Articles: BULB CHAT September 2002 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 May 2011 23:21



The flowers of Ferrarias have fascinated many of us. These flowers have an unusual shape, they are relatively small and some of the flowers have a foul smell. There are also Ferrarias that are sweetly scented such as F. brevifolia, F. kamiesbergensis and F. schaeferi. The genus was named in honour of Johannes Burman in honour of Giovanni Battista Ferrari who first described and figured a ferraria in 1633, under the descriptive title Flos indicus e violaceo fuscus radice tuberosa. He believed that plant came from Batavia. Ferrarias are closely related to the genera Homeria, Hexaglottis and Galaxia. Today, these genera have all disappeared. They have been sunk into Moraea.

Ferrarias were brought to Europe before the middle of the 17th century and cultivated there as items of interest, on account of their unusual flowers. The name Ferraria was first used in 1759 by Miller and also by Wannman. Miller saw Burman's description of F. crispa and F. fimbriata shortly before it was published. In his work he then must have mentioned where he got the names, because it has never been attributed to him. Ferraria fimbriata has been excluded from what we knows as Ferrarias today, because it had an incorrectly drawn androecium (male parts) as well as an inadequate description of the flower.

In a work dated May 30 1759, often ascribed to Wannman, but written by Linnaeus himself, mention is made of the genus in the following words: Nec minus singulares sunt Ferraria petalis undulatis. Miller's figure bears the date January 26, 1759. Therefore Miller's description of the genus, which he ascribed to Burman, antedates that of Wannman.

Ferrarias are closely related to the genera Homeria, Hexaglottis and Galaxia. Today, these genera have also disappeared. They have been sunk into Moraea.


According to history the first Lachenalia to be painted in colour was Lachenalia hirta. It was painted by Simon van der Stel or somebody with him on his explorations to Namaqualand in 1685 and 1686. That plant was not called L. hirta, but "Hyacinthus Africanus Orchioides serpentarius, folia singularis, undato, piliscilliaribus fimbriato, floribus ex aureo punicatibus". By 1739 paintings of three more Lachenalias were published. They were Lachenalia orchioides var. orchioides, Lachenalia orchioides var. glaucina and Lachenalia contaminata. By 1784 Baron Nicolaus Joseph Jacquin and his son Joseph Franz Jacquin were studying collections of South African plants in Vienna. J.F. Jacquin described the new genus naming it Lachenalia after Werner de Lachenal, an eminent professor in Basel, Switzerland. He sent the manuscript to the editor of the Journal "Acta Helvetica" in Basel, expecting it to be published in 1780. This never happened. The publication of the journal had lapsed and his paper was ultimately only published in the revived journal titled: Nova Acta Helvetica in 1787. To make the story more complicated, J.A. Murray, evidently having seen the manuscript and presuming that it had been published, included a short description of the genus in "Linnaeus Systema Vegetabilium" in 1784. Although Murray had not intended to publish the new genus, he must be credited with having done so, and the correct citation for it is Lachenalia Jacq.f. ex Murray.


At a recent monthly meeting Dr. J Manning gave us a talk on the differences between the genera Albuca and Ornithogalum. Many of us had been on fieldtrips in the past where we found it difficult to distinguish between these genera. The flowers of both genera could be white, yellow, orange or green. In Albuca the inner tepals are erect and the filaments of the stamens are pinched below. In Ornithogalum the tepals are spreading and the filaments could be swollen, but they are never pinched in.


As a follow-up to the earlier visit by IBSA members to the Tankwa Karoo, two of us went back to a few spots visited on the original trip. The main aim was to try and collect seed of Tritonia florentiae, the beautiful little yellow Tritonia that was seen in profusion by everybody on the first trip. On finding the locality along the P225O, we were very excited to see that our timing was perfect. The Tritonias had made ample seed and the capsules were just right for us to collect. Many of the capsules had started splitting at the seems. We collected enough seed to distribute to all who might want at next year's AGM. The seed capsules sit at ground level and they are often covered by loose windblown sand. Try collecting about 50 seedpods at or below ground level. You have to be on your haunches or you have to bend more than 9O at the waist. If the area that you are covering is about 4OO m X 4OO m, you will understand why my hips and thigh muscles were aching for 3 days after the trip.

At the same locality Lachenalia zebrina was in full bloom. They were spectacular. There were many single plants, but the little groupings of 2 or 3 plants were even more spectacular. It is interesting to note that often when there are 2 plants together the single striped leaf of each plant would be 180 to the leaf of the other plant. The exserted stamens of these little groups of 2 plants often touched each other. Is this a way to ensure cross-pollination? Another observation that we had also discussed at the IBSA monthly meeting at the end of August was the fact that many Lachenalias from the arid areas had banded leaves. Here Lachenalia zebrina was growing in close proximity to Aloe variegata. The leaves of this aloe also have a banded pattern. Is there a reason for the banded leaves? Would they possibly help to attract pollinators or does a banded leaf play a protective roll against predators.

