Lewisia tweedyi: Queen of the Genus

Frank Tweedy, the eponymous discoverer of Lewisia tweedyi, collected plants while working for the US Geological Survey in Montana, Idaho and Washington. He’s reputed to have collected the Lewisia that bears his name while working on a railroad survey near Mt. Stuart in the Wenatchee mountains.

The tweedyi bloom — far more subdued than the rich (some might even say gaudy) colors of the various Lewisia cotyledon hybrids found in the nursery trade — ranges from pastel shades of peachy pink peach to a deep rich pink contrasting with shades of orange yellowish apricot.

While nothing compares to stumbling on this beauty in its natural habitat while hiking in the mountains around Leavenworth, Washington; a close second may be enjoying the bloom daily on a specimen in a clay pot.

Seattle plantsman, alpine authority and author, Roy Davidson, writing in the 1970’s described the color range eloquently, especially the variations found in the wild:

“this is almost invariably a lovely pastel peach color, the result of a pink wash of pigmentation over a basic background of soft lemon-yellow; often variable in the same flower over its life span of a few days, usually deepening appreciably.  Sometimes the blush is evident only concentrated on the margins, thus leaving a lemon or quite greenish star or eye effect in the center of the blossom with a fluff of yellow stamens in its center, but on occasion, in wild plants the pink fails to develop, and the result is, of course, a fragile beauty in crisp lemony-citron, with yellow boss to match. Now, in cultivation, has emerged the other extreme, those with none of the minimum of the yellow basic color, so that the total effect is a pastel pink of great beauty.”

(noted in the Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia, February 1973)

Cultivation

Whether it’s reputation for being difficult to manage in cultivation is deserved or not, it’s toughness, like most mountain dwelling plants, is a startling fact. Years ago, I had one in a clay pot under an eave and lost track of it for at least 18 months.

Discovering it in a shriveled state under some brush in early in spring I revived it with a deep watering.  It recovered and made a single weak looking bloom that year.  With some minimal care, it continues to bloom nicely every spring.  A critical key to pot cultivation is letting it dry out after blooming subsides, keeping it dry all summer and relatively dry all winter.