In the genus Skerda (Crepis) family Asteraceae (Compositae) - 252 species of annuals, biennials and perennials. Most of them have yellow inflorescences, and only 4 species have pink baskets. Among them is our heroine - red skerda, the most decorative and the only one grown in gardens. Most of its relatives are plants of little respect, growing in wastelands and fallow lands, on forest edges, along roads and near dwellings like weeds. While they are beneficial, they are good feed for livestock and seeds for birds.
Representatives of the genus are found everywhere - in Europe, Asia, North America and Africa. On the territory of the post-Soviet space, there are more than 50, and in the European part of Russia - 15 species. Of our domestic species, the most famous Siberian skerda(Сrepis sibirica), for its medicinal properties and popularity in traditional medicine.
In V. Dahl's explanatory dictionary, the skerda plant has an accent on the first syllable, and another version of the sound is shkerda.
Skerda red (Crepis rubra) - a plant of the Mediterranean, its range covers the south of the Apennine Peninsula, south-west south of the Balkans, islands and the coast of the Aegean Sea, locally found in Turkey. It grows in rocky places up to an altitude of 200-300 m above sea level, on stony soils, in fields, pastures and wastelands, in rare forests. It blooms at home in April-June.
It is an annual plant up to 20-30 cm tall, with a thin taphole, but shallow root. Stems are single or numerous (in the natural form there are up to 8 of them, and in cultivated plants there may be more), simple or with one branch, smooth.
Petiole leaves, most of them form a basal rosette. Leaf blades up to 15 cm long and up to 3 cm wide, obverse lanceolate in outline, pinnately cut into several pairs of lanceolate or triangular, often dentate segments. Stem leaves are few, they are alternate, mostly bracts. On the front side, the leaves are covered with light, non-glandular hairs.
The red skerda leaves look like a dandelion, but even more like inflorescences. Baskets do not have tubular flowers, all flowers (and there can be from 40 to 100) are ligulate, pink, less often white, with corollas 16-17 mm long. The flowers in the basket are all bisexual and set fruit - dark brown, fusiform, ribbed achenes 6-21 mm long. In the center of the basket, the achenes are larger, with a long thin beak, smaller along the edge, with a short beak, enclosed in bracts. Achenes are provided with a tuft of white or slightly yellowish soft silky hairs 5-8 mm in length.
During the flowering period, when the wrapper of the basket is clearly visible - it is multi-row, up to 15 mm long and 10 mm wide, with lanceolate hairy leaves - from which silvery hairs rise, it becomes obvious that the plant is very similar to the meadow goat (Tragopogon pratensis), with which, by the way, the flowers are similar. Both plants are close relatives, within their family they are included in the tribe Tragopogon.
The plant is widely cultivated all over the world. Garden specimens grow taller (up to 40 cm) and have larger baskets, 3-4 cm in diameter. They bloom in our zone in July and bloom for up to a month. And after flowering, they remain attractive thanks to the silvery tufts-bats.
Pick-up location... Given the natural growing conditions, it is clear that this plant is extremely unpretentious. Grows in open, sunny places, easily tolerates periods of drought. However, in order to grow not frail specimens with single baskets, but lush multi-stem plants, you need to take a little care of them.
The soil... The soil for skerda red is desirable not poor, well-cultivated, loose, with the addition of sand. Heavy loam does not suit her, like peaty acidic soil - damping off will begin on them.The soil must be drained, from slightly acidic to alkaline (pH 6.5-7.8).
Sowing... The plant has one more advantage - the ability to sow directly into open ground. Seeds are sown in nests, 3-4 pcs., At a distance of 15-20 cm. You can sow at the end of April, under a non-woven covering material. Seedlings will not be long in coming - a little more than a week will pass, and the leaves will appear. They must be protected from spring frosts. With soil sowing, skerda will bloom in late June and early July.
However, if necessary, you can grow seedlings by sowing seeds in containers from the end of March, when there is more light. Such plants, of course, will bloom a little earlier.
Care... For a good development, the red skerda needs additional fertilizing with complex mineral fertilizer - three times, until the very budding. With prolonged drought, the plants need to be watered, otherwise the flowering will be short. But skerda does not tolerate excess moisture.
Use in garden design
Skerda red - the plant is discreet in appearance, gentle. It cannot be compared with the luxurious lush flowers of such popular annuals as petunia, ever-flowering begonia. She is characterized by natural modesty and, at the same time, resilience. This plant will be appreciated primarily by experienced gardeners who understand how small the choice of flowers for sunny places is. Skerda is suitable even for stony and gravel gardens, if, of course, it is fed.
Despite its Mediterranean origin, it is harmonious in natural-style flower beds, where blue cornflower, samoseyka poppy, low varieties of feathery cosmos, large-flowered purslane, annual cereals - for example, ovate hare, maned barley - grow nearby - their spikelets will echo the fluffy heads of the skerda that come to replace inflorescences. In monochrome white flower beds, this plant will accentuate the whiteness of other flowers and complement them during the flowering period.
But the skerda can also be the center of attention. The border-framing from it will turn out to be very original, at first filled with pink baskets, and later with silver heads.
It will also add a touch of tenderness and airiness to the palette of the container composition. On its own in a flowerpot, it will not be so good during the flowering period.
Skerda baskets are a good cutting material, they can be used to make cute summer bouquets. If you like the charm of meadow flowers, this is your plant!
Photo by Rita Brilliantova and from the GreenInfo.ru forum