no practical importance from an ornamental point of view, while it has a certain value in the field of silviculture due to the characteristics of the rather precious wood; there. platanoides (curly maple) is a typical species of continental cold climates, reaching the Scandinavian peninsula to the north. It is a beautiful tree, with leaves of a beautiful green 5-lobed, ending in characteristically sharp points. It is used as an ornamental plant, for the elegant posture and for the beautiful color that the leaves take before falling in autumn; A. pseudo-platanus (mountain maple) is the largest Italian A., reaching in some cases even 40 meters in height. It is more southern than the previous one. In our country vegetates, as the Italian name clearly says, in the mountainous areas and mostly in the beech woods. It is widely used for ornamental purposes, both in the gardens, in the parks, and in the trees of the cities, with the exception of those with a distinctly Mediterranean climate. Today it is not common to find large A. in the woods, because the wood, very valuable, has been intensely exploited and those few remaining specimens are worthy of the maximum protection. Among the species introduced in Italy for ornamental purposes, especially the A. negundo, originating in the eastern part of North America, with leaves characteristically composed of five leaflets. We often use varieties with elegantly variegated leaves. A is also often used. saccharinum, also native to the eastern part of North America, much appreciated for the leaves elegantly engraved, silvered on the lower page and which, in autumn, take on a beautiful yellow color.

Cultivation of Acer:

the most valuable A. prefer fresh, fertile and deep soils, where they take on a good bearing and a straight and cylindrical stem. For multiplication, it is preferable to sow in seedbeds, where the plans remain two years.