Herbaceous Plants with Bulbs

Enter the world of botany with a quick overview that sheds some light on herbaceous plants with bulbs.

August 2018
By Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

Cover courtesy of Templar Company Limited

Botanicum (Big Picture Press, 2017) by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis is a scientific and artistic introduction to the world of botany. With vivid illustrations by Scott and descriptive text by Willis, a professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford and director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, the botanical guide is both educational and enjoyable. Scott is also the illustrator to a sister book, Animalium. The following excerpt discusses bulbs.

If you cut open an onion, you will see many different layers of fleshy material and, right in the middle, a pointed shoot. The outer layer is encased by a thin, paper-like skin. At the base are small, stringy roots. It is a tightly wrapped food parcel, a way of ensuring that the plant survives from one year to the next during periods of drought or cold.

The onion is a bulb. A bulb is an underground shoot surrounded by modified leaves (the layers). It will only grow if it is pointing upward in the ground. When the weather gets bad, the plant effectively goes into a kind of hibernation, or dormancy. The part of the plant sticking up above the ground dies. When the weather warms up or the rains arrive, the shoot grows through the bulb, up through the soil, and out of the earth. The first snowdrops, bluebells, crocuses, and daffodils poking their heads above ground are a familiar sign of spring in temperate regions, and these shoots are soon followed by their abundant flowers.

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