At the same site Ferraria divaricata ssp. australis was also found. The plants were growing in loose sand in the seasonal washes. Lapeirousia plicata was also seen. Most of them were over and starting to form seed. Another extremely rare plant that we saw there was Haemanthus tristis. According to the Haemanthus book this plant has an extremely restricted distribution. It is limited to seasonal washes in the arid Tankwa Karoo. Well, this is exactly where we found it, except that the previous records shows that it should come from about 60km further south.

On the way back we stopped at a site against a hillside to the eastern side of the road. There we saw a few specimens of Aloe variegata, some in flower and others with seed on. At this site we saw some of the most spectacular Lachenalia zebrinas. The sheer numbers were overwhelming. The plants were showing off, some standing alone against the dark rocks in the background. Others formed little clumps of 2, 3 or even 4 plants. When bending down to photograph these plants, you were hit between the eyes (or on the nose) by their heavenly sweet scent. Beauty that blows the mind. This was true, untouched Tankwa Karoo.

We also stopped near Karoopoort. Here we saw blue/mauve Lapeirousia pyramidalis, Freesia occidentalis and Cyanella lutea. Here we also found the very interesting Ornithoglossum undulatum in seed. They normally flower during May and June. There were also many spectacular Crassulas in flower, as well as a Sarcocaulon, possibly Sarcocaulon crassicaule.

We normally think of the Tankwa Karoo as an arid landscape. Well, this was lush (in Karoo terms). An unforgettable day, a day to enrich your spirit with the natural splendour of the Tankwa Karoo.


Our Chairman tells us that his first and most successful application of smoke water was based on burning Rosemary. Thereafter he used indigenous vegetation, but never with as great success. He recently read that during the Middle Ages the monks used to pack Rosemary needles around seedlings to improve germination. He feels that when he resumes smoke water treatment he is only going to use Rosemary. Infusing 1 teaspoon of dried flowering tops or leaves in 1/2 cup of water can make a liquid preparation of Rosemary.

Caution: Excessive amounts of Rosemary taken internally can cause fatal poisoning.


In Bulbchat no 16 an excursion along this road was described. One of our members drove along this road during the last week of August and saw many interesting plants. Shortly after turning off from the main road to Hermanus onto the road signposted as Karwyderskraal they found an area where all the vegetation was being cleared. There they saw Geissorhiza ovata in profusion. These plants have small white flowers with pink on the back of the tepals. At the same site many Gladiolus hirsutus were seen in flower. The flower colour ranged from a very light pink to an extremely dark pink. There were also many G. hirsutus plants that were starting to make seedpods. Romulea triflora was also in full bloom. These yellow flowering Romuleas have bell-shaped corms, making it a close relative of Romulea hirsuta. Just to confuse the visitor there were a few apricot-pink specimens of Romulea hirsuta seen there as well. Lachenalia orchioides var. orchioides were seen growing everywhere where it was sandy. A few dark red Watsonia spectabilis plants were scattered amongst the Lachenalias. Towards the southern extreme of this open space a few yellow Gladiolus tenellus plants were found. This is the one they now call Gladiolus trichonemifolius.

Further along the road they found fields of Babiana purpurea. As the name might indicate these plants have pink, purple or mauve flowers, with distinctive dark anthers.

At another stop they saw Gladiolus liliaceus. There were only a few plants to be seen at that time. By the time you read this the Gladiolus liliaceus should be in full flower. Everywhere along this route many different species of Oxalis were seen. The road then winds through a lot of Fynbos, including some spectacular dark pink Phaenocoma prolifera. Eventually you get to Caledon via Shaw's Pass. In September Moraea barnardii flowers on Shaw's Pass. This is indeed a daytrip worth doing.


IBSA members must have experienced the phenomenon that in certain years certain genera seem to flower extremely prolific. The year 2002 seems to be the year of the Moraea. During the first week of September the following Moraeas were flowering in my pots: Moraea aristata, including the new corms that were bought at the Kirstenbosch Fair, Moraea villosa in different shades of blue (no orange ones, unfortunately), Moraea loubseri, Moraea calcicola from near Saldanha, Moraea tulbaghensis, Moraea neopavonia, Moraea papilionacea, Moraea atropunctata (dark variety), Moraea vegeta, Moraea tripetala, Moraea fugax in yellow and blue and lastly Moraea tortilis. To make the list even longer we could add the following plants that are now classified as Moraeas even though most of us still know them as Homerias and as Gynandriris. These included Moraea pritzeliana, Moraea collina, Moraea comptonii, Moraea elegans, Moraea flaccida and Moraea ochroleuca.


