Articles: BULB CHAT October 2002 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 May 2011 23:24



In Bulb Chat No 31 it was mentioned that the year 2002 could be the year of the Moraea. To continue on this theme we have a few more stories.

* Johan Loubser tells us that 2 flowering specimens of Moraea loubseri were recently found by Dr Dee Snijman at the type locality of this plant near Saldanha. We are all very excited about this find because we feared that the species was extinct in nature.

* In a discussion with Johan Loubser he also told us about the circumstances around the finding of Moraea calcicola. This beautiful blue Moraea was first shown to Johan Loubser by another IBSA member, Waldo von Essen. Johan Loubser then showed it to Peter Goldblatt in 1976. There are no records of it ever having been collected prior to 1976.

* On a recent trip to the Roggeveld and the Komsberg Moraeas were still in profusion. Moraea ciliata (deep, dark blue), Moraea pritzeliana and Moraea marlothii were seen everywhere we walked. Moraea tripetala were seen in great numbers along the Rooiwal Road. They varied in size depending on the surrounding vegetation. If the vegetation was tall and bushy the Moraeas were also tall - up to about 50 cm. In the open they were only about 20 cm tall. Along the Komsberg we saw Moraea macronyx, unfortunately not in flower but the dry remnants of the plants.

* The Moraea that was seen by members on the Gifberg excursion has still not been identified. At first it was thought to possibly be Moraea barkerae, but after seeing the slides of the plant we are not sure that it is Moraea barkerae. We will need pressed material next year to have this plant positively identified. The possibility exists that this is a new species, which would really be a feather in the cap of IBSA and its members.

* The controversy about Moraea aristata refuses to go away. You will remember that Johan Loubser's contention was that specimens with extraneous multiple spots are hybrids. We also know that plants were taken from Observatory to Kirstenbosch for cultivation to increase the stock and then returned to Observatory. We cannot say that hybridisation occurred there or at some other place and time. Johan planted 16 corms of his own original stock individually. Two corms rotted, 5 did not flower and the remaining 9 produced spotless flowers ( see photo ). He sowed Kirstenbosch seed. Only one flowered. That one was corrupt ( see photo ). He destroyed the whole batch.


In the main the areas covered were the Tankwa, the Roggeveld and the Komsberg. An uncountable number of species were seen : in flower or in seed or in leaf. A list of them would fill this page so, instead, I list certain species selected for a variety of reasons.

Our biggest problem was identification. The ridiculous botanical convention which excludes the Roggeveld and Namaqualand from the Cape Floral Kingdom meant that we could not use Cape Plants by Goldblatt and Manning. We had to use about 8 other publications, some from the 1950's, incomplete, out of date and cursed in many cases with convoluted keys. Thus, in the Tankwa , there is a Lachenalia : 15 mm globular bulb with bumpy brown tunics; height 160mm; no leaves when flowering but very dark red leaf bases (2) at neck; tiny flowers (width 3mm, length 6mm) spicate, closely packed up the stem, sub erect tending to horizontal at the top of the stem; strongly exerted style and stamens ( shorter than style ); flower almost closed at mouth, outer tepals green, inner tepals much longer dark red, gibbosity dark red, bracts not apparent. So what is it ? Please tell us !

Then there were Ixias, Hesperanthas, Geissorhizas and others about which we are very doubtful, some extremely beautiful. We applied names with little confidence as being nearest to known species. We saw only 3 species of Gladiolus: G splendens, one we thought ought to be G venustus - yellow with faint brown flush at the ends of all tepals, 5 leaves with heavily raised midrib and well defined margins. The third species we saw was Gladiolus uysiae, which grew everywhere. In one place G uysiae was growing in hundreds, very strongly marked, in a small area which had been the flood plain of a river which flooded over this year. Never had we imagined so many in so small an area.

The Komsberg was carpeted with Romulea komsbergensis and Romulea diversiformis. Of the big species we actually saw Romulea unifolia in flower. Many specimens of Romulea unifolia were not the usual red or orange, but a deep pink, not unlike Romulea subfistulosa. We found no seed of Romulea hallii, even in pinpointed localities. Romulea subfistulosa was flowering at the Daubenya reserve.

