Did you know cyclamen are tubers and not bulbs? In the grander scheme of death and destruction, it probably means little to most of us that a plant is more akin to a potato than a tulip. In terms of caregiving however, it might make some difference.
I’ve always loved the astonishing flowers of the cyclamen; angel wings swooping back poised to descend on earth yet never quite completing the landing. Over the years I’ve bought several of these plants and enjoyed the displays all the more for thinking they were like forced tulips – lovely and poignantly impermanent for being constrained in a pot. The cyclamen were even more exotic because they could not grow in my garden and were only available pre-grown.
When the first one I had began to die, I called in to the CBC gardening show and asked about saving it. The instructions I got were simple: water it without letting it touch the “bulb.” It died anyway and I resigned myself to having short-term romances with the plant, composting them when the flowers wilted.
One day while watering the plant, I noticed that the leaves were flattened exposing a view of the bulb shifted off-center. Immediately I blamed our little Zen Master Sprout who had been seen occasionally testing the plants for their snooze factor. Because, in my view, this particular plant had lasted the longest of all the plants (it might even be ten years old), I put some effort into reading up on how to revive it and solve the mystery of the transported bulb.
Apparently, cyclamens grow from tubers. It would seem my dear plant is and is not my dear plant at all. It is several generations removed having produced shoots from its tubers and happily procreating all these years.
Then I learned about the cyclamen fruit, a round pod left after the petals dried and fell off. This I had thought was the end of the plant; it signalled a parting of company as I walked it to the compost heap. In fact, it was the beginning – of sticky brown seeds and new life.
There’s a lesson in this.