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What is Phyteuma?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 17, 2024
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Phyteuma is a genus of flowers consisting of over 40 species, all originating in Europe. Many species can now be found in the United States and are desirable in gardens because of their unique spiky globes, or rosettes, of flowers. Phyteuma species are known commonly as rampion.

Perennial, the species of the Phyteuma genus bloom in the summer and vary in height from 2–35 inches (5–90 cm). The flowers consist of narrow, sometimes curved petals that resemble spikes in violet, blue or white. The petals are the reason for the German name for this genus, Devil's Claw. Not a staple in home gardens, this plant is said to add a striking and unique visual element.

In the wild, these flowers are found in meadows or grasslands above tree lines in mountainous areas. Preferring well-drained neutral or basic soil, they are frequently planted in rock gardens or used as edgings. Though they can survive in a variety of temperatures, they do not do well in shade. They are relatively easy to care for and can propagate by division, which should be done in the fall.

When grown by seed, the seeds should be planted in the spring. They can be placed on the surface of soil flats and then covered with plastic and stored in a refrigerator for approximately three weeks before being transferred to a shady area outside to germinate for one to three months. Afterwards, they should be planted in the sunny part of a garden and placed 7.8–17.7 inches (20–45 cm) apart, depending on the size of the species. Once planted in the garden, they should only require watering when particularly dry.

Phyteuma hemisphcericum and Phyteuma humilis are two dwarf species suited for rock gardens. Both species are under 6 inches (15.2 cm) in height and have brilliant blue, nearly purple, flowers. Other popular, full-sized, species include canescens, orbiculare, and scheuchzeri.

The canescens species is about 1.5–2 feet (0.45–0.6 m) tall, with lilac-colored flowers. It is considered one of the most striking species in the Phyteuma genus. Scheuchzeri, or horned rampion, grows to be about 8–12 inches (20–30 cm) and has dark blue or violet flowers. Orbiculare, or round-headed rampion, is similar to the horned, but the flower petals curve more inward, even more closely resembling a claw.

In addition to its use in gardens, this genus is used in scientific research to study the evolutionary history of phyteuma. Primarily phyteuma's structural uniqueness makes the genus ideal for this type of study. Its wide wild range across Europe also makes it exceptional for the study of its biogeographic history as well.

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