Cyclamen is Medieval Latin, from earlier Latin cyclamīnos, from Ancient Greek κυκλάμινος, kyklā́mīnos (also kyklāmī́s), probably from κύκλος, kýklos “circle”, because of the round tuber. In English, the species of the genus are commonly called by the genus name.
In many languages, cyclamen species are colloquially called by a name like the English sowbread, because they are said to be eaten by pigs: pain de pourceau in French, pan porcino in Italian, varkensbrood in Dutch, “pigs’manjū” in Japanese.
Most cyclamen species originate from the Mediterranean, where summers are hot and dry and winters are cool and wet, and are summer-dormant: their leaves sprout in the autumn, remain through the winter, and wither the next spring. Cyclamen purpurascens and Cyclamen colchicum, however, originate from cooler regions in mountains, and their leaves remain through the summer and wither only after the next year’s leaves have developed.
Flowering time may be any month of the year, depending on the species. Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen purpurascens bloom in summer and autumn, Cyclamen persicum andcoum bloom in winter, and Cyclamen repandum blooms in spring.
Each flower is on a stem coming from a growing point on the tuber. In all species, the stem is normally bent 150-180° at the tip, so that the nose of the flower faces downwards. Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Stargazer’ is an exception to this; its nose faces upwards. Flowers have 5 petals, bent outwards or up, sometimes twisted, and connected at the base into a cup, and five sepals behind the cup.
Petal shape varies depending on species, and sometimes within the same species. Cyclamen repandum has petals much longer than wide, Cyclamen coum has stubby, almost round petals, and Cyclamen hederifolium usually has petals with proportions between the two.
Petal color may be white, pink, or purple, often with darker color on the nose. Many species have a pink form and a white form, but a few have only one color, such as Cyclamen balearicum, which is always white.
The dark color on the flower nose varies in shape: Cyclamen persicum has a smooth band, Cyclamen hederifolium has a streaky V, and Cyclamen coum has an M-shaped splotch with two white or pink “eyes” beneath.
In some species, such as Cyclamen hederifolium, the petal edges at the nose are curved outwards into auricles (Latin for “little ears”). Most species, like Cyclamen persicum, have no auricles.
In most species, the style protrudes 1–3 mm out of the nose of the flower, but the stamens are inside the flower. In Cyclamen rohlfsianum, however, the cone of anthers sticks out prominently, about 2–3 mm (0.08–0.12 in) beyond the rim of the corolla, similar to shooting-stars (Dodecatheon).
Cyclamen are commonly grown for their flowers, both outdoors and indoors in pots. Several species, particularly Cyclamen hederifolium, are hardy and can be grown outdoors in mild climates such as northwest Europe and thePacific Northwest of North America.
The most frost-hardy species, such as Cyclamen purpurascens, Cyclamen hederifolium, Cyclamen coum, and Cyclamen cilicium, tolerate temperatures down to −20 °C (−4 °F). Cyclamen hederifolium has even survived prolonged freezing and temperatures down to −30 °C (−22 °F).
Others, such as Cyclamen repandum, survive temperatures down to −14 °C (7 °F), but not prolonged freezing below this temperature.
Others, such as Cyclamen graecum, tolerate frost as low as −4 °C (25 °F) for a few hours.
Others, such as Cyclamen africanum, Cyclamen persicum, and Cyclamen rohlfsianum, only tolerate mild and brief frost.
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