I spent the last year observing false unicorn plants in the wild as well as growing a couple in my basement, Some of my observations may or may not be helpful to anyone else that is interested in growing this plant.
1. This plant seems to be very drought resistant.
2. It is also very tolerant of cold weather.
3. The purple color of the leaves in the winter seem to be due to frost, parts of the plant that are not covered up by the fall leaves seem to turn purple/brownish while parts of the plant covered by fall leaves remain green.
4. This plant may be browsed by deer and rabbits, and in the case of one of my plants growing in the basement possibly mice or maybe a wasp. (note-about the basement plant something simply cut the leaves off of the plant on 3 consecutive days, it appears that is was just after the moisture in the plant. In the case of a couple of the woods plants i observed plants that had most of the leaves and the stalk and flower head completely ate down to the ground, i suspect deer since the plant was almost 2 1/2 feet tall.
5. In February i transplanted some plants into raised beds so far i have had 0 loses. so the plant appears to transplant well in the fall and winter months.
6. depth of leaf litter does not seem to bother this plant much, i have seen it growing in almost bare soil to very heavy leafy mulch.
At this point, it looks like deterring my plants from being eaten before they produce seed is my biggest obstacle, so with that in mind, I constructed a fence around my beds to deter deer and turkey (scratching) and hopefully rabbits, my goal is to ultimately identify my female and male plants and possibly pair up my best stock for seed production. I am still taking pictures and documenting my efforts. hopefully this spring i will have a nice bunch of blooming false unicorn.
This week i started identifying plants that were blooming. After summer i should have a good idea of which are female seed plants. later in the winter i am moving more of them into fenced beds. It is going to be a slow process but it beats sitting around waiting on ginseng to mature.
I spent the earlier part of the spring scouting my property for flowering plants, when i came across them i flagged them to make it easier to locate. Yesterday i returned to the plants to see if i could determine yet which were male and which were female. Less than 10% of my total false-unicorn plants sent up flowering stalks, of that only about 10% have been determined to be seed producers (female). About 1/3 of the tops had already been browsed by deer (I think),
I also checked the plants that i had moved into raised beds, still 0 losses and out of 50 plants 5 flowered and only 2 are producing seed at this time. Nothing has browsed the plants in the bed, i have it fenced off thats what makes me think that deer are the culprits. I plan to move all of my female plants into the beds this fall as well as some of the flowering male plants. Im not sure at what age these plants start producing seed but i am beginning to see the same growth patterns as ginseng, Back in Feb, when i was moving the plants into beds i dug up a mature plant and discovered 2 tiny seedling plants which i guessed to be 1 or 2 years old i went ahead and transplanted those into the bed as well, so far this year they are the equivelent of a 1 leafer and a 2 leafer not much more that the size of the end of my finger.
Here are the same two seedlings after being transplanted into my bed. since i know the approximate age of these two plants i can monitor them until they bloom, to get an idea on what age false unicorn starts producing seed. and maybe get some idea on age by leaf count, kinda like ginseng and prongs. there is 3 plants in this pic, however i am only referring to the 2 small plants.
How do you tell which are the male and female plants at this point. I have a few (no where as big as yours, maybe 8\" at the tallest) which have put up flowers, but I see no real difference in the flowers at all. The only noticable difference is that sone of the flowers are smaller like your picture, and some are a little longer and tend to bend over like one of your last pictures.
From my very limited experience and slightly challenged vision i am like you, I couldn't initially tell a difference but after about a week or 2 after flowering, the female plants continue to grow in height and the flowers put more distance from themselves on the stalk and at the base of each flower will develop a green pod that resembles a tiny football, the flowers on the male plants simply turn brown and dry up.
In my opinion, from what i have seen, if the stem bends or curves downward it looks like they are male flowering plants, if the stem continues to grow straight up with only slight bends it may be female plants. Below is a picture of a female plant in october when the seed are ready for harvest. I picked those seed pods and planted them last october, each pod has 5-10 small yellowish seed inside and i think if left on the plant, the pods will pop open much like bloodroot and disperse. I have not seen any new seedlings emerge yet so either i planted them wrong or it like ginseng and goldenseal may have an 18 month germination period.