DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The base of a flowering stem of the giant Himalayan lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum. The picture was taken in late Autumn following flowering, and shows three developing offset bulbs appearing at ground level from the base of the stem. C. giganteum is a monocarpic plant; it requires up to seven years of growth from a seed in order to reach flowering size, and once it has flowered, it dies. Survival depends on the production of copious amounts of wind-dispersed seeds, which if cross-pollinated maintain genetic diversity. However the plant is a geophyte: it can reproduce itself vegetatively by the production of offset bulbs, which are underground buds. These provide insurance in the wild against seed failure. For gardeners they are a way of maintaining the plant in cultivation. Detached from the stem and grown on, these offset bulbs will reach flowering size in 3 years.
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