Shougo Yokota

The Skeleton Flower is the Chameleon of the Woods

The white woodland blossom, also known as the “skeleton flower”, is mythically referred to as the “chameleon of the woods” because of the fact that when it rains its petals turn from being an opaque white to almost transparent. During this transition, the veins of the flower are exposed and drops of water cling to the veiny structure to create an ethereal, dewy lattice that almost looks like the skeleton of a flower rather than a lush, living specimen. When saturated, it looks like a spindly ice sculpture. But once it stops raining, the skeleton flower reverts back to its original state, and this is part of its allure as both an element of natural folklore and an uncultivated plant that can be introduced to any garden in Zones 4-9. After it blooms, beginning in May and lasting throughout the summer, it sheds its petals and there is yet another metamorphosis to witness— blueberries grow from the same stem, as Diphylleia grayi is actually an herbaceous plant from the Berberidaceae family that dates back to 1803. For those who have never heard of the skeleton flower, it offers up a beautiful myth; for those who have heard of the skeleton flower, here’s how to plant it:

If you have a shady and moist environment, you may attempt to grow the white woodland blossom yourself. Keep in mind that the perennial skeleton flower likes a three foot reach, may grow up to 16-inches, and craves well-drained soil rich in organic matter. The plant also does well when it is layered beneath medium- to large-size trees that drop their leaves, which creates additional organic matter for the soil. Although the white woodland blossom dies back in the winter, it is a hardy plant that can survive through freezing temperatures– just be prepared to add a top layer of mulch. Significantly reduce a skeleton flower’s water needs throughout the winter, and towards the end of the season begin to cut back dead leaves to make way for its resurgence. Begin incorporating diluted plant food and prepare for the many awe-inspiring changes that the skeleton flower has to offer.

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