This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Greek, like Median, a plant said to grow in Media; a name from Dioscorides, retained by Linnaeus). Berberiddceae. Herbs suitable for rock-gardens and shady places.
This genus contains some of the daintiest and most interesting plants that can be grown in the hardy border, and E. macranthum, particularly, is as distinct, complicated and fascinating as many of the rare, tender and costly orchids. The whole family to which it belongs is exceptionally interesting, and is one of the most striking of those rare cases in which the cultural, botanical and artistic points of view have much in common. Of the 8 or 9 genera of this family only Ber-beris and Nandina are shrubs, all the others being herbs, with creeping, underground stems, and all small, choice, curious, and cult, to a slight extent, except Bongardia and Leontice. Podophyllum contains our mandrake; Caulophyllum. the quaint blue cohosh; and the others are Aceranthus, Achlys, Diphylleia, Jeffersonia and Vancouveria. A collection of all these plants should make a charming study. What appear to be petals in E. macranthum are really the inner row of sepals, colored like petals, and performing their functions, while the long spurs or nectaries are supposed to be highly specialized petals. Epimedium has 8 sepals and 4 petals, which are mostly small and in the form of nectaries: stamens 4: caps, opening by a valve on the back: leaves pinnately twice or thrice dissected. They grow a foot or two high.
For E. diphyllum, see Aceranthus, which is distinguished by its flat, not nectarylike petals, and its leaves with a pair of lfts, on each of the 2 forks of the petiole. - There are 11 species, all natives of the northern hemisphere, but some are found as far south as N. Africa There is none native in Amer. The Garden, 48, p. 486, shows what a charming picture can be made of the foliage alone when cut and placed in a bowl. The plants retain their foliage all winter, especially in sheltered spots under trees.