At the August monthly meeting Johan Loubser from Stellenbosch stole the show with an absolutely spectacular pot of Moraea neopavonia. Moraea neopavonia was described in 1782 by the young Linnaeus as Iris pavonia, possibly based on collections made by C.P. Thunberg.

In 1947 R.C. Foster changed the name to Moraea neopavonia, meaning the new peacock. This had become necessary because the species name pavonia had already been used for another plant ( now called Tigridia pavonia )

Moraea neopavonia is closely related to the other orange peacock moraea, namely Moraea tulbaghensis. Moraea neopavonia has larger outer tepals than M. tulbaghensis. In M. neopavonia a band of green,as in M. tulbaghensis, does not surround the blue nectar guides. The anthers of Moraea neopavonia are very long and exceed the style.

Most IBSA members have never seen Moraea neopavonia in its natural habitat, because it is extremely rare today. Most of the original habitat is now under wheat fields.


During the first week of September a few IBSA members went on a 3-day excursion to the Gifberg. According to Johan Fourie they had a wonderful time. Although the weather was not very kind they saw a great variety of plants.

On the way there they saw Babiana scabrifolia along the N7 between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam. Some of these Babianas were still in flower, but the majority was over and starting to make seed. Babiana scabrifolia is a low growing Babiana with light blue flowers. The leaves of these Babianas are coiled in the upper half. Along the same road many large Lachenalia mutabilis were seen. Near Klawer they saw a white and pink Moraea that they could not identify. It would definitely be worth the effort and time to go there next year to see what this plant is.

On the Gifberg the group stayed at the Gifberg Rusoord, belonging to the Huisamens. The members went on two trails on the farm. Here they saw a huge variety of spectacular plants; including some very low growing Gladiolus alatus, Lachenalia violacea, Lachenalia elegans and also Lachenalia unifolia. Gladiolus venustus with pink and other with dark blue flowers were in profusion. These plants were even growing right up against the little cottages that the members stayed in. On one of the walks a single Gladiolus caryophallaceus was seen. It had a very pale flower. They also saw three different Babiana species. These included Babiana mucronata with blue and yellow flowers, B. sinuata and another dark blue Babiana with a long tube. They also two species of Bulbinella. The one was a small yellow species and the other a bigger cream/white species. Wachendorfias, Trachyandras and even Chlorophytums were also seen. According to Johan Fourie the most striking plant that they saw on the Gifberg was Aristea inaequualis. These tall, clump-forming plants have deep blue flowers and grey/green leaves. While on the two walks on the farm the members also saw two different species of Gethyllis as well as Satyrium erectum and also Holothrix aspera. These last two plants are ground orchids.

On the Gifberg Sparaxis variegata was also seen. This plant used to be known as Synnotia variegata. The members on this excursion also saw large numbers of the dark yellow Sparaxis grandiflora ssp acutiloba at Clanwilliam on their way to the Gifberg. Because the sky was overcast for most of the excursion, very few flowering specimens of Romuleas were seen. Ixia scillaris was quite abundant on the Gifberg. There were the normal pink ones as well as some very pale specimens. Many small Geissorhizas were seen, especially near water. The relatively tall Geissorhiza confusa was starting to come into flower. These plants have angular leaves, quite similar to Gladiolus tristis.

As always the meals provided by the Huisamens were of a very high quality and extremely tasty. Everybody had a great time on the Gifberg.

On the last day the members returned to Cape Town via Vanrhynsdorp and Clanwilliam. At Vanrhynsdorp they visited the nursery of Mr Buys Wiese. Some members bought a few bulbous plants there, including the beautiful little Lachenalia patula. There were also a few other Lachenalia species on sale as well as Gethyllis afra. Between Clanwilliam and Citrusdal they visited a farm where they saw large numbers of Lachenalia hirta and Lachenalia trichophylla. It was suggested that IBSA go back to this farm in a few weeks to collect seed of these two Lachenalia species. At this farm they also saw two different species of Wurmbea.


Dr M. Boussard, from France, wrote the following to Johan W. Loubscher: "I also remember the reluctance of Romulea hantamensis to germinate. They germinated only in the third season and I say it with some dismay. I left the pot in the open last winter where it froze and got snowed on. Perhaps the freeze triggered the germination. Hantamsberg does get frost and sometimes snow in winter. I suggest that the seed be given a good soaking for a couple of days, then be put in the fridge for three to four weeks, then plant and hope for the best."

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