E is for Elephants’ Ears

This post for the letter E in the revised A to Z Challenge could equally well have appeared for B.

In our garden there are three different Bergenia plants.  They all flower in spring having pink flowers of various shades.  Their large leaves entitle them to a place under E.  Their common name is Elephants’ ears.  I am not sure how to identify the three species of Bergenia with the names of those on the catalogue from which we chose them.  Their tags have disappeared long ago.  However I do know that the size of the ears is one distinguishing feature between African and Indian elephants.  African elephants have much larger ears.

Elephants' ears (Bergenia)
Elephants’ ears (Bergenia)

Indian elephants’ ears may resemble the leaves of these plants more closely than African ones do.  So where do Bergenias grow in the wild?  My first choice for reference is not Wikipedia, but my bookshelves.  The Dictionary of Garden Plants in colour with House and Greenhouse Plants (BCA 1972) informs me that these are Chinese plants.  The Himalayas are mentioned.  Those are very high mountains.

My mind began to make some associations.  There is no obvious connection between elephants and China, where pandas live.

There is a story from history about Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants.  Now perhaps that is one for Wikipedia.  (I learned it was not only the Alps, but also the Pyrenees.)

Other plants in our garden with origins in China are paeonies (or peonies).  I prefer the spelling with the diphthong (æ), but my spell-checker objects to it.  Fashions change in spelling, writing, language and gardening.

Our Bergenias have the advantage of tolerating (or even enjoying) shade.  The part of the garden where they grow is shady.  It used to be a lawn (or at least grassy), but the moss grew better than grass due to the climate and the shady location.  Pressure from our daughter led to its conversion to a flower bed, but moss has survived or re-established itself.

There are other flowers with names beginning with E.  How many can you think of?


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