Cyclamen alpinum


Flowers appear in early spring as the snow melts, in the wild from January to April, dependent on altitude, from white through shades of pink to deep carmine purple and sweetly primrose scented. The corolla lobes are very distinctive, held horizontally, resembling a ship’s propeller, rather than reflexed as in other species, 9-14mm long, with generally 90-120 degrees twist, pointed tips, often slightly serrated ends and a solid black red blotch at the base.

Leaves appear in autumn, round to slightly heart shaped, smooth or slightly toothed and scalloped margins, indistinctly patterned, mostly a green ‘Christmas tree’ centre with either spots or a grey or silver area breaking into spots toward the margin, underside purplish. There is a high altitude ecotype with tiny leaves, giving a wide size range for the species, 1-9cm long and 1-9cm wide.


Tuber a compressed sphere, often flattening on top with age, medium sized at maturity, up to 5cm diameter, brown, smooth, with fine velvety hairs, branching thin (1mm) diameter roots arise from the centre of the underside.


Cyclamen alpinum grows in southwest Turkey, in the provinces of Antalya, Burdur, Denizli, Isparta and Mugla, between the Marmaris-Datca peninsula and the Dedegol Mountains, from the sea into the mountains, as far north as Denizli.


Cyclamen alpinum grows in a typically Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and warm wet winters but with a wide altitudinal range, from sea level to about 1700m so, high up it is more alpine in nature, as summer is notably cooler and winter brings deep snow cover. At lower levels, it grows in the shade of deciduous trees and shrubs, at the edge of evergreen scrub or among open pinewoods, in the higher reaches, it grows in sparse grassland under cedar trees or in damp/north facing limestone screes.


Cyclamen alpinum is a frost hardy plant but tends not to do so well in the garden in northwest Europe, perhaps because the summers are too wet compared with its natural habitat. It is a good pot plant for a cold greenhouse. A few cultivars have been named, with particular flower colours or leaves with brighter patterning. C. alpinum is related to C. coum and could be mistaken out of flower, though speckled leaves distinguish them, but in flower there can be no mistake. The wild ranges do not overlap but a hybrid – C. x drydeniae has arisen in cultivation with the corolla lobes held horizontally but with a pale basal eye.