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It was several years since I saw it, so I'm unclear on some details. However, the short description is that it blooms in a manner that resembles a sparkler (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparkler).

The stalk is very tall and thick. It was at least chest height to me or perhaps just below head height. I'm 187 cm (6'1) tall. The shaft is barren, without any leaves. The only leaves were at ground level, and they were pretty large.

On top of the stalk, the flower buds grow in a manner that resembles a corn cob. The buds start out a dark purple and when they start to bloom they go through pink and then orange before it fully blooms into a vibrant yellow. The individual flowers are bell-shaped. After a brief blooming period, they shrink back into orange and then wilts into brown.

While beautiful, the colours truly stand out due to the manner in which these flowers bloom. They don't all bloom at once, rather the "cob" starts blooming from the top and the blooming moves downward. However, the blooming period for each row of flowers is very short, so the top has wilted long before the bottom has even started to bloom. This makes the plant look like an extremely slow-burning sparkler.

I think I saw it blooming around July-August in southern Sweden. It took it multiple weeks to bloom through all its flowers. It was a truly impressive sight as I observed it every night as I worked with newspaper deliveries at the time.

  • Where in the world was the plant? Do you remember approximately how large the individual flowers were? How tall and wide was the flowering "cob"? What time of year did it bloom? – Jurp Jan 22 at 15:52
  • Around July-August in southern Sweden. I'm very uncertain about the measurements. I would estimate each flower to reach a maximum size of about 1,5cm^2 x 4cm and the cob unbloomed being about 5 cm across and 20 cm tall. Again, I'm very uncertain about measurements. I did however get a suitable answer on reddit and will post an answer soon. – Kapten-N Jan 22 at 19:06
  • This sounds almost like it could be a Melanthium (aka Veratrum) species or hybrid, although their heights generally top out at less than 2m. You can answer your own question, so please do that (and include a photo if you have one!). Thanks. – Jurp Jan 22 at 19:16
  • Could be a tall coleus of some kind? – Rob Jan 22 at 19:27
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I got an answer on www.reddit.com/r/florists saying

My moneys on Tritoma or Kniphophia.

-/u/Youmati

When I googled for images of those I got very similar results for both, so I don't know which is which, but it looks about right.

The main difference is that all the flowers seem to have reached the red stage before the first ones enter the yellow stage, which is not how I remember it. That could, of course, be related to the regional climate or something that made the flower I saw bloom faster so that it really looked like a sparkler.

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  • Seems awfully tall for a tritoma/kniphofia (same plant, different names), but this could work to your advantage in finding the plant's specific name or cultivar. OTOH, The kniphofia that I know of bloom from the bottom up (like this one: gardenia.net/plant/kniphofia-nobilis), not top-down as you noted in the question. – Jurp Jan 22 at 19:30
  • Both Tritonia and Kniphofia won't reach the height you remember. As for the flowers opening from the top down, I can't think of any - most flowers with this arrangement open from the bottom up (foxglove, verbascum, delphinium and so on) – Bamboo Jan 22 at 20:16
  • Yes. I may have been wrong about the top-down part. Thinking back, I may have noted that it was like lighting a sparkler from its handle instead of its top. – Kapten-N Jan 22 at 21:32
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    @Bamboo - the only flower that I remember opening top-down is Liatris (all species, IIRC). Of course, that's not what this plant is (although a bright yellow liatris would be kind of awesome, now that I think of it). My referenced kniphofia supposedly gets just under 2m high, but most that I've seen have been under 1m in height, even in bloom. – Jurp Jan 23 at 0:26
  • Oh yea, Liatris, you're right...@Jurp – Bamboo Jan 23 at 1:00

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