Guest Author - Kimberly Cassandra Cannon
What Is a Bulb?
The definition given in most dictionaries is that a bulb, by all kinds of additional names, in its true aspect lives a storage organ, made of fleshly scales that envelop an inner bud. Seems to a certain extent complex however, in my view, it can be referred to as an efficiently packaged plant.
A "true bulb" is a compressed stem (basal plate) enclosed by thick, fleshly scales. Some bulbs true to their nature are the narcissus, amaryllis and tulip. These type bulbs are protected from dryness and injury due to the outer scales called a tunic but what are scale leaves? Well, they are the storage unit for food. They consist of a spongy consistency. These scales contain all the food the bulb requires to flower and flourish. The formation of the bulb is made up of many layers with these types of leaves.
Within the tunic, unbelievably, there are undeveloped flowers and leaves. Kind of like a newborn baby with hidden teeth underneath the gum line just waiting to be developed. Immature leaves and a flower bud surround the tunic, made up of scales in which its storage organ is a supplier of nutrients. There is also, what is called the basal plate. An area on the bottom of the bulb that produces the roots once the progress of growth initiates. Once this begins, a shoot will soon appear with foliage subsequently following and then the culmination. A bloom.
Yes indeed. Nature has given the bulb all the parts required to develop and do well. You and I have to do the hard part in selecting from so many choices and then planting them. All of this being a hefty lesson in itself, here is another factor worth mentioning. If it looks like a bulb, it should be one right? Not necessarily because what looks like a bulb doesn’t necessarily mean it is one. Some bulbs are flowering plants. Others we actually eat. Yes, we eat.
My parents back up north have the most appetizing and welcoming, square piece of land they refer to as their “gardening to eat” plot of land. Acquiring knowledge first hand from their experience, this newfound information of vegetable gardening was quite stimulating. The fact that various kinds of bulbs (varying from the flower, leaf, stem, seed, even a tuber), we actually eat. This was mind-boggling. Here are a few bulb veggies to mention: onions, garlic, even chives (which I cannot tell the difference between scallions) but I do know they are good on a baked potato.
There is a type by the identity of a tuber. It’s a little, plump, underground stem. An example is the beautifully leafed caladium. Tubers have no protective tunic and are really just an enlarged stem tissue. They come in a variety of shapes too. Can you guess what type of (tuber) goes best with melted cheese, some butter, and a few chives or may even better broccoli? The good ole’ fashioned potato.
Yes, it is a tuber. Note the diversity. The spots on a potato are called eyes and they are actually undeveloped buds where new plants come from. Amazing huh?
How about those broccoli flowerets eaten on a baked potato, did you know that eating broccoli or cauliflower means that you are eating flowers? The white head of the cauliflower consist of little white flowers. Some people eat them on salads but me, I think they have no taste at all. Eat them raw or cooked just like broccoli. There are leaf plants that are quite tasty such as lettuce, oregano, and especially basil used in a spaghetti sauce.
Now that we understand how it is we can “eat” a plant or a bulb or even a tuber, lets conclude by mentioning the other forms under the label, bulb. The term rhizome is part of the bulb family and is a stem that grows horizontally under the ground. This stem has nodes, that look like small dimples and examples of them are the ginger, asparagus, and lily of the valley. In my garden are the canna and calla lily. (Be careful, the Canna can become outrageous; it populates like rabbits.)
A corm is another type made up of a mass of stem tissue. Unlike their counterpart, the tuber with tough skin, they are covered with leaves and scales. This little baby has a back-up system like a cadillac automobile. As a cadillac has two engines in which to operate in case the one fails, so does the corm, which has lateral buds along the sides of the corm that should it be injured or is damaged, these lateral buds are capable of producing a shoot. The solid stem structure of the corm is protected against injury and water loss by dry leaf bases similar to the tunic. Gladiola is a cormous plant.
The term bulb will probably always be used when referring to plants that produce underground storage organs. My intent is to enlighten your passion for gardening with what is identified as the bulb.
What is A Bulb? An object that could look like a chestnut or even a small potato (depending on its size and cultivar). Marvelously, a self-containing unit dispels splendor in one’s garden. One might ask, how so? How can something so small in size, have the ingredients to make a flower? It’s simple. In its entirety, this package only needs to be placed in the ground at a suitable time of year, given a moderate drink of water and some love. It is more than competent in doing the rest!