Dactylicapnos torulosa is a fascinating annual climber. It is often slow to start in the Birmingham climate I am growing it in, but it soon cracks on once the weather warms up. Once it gets going, it provides plentiful, pendant, yellow flowers. A novel feature, which extends it’s season of interest, are the twisted red seed pods that follow the flowers. If you feel like I’m repeating myself, you’ll have to forgive me: I am. I did mention this plant a few weeks ago, but I will shortly have some seeds for sale in the shop (by the end of this week), so I’m writing about it again in a little more detail. Also of interest, to those of you with an eye for these things, are the seeds, which display all of the traits of the Fumitory family but in super-sized form; large seeds and substantial eliasomes. Being both pretty and interesting, it ticks a lot of boxes for any connoisseurs who demand both visual and intellectual stimulation from their plants!
In old money, the Dactylicapnos genus was simply part of Dicentra, and were often collectively referred to as Climbing Dicentras. They all share a vigorous climbing habit, yellow dangling flowers, and origins in or near the Himalayan foothills. D. torulosa hails from the Chinese side of the mountain range; the most recent strain in cultivation comes from Yunnan province.
The Dactylicapnos family all begrudge frosty weather, and like a warm and wet growing season. Dactylicapnos torulosa rather usefully side steps the problem of our cold winters through it’s annual growing habit; it can simply be started from seed each spring. The seeds are easy enough to collect and store for future years. The Climbing Dicentras achieve their lofty heights by way of the support of tendrils. These tendrils are very fine and need something accordingly fine to cling onto. I grow them up wires attached to a fence, but more aesthetically pleasing supports could be used or constructed, provided they are not too thick. The general advice is not to handle the plants too much, as their brittle stems are easily broken. Despite this, I do tend to start mine off in modules so I can offer them a bit of protection from our unpredictable springs.
Dactylicapnos torulosa is often overlooked in favour of it’s perennial cousins (D. scandens and macroccapnos), possibly on account of their more imposing stature. Despite this, I very much enjoy growing this plant. Each stage of it’s growth offer something to catch the eye of the curious gardener, from it’s finely twisted tendrils and it’s cheerful yellow flowers, right through to it’s macabrely twisted seedpods. What more could you want?!