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 Tropaeolum subsp. var.  Canary bird vine, Flame creeper, Nasturtium
Habit: herbaceous
Height: to
Width: to
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Features: edible
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USDA Zones: to
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Tropaeolaceae > Tropaeolum var. ,

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Nasturtium (pronounced /næˈstɜrʃ(i)əm/)[1] literally "nose-twister" or "nose-tweaker"), as a common name, refers to a genus of roughly 80 species of annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Tropaeolum (pronounced /trɵˈpiː.ələm/,[2] "trophy"), one of three genera in the family Tropaeolaceae. It should not be confused with the Watercresses of the genus Nasturtium, of the Mustard family. The genus Tropaeolum, native to South and Central America, includes several very popular garden plants, the most commonly grown being T. majus, T. peregrinum and T. speciosum. The hardiest species is T. polyphyllum from Chile, the perennial roots of which can survive underground when air temperatures drop as low as -15°C (5°F).

They have showy, often intensely bright flowers (the intense color can make macrophotography quite difficult), and rounded, peltate (shield-shaped) leaves with the petiole in the center. The flowers have five petals (sometimes more), a three-carpelled ovary, and a funnel-shaped nectar tube in the back.

In cultivation, most varieties of nasturtiums prefer to be grown in direct or indirect sunlight, with a few preferring partial shade.

The most common use of the nasturtium plant in cultivation is as an ornamental flower. It grows easily and prolifically, and is a self-seeding annual.

All parts of the plant are edible. The flower has most often been consumed, making for an especially ornamental salad ingredient; it has a slightly peppery taste reminiscent of watercress, and is also used in stir fry. The unripe seed pods can be harvested and pickled with hot vinegar, to produce a condiment and garnish, sometimes used in place of capers, although the taste is strongly peppery. The mashua (T. tuberosum) produces an edible underground tuber that is a major food source in parts of the Andes.

Nasturtiums are also considered widely useful companion plants. They repel a great many cucurbit pests, like squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and several caterpillars. They had a similar range of benefits for brassica plants, especially broccoli and cauliflower. They also attract black fly aphids, and are sometimes planted in the hope of saving crops susceptible to them (as a trap crop). They may also attract beneficial, predatory insects.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Tropaeolum (from Greek word for trophy; the leaves are shield-shaped and the flowers helmet-shaped). Tropaeolaceae. Nasturtium of gardens (but not of botanists). Climbing or rarely diffuse soft-growing herbs, grown in the garden for their showy flowers.

Roots fusiform, sometimes tuberous: lvs. alternate, peltate or palmately angulate, lobed or dissected; stipules none or rarely minute, bristle-like or dissected: peduncles axillary, 1-fld.: fls. irregular, usually orange or yellow, rarely purple or blue, but the garden forms now show a great range of color; sepals 5, connate at their base, posterior produced into a long slender spur; petals 5 or fewer by abortion, usually narrowed into distinct claws, two upper smaller or dissimilar and inserted in the mouth of the spur; stamens 8, free, unequal, with declined usually curving filaments; ovary 3-lobed, 3-celled, ripening into 3 1-seeded indehiscent carpels (these constitute the "seed" of commerce).—About 45 species, S. Amer., chiefly from the cooler parts of Peru and Chile. Monographed in 1902 by Buchenau in Engler's Pflanzenreich hft. 10 (IV. 131).

The common species, T. minus and T. majus, are also grown for their young pods and seeds, which are made into pickles. The peppery-tasting leaves are sometimes used like cress, in salads, whence the name "Indian cress" in England. In America this use of the plant is little known. Certain kinds, particularly T. tuberosum, produce edible subterranean tubers.

Tropaeolums thrive in any warm sunny fairly moist place. The tops are tender to frost. For early effects, seeds may be started indoors in pots or boxes. The common climbing species are T. majus and T. peltophorum, both of which are very useful for window-boxes, balconies, for covering banks and walls, and for growing amongst shrubbery. The common dwarf species, T. minus, is earlier and usually more floriferous, and is very useful for the front row in the border. On rich soils, nasturtiums produce very heavy foliage that overtops the bloom. T. peregrinum, the canary-bird flower, is grown either indoors or in the open. Probably most species are perennial. Many of them are tuberous and withstand some frost at the root; but the half-hardy species are little known in this country.

T. digitatum, Karst. Climber, with root fibrous: lvs. peltate 5-7-lobed: fls. yellow, 1 in. diam., the spur long and red, the petals fimbriate. Venezuela.—T. leptophyllum, Don (T. edule, Paxt.). Climber: lvs. orbicular, with 5 or 6 narrow lfts.: fls. in shape like those of T. majus but smaller, yellow. Produces tuberous edible roots. Chile. P.M. 9:127.—T. Lindenii. Wallis. Beautiful climber with large, peltate, undulate-lobed lvs. that are purplish beneath and beautifully veined with white above: fls. on long pedicels, the long tube red and the calyx-lobes green. Colombia. I.H. 41:17. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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