The titular Corydalis has been up and about for a few weeks now, flailing around in the exceptionally stormy weather that the second half of February has brought. Since it’s been living with me here in Birmingham, Corydalis paczoskii has always been an early riser; it obviously doesn’t mind taking it’s chances with Ol’ Blighty’s unpredictable winter-spring weather. Last year (2021) it emerged to face both sharp frosts and Covid-19 with an admirable resolve and tenacity, this year the weather’s been much milder but a lot wilder.
Lacking in merit/brimming with charm
Before it made it’s way into cultivation, Corydalis paczoskii was mostly to be found on the wooded, southern slopes of the Crimean Mountains. To my mind, geographically speaking, this area marks the beginning of an increase in speciation of the Corydalis genus. Western and Central Europe are dominated by Corydalis solida and it’s various subspecies and variations. Moving through the Caucasus and into Central Asia, the number of different species of tuberous Corydalis increases significantly, quite possibly because the more varied terrain creates both a greater range of habitats and a greater degree of separation between existing populations.
C. paczoskii’s geographical provenance seems to equip it with everything it needs to survive, and indeed thrive, here in middle of England. As well as turning out to be perfectly hardy, I’ve found a couple of self sown seedlings here and there: proof that the conditions are to it’s liking. Lidén and Zetterlund describe it has having “a quiet charm that appeals to the enthusiast”. That was back in 1997. By the time they co-authored a book with Mark Tebbitt in 2008, they relegate it to being:
“… of little garden merit.”Tebbit, Lidén & Zetterlund
Bleeding Hearts, Corydalis, and the relatives. 2008
I thought it was worth giving that quote it’s own space. Quite what has caused them to re-evaluate poor old C. paczoskii is difficult to say; it could be that the Corydalis monograph (’97) is aimed at the connoisseur, and therefore at someone more likely to see the attraction of any given Corydalis; ‘Bleeding Hearts…’ (’08) is written more with the general gardener in mind, perhaps making the less showy plants not so worthy of comment. Regardless, I’m very much on the ‘quiet charm’ side of things. But then I am an enthusiast.
Taxonomy and Tangents
Those of you with the patience and bravery to be regular readers may have observed that I’m rather partial to a little etymological investigation. The origin if the specific epithet ‘paczoskii’ is easy enough to discover: the plant was named in honour of Józef Paczoski, a Polish botanist. He developed the concept of studying plants as a whole community, rather than single plants in isolation. His ideas led to the development of the field of phytosociology, also known as phytocoenology, which, in turn, influenced the formation of the emerging science of ecology.
The person doing the naming of our friend Corydalis paczoskii was a chap called Nicolaĭ Adolfowitsch Busch. Busch was one of three botanists who undertook a number of expeditions to the Caucasus, culminating in the publication of ‘Flora Caucasica critica’. Interestingly, one of the other botanists involved in the expeditions, Nikolai Ivanovich Kuznetsov, has a Corydalis named after him – Corydalis kuznetsovii. There’s also a Corydalis buschii, although I don’t know whether this is named after N. A. Busch or not.
Corydalis paczoskii: a 2022 update
Back here in Birmingham, the relatively mild weather has caused Corydalis paczoskii, along with several of the other Corydalis, to become a little leggy. Several stems are taking on a rather more horizontal stance than usual. A number of the seeds sown last summer have begun to germinate; C. paczoskii is an enthusiastic self-fertiliser meaning good quantities of viable seed even from a small number of plants.
Corydalis paczoskii isn’t the only tuberous Corydalis to be making it’s mark, but time’s steady progress prevents me from writing in unnecessary detail about them all. Rest assured, I’ll do what I can: thanks for reading!