Plant of the Month - December 2012

"I found a yellow flower in the grass
A tiny flower with petals like a bell,
And yet, methought, more than a flower it was, 
-- More like a miracle."

John Hall Ingham.

Athough Lily of the Field (Sternbergia lutea) is also commonly called Winter or Autumn Daffodil for its daffodil-yellow color, its flowers actually much more resemble crocuses, so that it is sometimes called Autumn Crocus. It is neither a daffodil nor a crocus, however, it is of the amaryllis family.

Sternbergia lutea can be found at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens on the border past the Greenhouse next to the Box hedge also on the bottom border by the variegated Box Hedge.


The plant has a wide distribution from the Balearic Islands in the Western Mediterranean through to Tajikistan in Central Asia. It dies down to a bulb during the summer. Leaves first appear in the autumn (September to November in its native habitats), and are glossy green, up to 12mm wide; they remain through the winter. Deep yellow flowers with six yellow stamens appear soon after the leaves, with tepals around 3–3.5mm long.

Smaller forms with narrower leaves (up to 5mm wide) and narrower tepals (3–12mm rather than 10–20mm) have been separated off under various names (e.g. S. lutea var. graeca, S. sicula). All are treated as S. lutea in the Kew World Checklist.


S. lutea can be grown outside in the British Isles in well-drained soil; a warm dry period in summer is required for good flowering. Alkaline soils are recommended. Bulbs are usually planted while dormant (i.e. in late summer or early autumn), but can be lifted and divided before the leaves die down in late spring.

A vigorous form with narrow leaves can be grown in gardens under the name S. lutea var. Angustifolia.

Plant 15cm deep in late summer in any moderately fertile, sharply drained soil. Protect from excessive winter wet. Suggested planting locations and garden types for planting are Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower borders and beds, Mediterranean Climate Plants or Rock Gardens.

No pruning is required. Plant may be damaged by narcissus bulb fly and narcissus eelworm, and are also susceptible to virus infection.


Very little medicinal information is available on thsi plant, although research is ongoing into the plant's anti-fungal chemical derivatives.


Again I'm afraid there is next to none, with the obvious exception that some people don't like seeing it because the plant is a harbinger of Winter (well duh!).

Although it's a plant with not much of a story to tell, it's colour makes it one of the most delightful plants of the bleak midwinter. Come and say hello to it when visiting the gardens this December. Why not do so during the Christmas event this Sunday?


This is the last of the Plant of the Month entries from this blog for the foreseeable future. The entries will remain archived for your reference and pleasure. 

In 2013 we will be back with another monthly feature as chock full of facts as this year's features. More news of this nearer the time.

In the meantime, many thanks Sue, Gordon, and the many volunteers who have voiced encouragement for this project during the past 12 months. Thanks also to my friends at Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons, RHS, and various other sources of information that have assisted.

With compliments of the season to you all and thanks.

Graham. :o)

All photographs Public Domain.

No comments:

Post a Comment