Cyclamen elegans

Description

Flowers appear in winter and early spring, in the wild from December to March as the snow melts, dependent on altitude, generally in paler shades of pink, unscented. The corolla lobes are reflexed, 20-25mm long, with pointed tips and typically 90 degrees twist. There is a basal M shaped purple zone on each corolla lobe and the central eye of the flower is pink.

Leaves appear in autumn, fully developed by flowering time, heart shaped, with smooth or shallowly scalloped margins, usually with a green ‘Christmas tree’ centre and patterned in paler green or grey but sometimes with an all over wash, underside purplish, sometimes green, 2-7cm long, 1.5-6cm wide.

Tuber

Tuber a compressed sphere, medium sized at maturity, up to 4.5cm diameter, brown, smooth, with fine velvety hairs, sometimes with short floral trunks, branching thin (1mm) diameter roots arise from the centre of the underside.

Distribution

Cyclamen elegans grows along the coastal area and into both the Talysh and Elburz mountains to the south of the Caspian Sea, from Azerbaijan into Iran. There appears to be a gap in cyclamen distribution, in the colder drier part of the Caucasus Mountains away from the warming influence of either the Black Sea or the Caspian, which separates C. elegans from C. coum subsp. caucasicum, to which it is closely related.

Habitat

Cyclamen elegans grows in areas of cooler, damper summers than typical Mediterranean, with plentiful winter rainfall (snow higher up), from sea level to 1450m, in open deciduous woodland, in humus rich soil but will even grow in damp moss on tree trunks at lower altitudes.

Cultivation

Cyclamen elegans is a hardy plant at its higher altitude locations, so probably good for the garden in northwest Europe, where conditions are similar to this habitat but not much grown outside as yet because of its current scarcity in the nursery trade. It is most often cultivated as a pot plant in a cold greenhouse. There are forms in cultivation with stronger leaf patterns and darker flowers than generally seen in the wild. C. elegans is closely related to C. coum particularly subsp. caucasicum but the flowers of C. elegans are generally larger, always with a pink eye, and the leaves are more heart shaped, longer than wide.