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Commonly called the Peruvian lily or lily of the Incas, is a South American genus of about 120 species of flowering plants. Almost all of the species are restricted to one of two distinct centers of diversity, one in central Chile, the other in eastern Brazil. Species of Alstroemeria from Chile are winter-growing plants while those of Brazil are summer-growing. All are long-lived perennials except A. (Taltalia) graminea, a diminutive annual from the Atacama Desert of Chile.
The plants are distinctive vegetatively, with a rootstock consisting of a slender rhizome or group of rhizomes (the "crown"). Storage roots consist of sausage-like water storing structures "suspended" from the rhizome by major roots. In this way the root system resembles that of dahlias. Above-ground shoots may be very short in some alpine Andean species (a few inches tall) or up to about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall in other species. Each year (more often in some hybrids) up to 80 new shoots are produced from the rootstock and each terminates in an umbel of a few up to 10 or so flowers.
Perhaps the most fascinating- and telltale- morphological trait of Alstroemeria and its relatives is the fact that the leaves are resupinate, that is, they twist from the base so that what appears to be the upper leaf surface is in fact the lower leaf surface. This very unusual botanical feature is easily observed in the leaves on cut flowers from the florist.
The flowers of Alstroemeria are generally showy. All six tepals (tepal denotes either petal or sepal when both are similar, as in lilies, amaryllis, etc.) are roughly similar. In some species two tepals are enlarged and vividly colored and act as "flags" for pollination. The ovary is inferior and the seeds are hard and rounded.
January 23rd, 2013
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