On first glance you might be forgiven for thinking this plant is a weed, especially without its flower, as it does resemble a thistle. But this plant has so much more to offer and has an intriguing story.
Morina longifolia (Himalayan whorlflower) is quite the elegant plant and comes from the Himalayas. It originates from an altitude of about 3000m in an area from Kashmir to Bhutan. The genus Morina is named in honour of a French nurseryman, René Morin who issued the first printed French plant catalogue in 1621.
This perennial plant is evergreen in mild winters with its basal rosettes of dark, glossy leaves with spiny margins. Delightfully these leaves release a beautiful citrus perfume when stroked! The flowers of Morina are visually interesting, being borne on a stem that reaches a height of approximately 60cm. The flowers appear in whorls and are white in colour to begin with. Once pollinated (by moths!) and fertilised, the individual flowers turn from white to pink, and eventually red. This is a fascinating and quite sophisticated system that signals to pollinating moths that the darker flowers have been fertilised and therefore of no interest to them but the lighter flowers are unfertilized and are worth visiting! The large number of seeds that Morina produces each year suggests that this is quite an efficient survival mechanism. During the height of the flowering season each flowering stem can bear all three flowering colours creating a beautiful display.
Morina longifolia enjoys the mild temperatures, high rainfall and free-draining soil present in Irish gardens. It loves a sunny sheltered position but insists on good drainage. The seeds of Morina are easy to grow and are best collected and sown at the end of the summer.
It takes the plant about 2 to 3 years before it will flower – well worth the wait!
You can see Edwina’s Morina longifolia in the FOTA Frameyard herbaceous border.
All photographs copywright Fota Frameyard Blog.