This is a bit of an oddity but strangely alluring. There are only three varieties of this genus and longifolia is the only one to have been deemed garden worthy.
It is a native of the Himalayas, growing at around 3,000 metres.
When young it could be confused with a lush thistle but when 2 years old a stout stems appears in midsummer, rises to 30cm and carries whorls of pale pink, almost white, tubular flowers. At dusk they emit a tangerine fragrance. When pollinated the flowers turn darker.
The pollen grains under an electron microscope are straight out of Alien and during sex the male pollen grows a little penis. Isn't nature wonderful?
Photo: Blackstem Plants
Spiky, glossy, dark green
Red, pink white