The yellow form of Daubenya aurea had finished flowering. It is reasonably prolific in the bottom left and top right of the reserve, but none in the middle. They were plentiful just beyond the top fence. Perhaps we should remember that IBSA used to have the word "growers" in its title and that its aim is cultivation. Perhaps we should move some specimens into the middle of the reserve from beyond the top fence.

Ferraria, Ornithoglossum and Lachenalia zebrina are making lots of seed which will not be ready for harvesting for another 3 weeks. There was plenty of Lapeirousia plicata with ripe seed. A small, highly scented, white flowered, Wurmbea was flowering strongly on the Komsberg, presumably Wurmbea variabilis.

There were items of especial interest, to me at least, in a wonderful wealth of bulbous and dicot beauty and profusion. A writer with more interest in the smaller Irids could no doubt report strongly on the many very beautiful Ixias including a superbly coloured Ixia brevituba, not, of course, in Cape Plants.

If I sound bitter about this artificial exiling of indubitably Cape flowers it is because I feel bitter. We must wait for the Bulb Encyclopedia to correct the balance.


At the September monthly meeting Johan Loubser, our Moraea expert, showed a pot of Moraea saxicola. The species name saxicola means rock loving, describing the habitat of the species, stony ground or crevices in rock outcrops. These plants are found from Nuwerus in the south to the northern Richtersveld. The flowers are pale blue or white to cream. There are orange nectar guides on the outer tepals.The plants have a solitary leaf. Flowering time is September and October and flowering usually starts at about 3 o' clock in the afternoon and the flowers fade towards sunset.


After the talk by Dr John Manning earlier this year about Albuca and Ornithogalum members seem to be taking more notice of Albucas. Reports have come in that Albuca longipes was seen to flower on the " Blommepad " at Nieuwoudtville. This Albuca has white flowers with green keels and the flowers are erect. Albuca setosa was recently seen in the Tankwa Karoo. Albuca maxima is flowering all along the road south of Verlatekloof Pass, south of Sutherland. This is a tall plant with pendulous white and green flowers. At Worcester another erect flowering Albuca is in full bloom at present. This is Albuca aurea, obviously with yellow flowers with green keels. To confuse us Albuca aurea could also have white flowers with green keels.


Towards the end of September IBSA staged a Mini Show along with the Clivia Club at Bellville. Although we had many apprehensions about showing flowering plants so late in the season it turned out to be a huge success.

We produced 140 pots and displayed it with the low growing specimens in the front and the tall specimens at the back. It was a spectacular display. Many visitors to the display were dumbstruck by what they saw. Some let rip with some choice expletives. Most people had never seen such a variety of bulbous and cormous plants together. Anything from Aristeas to Wurmbeas was on display.In total there were 88 different species of plants on show. The most common Genus on display was Lachenalia with 26 different species to be seen. Lachenalia zebrina and Lachenalia latermerae were on show for the first time at an IBSA show. Other plants on show for the first time included Geissorhiza schinzii, Gladiolus fourcadei, Gladiolus splendens, Ixia aurea and Scilla natalensis. The very rare Kniphofia pauciflora was also on display. This yellow flowered Kniphofia is known only from a restricted area near Durban. This area is threatened as a result of urban development.

Another extremely beautiful plant that was shown was Ixia viridiflora. People are always amazed at the iridescent green flowers. Gladiolus alatus always attracts huge amounts of attention and to crown it all there were even a few white specimens. The majority of Lachenalias were prize winning specimens and they attracted a lot of attention. The detail of the small flowers was appreciated by all the visitors. We used our spotlights to great effect to illuminate and warm up the small Geissorhizas. The amount of comments we received from the public about the splendour of G. radians, G monanthos and Geissorhiza euristigma were incalculable.

We gained quite a few new members at the show and made many contacts that might be beneficial to IBSA in the future. The show was indeed a huge success and we can only hope that the Clivia Club would invite us again in the future for such a combined show.


