cyclamenCyclamen is a genus of plants containing around 20 species, part of the Primrose family.

They originate from areas surrounding the mediterranean, have tuberous roots and aren’t an obvious relation of the primrose. Growing in Beech woodland, scrub and rocky areas, and even alpine meadows, they’ll flower in snow meltwater. Although there are relatively few species in the genus there is at least one that will be in flower at all times of the year. In the UK, there are some species which can withstand frost, others which are more tender and some which are not at all frost hardy. Some cultivars of C. persicum are indoor or florists’ plants, flower in the winter or spring and come in a wide range of colours.

The medieval gardens of Constantinople featured Cyclamen as they looked so different from wild flowers in the surrounding fields.

The name Cyclamen is Latin in origin (cyclamīnos) which in turn comes from the Ancient Greek (kyklos) meaning “circle” . This seems to refer either to the round tubers that sit just below ground level or to the way, after flowering, the slender flower-stalk twists into a spiral curl, and, bending over, ripens the seed vessel on the surface of the ground.

Rather like truffles, these tubers are said to be a favourite of pigs. Hence, in many languages the different species have common names reflecting this – Sowbread in English, Pain de pourceau in French, Pan porcino in Italian and Varkensbrood in Dutch.

Cyclamen cilicicum leaves

Cyclamen cilicicum leaves

Some of the species names are:

C. cilicicum = cicilian

C. coum = of cous or cos, an island off Turkey

C. europaeum = European

C. hederifolium = Ivy – leaved

C. ibericum = of Iberia

C. latifiolium = broad-leaved

C. neapolitanum = of Naples

C. persicum = of Persia

C. repandum = scalloped- refering to the leaf margins

C. hederifolium, which is hardy in the UK, retains it’s attractive marbled leaves for at least nine months of the year, and has a graceful display of pale – to deep-pink, delicate blooms on slender stalks through autumn. This is one of the most popular woodland shade plants and is swift to colonise areas beneath trees. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Cyclamen in a woodland setting

Cyclamen in a woodland setting

Further information:

Growing Cyclamen from seed

The Cyclamen Society


Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen coum

‘Pretty in Pink’ – article by Sarah Raven

Medicinal uses of Cyclamen

Old School Gardener

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