Fritillaria amana

We first grew Fritillaria amana under its older name of F. hermonis subsp. amana about twenty years ago when we acquired stock of the clone EKB 1034 from a very generous friend, David Foreman. Soon afterwards, we obtained stock of the yellow form from Norman Stevens. At this point we became hooked and since it coincided with various visits to Turkey, we kept a look out for the species whenever we were in the Amanus mountains or indeed further south in Syria. It is widespread here but not common. It often contracts into a vegetative state where the only evidence of its presence is a lawn of small basal leaves with no flowers. We suspect that this may be the result of adverse conditions such as drought or grazing. It is a plant that seems to grow only where there is some shade and leaf mould from deciduous oak trees. These are mainly Quercus ceris, the Turkey Oak, and the fritillary seems quite happy even when the oaks have been coppiced and the shade drastically reduced for a year or two. This year, 2008, we did find some plants growing in less tree shade but they were right under cliffs and large rock outcrops which would provide shade for part of the day.

Having grown a lot of plants from numerous introductions under the old name (i.e. F. hermonis subsp. amana) it became clear to us that we were dealing with two very different plants and two or three trips later and after a lot of measuring, we eventually concluded that there were two quite distinct taxa under this name. The southern ones from around the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon are now placed under F. hermonis and the northern ones under F. amana. The distribution of the two species does not overlap, there being at least a 50 km gap between the southern outliers of F. amana in central Jebl Nusairia and the northern colonies of F. hermonis on Mount Lebanon. 

F. amana is characterised by the fact that the basal leaves (i.e. those which arise from ground level) are always bright shining green although the stem leaves can sometimes be glaucescent (both are strongly glaucous in F. hermonis). The nectary is always either circular or oval (ovate-lanceolate i.e. shield-shaped with a pointed tip in F. hermonis) and small so that the axial ratio of nectary to tepal is 0.06 – 013 (015 – 0.36 in F. hermonis). F. amana is a plant of medium altitude and usually grows in deciduous shade (high altitude and in open, north-facing limestone scree in F. hermonis).

Most years it seems easy to grow in an unheated greenhouse but sometimes it goes backwards for unknown reasons. The larger bulbs seem to die off leaving the spawn just like we have observed in the wild. It is a plant of warm shade and may object to being too hot or in too much sun. It also seems very susceptible to the Pythium fungus which is associated with, and may be the cause of, the so-called “keeling over disease” where the routes are killed at around flowering stage.

Fritillaria amana (Rix) Wallis & Wallis, The Plantsman 1(2): 114 (2002).

Synonym: F. hermonis subsp amana Rix, Kew Bull. 29: 647 (1975, published 1974).

Bulb c. 2 cm usually with bulblets. Stem 8 - 25 cm; smooth. Leaves 4 - 6 all alternate, lanceolate, lowest 5. 0 - 8.2 x 1.3 - 2.2 cm, bright shining green occasionally slightly glaucous. Leaves on unflowered bulbs bright shining green. Flowers 1 (- 2), nodding, broadly campanulate, yellow, green or brownish red, usually marked with brownish red on the outer edges of the limb; perianth segments 2.6 - 4.3 cm long, the outer 0.9 - 1.2 cm wide, the inner 1.2 - 1.7 cm wide. Nectaries indistinct, circular, rarely ovate 0.2 - 0.35 cm diameter 5 - 7 mm from base of segment. Ratio of nectary length to tepal length 0.06 - 0.13. Filaments papillose 0.9 - 1.2 cm, Anthers 0.6 - 1.4 cm, Style 0.9 - 1.3 cm usually smooth, trifid for approx. one third its length. Capsule ovoid.
Chromosome Number: 2n = 24.
Type: Turkey, Marars, Zeytun, Kuru Dağ, limestone screes and turf, 5500 ft [1700 m] 10 May 1934 Balls 1034 (E holotype; BM, K, isotypes).
Habitat: Deciduous oak scrub usually on limestone, 1000 - 1700 m.
Distribution: Turkey: Anti-Taurus mountains, Amanus Mountains, in Vilyets of Mara, Adana and Hatay. Syria: Jebl Nusairia
Flowering period: April-May

Rannveig Wallis & Robert B Wallis ©2008

Copyright Laurence Hill