According to www.fritillaries.com, Fritillaria is a genus of about 100 species of bulbous plants in the family Liliaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The name is derived from the Latin term for a dice-box (fritillus), and probably refers to the checkered pattern, frequently of chocolate-brown and greenish yellow, that is common to many species' flowers. Collectively, the genus is known in English as fritillaries; some North American species are called missionbells.
They often have nodding, bell- or cup-shaped flowers, and the majority are spring-flowering. The scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) eats fritillaries, and may become a pest where these plants are grown in gardens.
Most fritillaries contain poisonous alkaloids such as imperialin; some may even be deadly if ingested in quantity. But the bulbs of a few species -- e.g. checker lily (F. affinis) or yellow fritillary (F. pudica) -- are edible if prepared correctly. They are not generally eaten in large amounts, however, and their edibility is therefore still somewhat debatable.
Because of the way the bulb is formed, with the stem emerging from a depression, it is best to plant it on its side, to prevent water causing rot at the top of the bulb. Fritillaria imperialis requires full sun for best growth, and sandy, well-drained soil for permanence. After flowering and complete drying of the leaves, the stems should be cut off just above the ground. Fritillaria do not like wet feet due to excess moisture or heavy, poor-draining soils.
Another unusual bulb is the Scilla sibirica, or Siberian squill. They grow to under 6 inches, and they reseed to produce a sea of beautiful blue flowers in the spring lawn. On the "Dave's Garden" message board, a comment from a Columbus, Ohio, gardener said they are invasive and have taken over the native diversity, but all others gave the plant a positive review. Some people have an allergic reaction to handling the bulbs.
After flowering, the stems become limp and pods form. The pods turn purple, split open and release small, dark brown seeds. The plant goes dormant by the time the grass needs to be mowed.
A close relative of the Siberian squill, puschkinia (Puschkinia scilloides) has pale blue flowers with a darker blue stripe running through the center.
And finally, there's Ipheion uniflorum'Rolf Fiedler,' with bright, deep blue blossoms. The six-petal, star-shaped flowers are sweetly fragrant, and the grasslike foliage smells like garlic when crushed, making it a great pest-resistant naturalizer.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.