"I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one."
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
Incarvillea arguta (formerly Amphicome arguta) is a sub-shrub with fern-like foliage & penstemon-like tubular flowers of pallid pink, appearing July through September on arching stems.
In temperate zones it becomes woody with age. It is hardy to 15 degrees, so not apt to die back in winter in our climate, but will grow to be a two to three foot tall branching woody shrub. It can be a little tender, however, & if a slightly harsh winter does cause damage, it responds well to early spring pruning, though a hard prune would mean never achieving the appearance of a woody shrub. In much colder zones, it can still be grown as a defacto annual.
It is occasionally given the common name "Himalayan Gloxinia." This is a rare offering from Nepal & the Chinese province of Yunnan, & throughout the western Himalayas. We obtained it because it is grown locally by Northwest Perennials. This seems very likely to be a plant that will be providing interesting cultivars in a variety of colors someday, but at present there is just the species form, which has a marvelous pink flower sometimes fading to nearly white.
In its natural habitat it grows in rocky limestone regions so can benefit from a gritty garden soil either acid-neutral or slightly to the alkaline side. But we've made no concessions to its presumed soil preference, & it seems to do quite well in the Northwest's loamy, naturally acidic soils, if the ground is rendered loose & sandy with perfect drainage.
Chinese researchers have been testing a chloroform-like extract of this plant for potential medicinal values. In animal experimentation, it has reduced fever of induced typhoid in rabbits, inhibited induced ear inflammation in mice, & lessened swelling in the limbs of rats whose paws had been intentionally injured for these cruel but illuminating tests.
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