This is a relatively common Babiana from the Western Cape. It can still be found flowering in August and September from the Piketberg District in the north to as far south as Stellenbosch and as far east as Wellington. The flowers all face to one side and the flowers are usually dark blue or violet with dark spots near the base of the lower lobes.These plants were known as Babiana pulchra for many years but the name was changed to Babiana angustifolia, a name given to specimens as far back as 1827 by Sweet. Angustifolia means narrow leaves. One of our members from Midrand has reported a pure white specimen in her pot this year. It had not appeared in previous years.


There is a tall and spindly pink and white Asiatic thistle of the Genus Centourea which has over-run parts of Western USA killing off a lot of indigenous flora but not grasses and grass-like plants such as wheat. It exudes, through its roots, a poison called Catechin

(C15H14O6), a yellow soluble substance. It instantly makes and releases the poison at the slightest threat, even just tapping the leaves. The roots reject the poison, so preventing it from killing itself, although it dies if the Catechin is injected into the roots. There are apparently two forms of the poison, the killer form is known as Negative Catechin, the positive form kills disease spreading soil bacteria and is believed to retard ageing and helps to attack cancers. Efforts are being made to culture it for marketing.

Some years ago, in the IBSA Bulletin, we suggested that the white deposit found round some Spiloxene inhibits competing plant growth around dormant Spiloxene bulbs. But who reads and takes notice of the wilder speculations in the Bulletin?


After hearing how fantastic the Roggeveld and the Komsberg were towards the end of September from the 3 IBSA members who went on a trip there a few of us decided to go to Middelpos during the first week of October. We went to Middelpos via the Tankwa Karoo. Nobody drives through the Tankwa Karoo without stopping, and we made quite a few. The Tankwa was ablaze with colour. Most prolific was a small yellow Mesembryanthemum, which was also highly fragrant. Very few bulbous plants were seen in flower but we managed to collect seed of Ixia latifolia, Gladiolus venustus, Lapeirousia plicata and L. pyramidalis as well as Lachenalia zebrina. We were also able to collect the last remnants of seed of Moraea speciosa and Tritonia florentiae.

On the first day at Middelpos we visited the farm Uitkyk on the Quaggasfontein Road. What a gem! It is a natural amphitheatre surrounded by Karoo hills. The farm is very close to the escarpment and receives a relatively high rainfall. At Uitkyk there was a spectacle of grand abundance. We saw a huge field of pink Ixia brevituba mixed with a darker pink Oxalis - gaudy deluxe!! This area had been burnt in the last year and there were many more bulbous and cormous plants growing there. We saw a Wurmbea as well as an unidentified Lachenalia growing there as well. The Lachenalia had been shown to the Pros at Kirstenbosch in the past but they have not come up with a name as yet. Ixia marginifolia was growing on the edge of the burnt area. Also growing here was Geissorhiza heterostyla. When seen from a distance (more than 2 m) these plants look similar. The flowers are a light blue/mauve colour and they are about the same size and same height from the ground. They fooled us and must surely fool the pollinators too.

There were large wet areas on this farm and in these wet areas we saw fields of Bulbinella nutans. There yellow flowers were swaying in the wind. In these wet areas we also saw 2 different Romuleas that were new to us. We collected a few specimens and hope to have them identified. Blue Moraea ciliata was also very common on this farm.

We had lunch under a huge willow tree next to a tributary of the Bo-Vis River. It was extremely peaceful except for the female weaver bird that continually broke down the nest that the male had built for her. After lunch we were extremely fortunate to see a few specimens of Gladiolus marlothii, just coming into flower. These plants have hairy leaves and bright blue flowers, marked inside the tepals with red speckles and creamy blotches. The trip back to the hotel took us past the red Daubenyas and their companions, the red Romulea subfistulosa. There were enough of them in full bloom to enable us to take some photographs. We also visited the yellow Daubenya reserve, but they had finished flowering. The next day we went along Rooiwal Road. Here we saw Ixia thomasiae, Romulea alba and Romulea monadelpha in flower. Further along the road there were some spectacular Gladiolus splendens to be seen as well as some very dark forms of Gladiolus orchidiflorus. This is a trip well worth repeating next year.


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