Who was Albert?

In early spring, a small tuber in the mountains of the former Soviet Central Asia, stirs into growth. According to the Alpine Garden Society, it is  “fairly common in the Chimgan Valley of Uzbekistan,” and I have also seen it growing in the Aqua-Zhabagly Nature Reserve in Kazakhstan. Choosing a sunny spot, it often puts the tuber beside a rock, keeping it cool in the dry summer weather and preventing it from drying out completely. The red stems are about six inches tall and topped with yellow flowers; a close inspection of these readily shows they  are members of the barberry family. At this stage, the foliage has still to fully develop. In this photo, it is growing in the wild.

001 - Gymnospermium albertii

And here, it is enjoying life in Bracknell, UK, grown in a raised bed with alpines. Excessive moisture is the greatest enemy to successful cultivation, and I have found burying an old piece of broken pot over the tuber keeps the wet away, but allows the emerging shoot to skirt round the obstacle and reach the surface.


Like iris albertii in the same region, the plant is named after Mr Albert. But who was he? I would be interested to know more about him.


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