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Garden Nasturtium

Tropaeolum majus

  • Name also: Indian Cress
  • Family: Nasturtium Family – Tropaeolaceae
  • Growing form: Annual herb.
  • Height: 20–40 cm (8–16 in.). Stem usually twining.
  • Flower: Corolla irregular (zygomorphic), orange–yellow–red, 2.5–6 cm (1–2.4 in.) wide; petals 5, of which the lowest 2 are smaller. Sepals 5, one with 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in.) long spur. Stamens 8, different lengths. Gynoecium composed of 3 fused carpels, ovary trilocular, style solitary. Flowers solitary in axils.
  • Leaves: Alternate, long-stalked, peltate. Blade round, with large-toothed or winding margins, glabrous, juicy.
  • Fruit: 3-sectioned schizocarp.
  • Habitat: Ornamental, sometimes as escape from cultivation on garden refuse heaps, dumps, wasteland.
  • Flowering time: June–September(–October).

Garden nasturtium’s relatives grow ferally over a large area, from southern parts of Mexico to South America. Garden nasturtium is a product of cultivation and as such does not exist in the wild. It is probably one of the most popular climbers in European as well as American gardens, and its seeds are even for sale in Finland in supermarkets as well as garden centres. With violets and petunias it is common in Finnish flowerpots and balconies as a stock summer plant. It is easy to grow, and it blooms brightly all through the summer. Most plants have yellow or orange flowers, sometimes bright reddish orange.

Garden nasturtium can grow up to 2-3 metres (80–120 in.) long over the summer. The stalked leaves have tissue that is touch-sensitive, causing it to bend around the bract and the plant climbs up trees, bushes or large herb-stemmed plants whenever it gets the chance. Its base can be very shady underneath other plants, but the shoots reach out towards the light. Garden nasturtium can also be grown on rocks, climbing up them or sprawling along the ground. Its leaf stalks are attached in a very distinctive fashion in the middle of the blade: this kind of leaf type is called peltate by botanists.

Garden nasturtium’s family also includes perennial species, but these do not survive the Finnish winter, even in more temperate parts. Annual garden nasturtium is very sensitive to frost and collapses on the first cold night. If the plant survives the spring frosts it can flower quite well, ripen its seeds, sow itself and adorn the same place with its colourful flowers year after year.

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