Articles: BULB CHAT April 2003 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 May 2011 23:29



The genus Kniphofia is not extensively represented in the collections of IBSA members. At intervals a Kniphofia species would appear at the discussion tables at IBSA monthly meetings. Recently Kniphofia triangularis, bought from The Croft, flowered. The plant is growing in a 25 cm pot in a 50/50 compost/sand mixture. Kniphofia triangularis has narrow, grass-like leaves.

The flowers are pendulous and flower color ranges from coral-red to red-orange to orange-

yellow. Kniphofia triangularis is found in mountain grassland, often in peaty soil and on grassy slopes and other moist places. It is found in the Eastern Cape, KZN, Lesotho and the Orange Free State. This is one of the smaller kniphofias and ideally suited for cultivation in pots.

The genus Kniphofia was named in honour of Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof, a German professor of Medicine. Professor Kniphof was extremely interested in Botany and one of his best known works was entitled Botanica in Originali. It comprised 1200 botanical illustrations which were produced by a somewhat unique process, whereby dried plant specimens were coated with printer's ink and pressed on paper, resulting in a silhouette effect. This was an adaptation from a earlier method in which the plant specimens were blackened by holding them over the smoke of a candle or oil lamp; by placing these between sheets of paper and rubbing them down with a smoothing bone, the lamp-black was transferred to the paper. One of the illustrations depicts the species then known as Aloe uvaria which later became the type species of the genus Kniphofia.

Kniphofias belong to the Family Asphodelaceae. 45 species are recognized in South Africa. The subterranean part of the plant consists of a thick rhizome from which arise numerous fleshy roots. All species of Kniphofia have non-succulent leaves and this is a useful character for separating them from the closely related genus Aloe.

Other Kniphofias that would be suitable to grow in pots include Kniphofia sarmentosa, K uvaria,

K tabularis, K tysonii, K rooperi, K littoralis, K elegans and the very interesting K northiae. The seed of Kniphofia sarmentosa and K tysonii is available on the current IBSA mail order seed list.

Kniphofia northiae has broad leaves up to 1,5 m long and up to 12 cm broad. The leaves are shallowly channeled, arched and lack a distinct keel. The plant are normally solitary and huge, up to 1,7 m tall. The buds are usually pale red changing to creamy-white flowers. There is another colour form growing in Natal, in which the buds are orange-red to flame-red, changing to yellow as the flowers open.

Kniphofias hybridize readily when two or more species flower together in a garden. Beware when buying Kniphofia species from commercial nurseries. You might end up labeling hybrids as species.


This Brunsvigia was first described in 1951 as being different from Brunsvigia josephinae. Brunsvigia litoralis is found in coastal sand from Knysna to Port Elizabeth. It is one of the largest Brunsvigias with a large underground bulb, up to about 18 upright, greyish, smooth leaves and an umbel of deep red flowers with some yellow flecking. Brunsvigia litoralis differs from Bruns-

vigia josephinae because B litoralis has an underground bulb as opposed to a bulb that is nearly 50% exposed above ground level as well as the smaller proportions of the perianth, the shorter anthers and the leaves with a half twist near the apex. The name litoralis has been given because of the coastal habitat as opposed to the inland habitat of Brunsvigia josephinae. Bruns-

vigia litoralis, B. orientalis and B. josephinae are the three red flowering Brunsvigias adapted for bird pollination. These three species have curved pedicels for the sunbirds to sit on when looking for nectar and pollinating the flowers.

Brunsvigia litoralis will flower in cultivation if planted in deep sand. They flower at regular intervals ( 3 - 5 years ) when grown in the garden in the Western Cape. Flowering time is March.


The annual Kirstenbosch Garden Fair and Plant Sale was held on the weekend of 8-9 March 2003. Over the last few years the amount of bulbous and cormous species offered had declined dramatically. In my opinion there were a few special plants on offer.This included Aristea biflora, an extremely rare Aristea from the Caledon and Grayton areas. This evergreen, rhizomatous, clump forming plant has large lilac to purple flowers. It grows in loamy clay soil in the renosterveld and flowers from August to October. Aristeas are not commonly grown as potted specimens but this one would be worth the effort.

The next two interesting plants that were on offer belong to the interesting group called " the woody iridaceae" . These are in fact evergreen shrubs that have woody aerial stems. Nivenia corymbosa and Nivenia stokoei were on sale. Nivenia corymbosa has a deep blue, flat-topped inflorescence. Nivenia corymbosa occurs from Bains Kloof to near Tulbagh. It is always found close to water. It flowers in the late summer. The flowers only last one day and would normally be wilted by the next day. Nivenia corymbosa is pollinated by bees. The style, as well as the filaments, of Nivenia corymbosa can be of two different lengths. This leads to the term heterostylous - meaning styles of two different lengths. We also find this in Geissorhiza heterostyla from the Roggeveld.

Nivenia stokoei was named in honor of T.P. Stokoe who discovered many high-altitude plants during his long career as plant collector and mountaineer. Nivenia stokoei have pale to deep blue flowers, but the flowers are not heterostylous. It grows in nutrient-poor soil derived from sandstone. It is found from Bettys Bay and Kleinmond at sea level to the mountains near Caledon. It would be worth the effort to try and grow these interesting plants. Keep them moist all year round and keep them under 50% shade for success.

Some of the other interesting corms available included a few different Watsonias with Watsonia coccinea, Watsonia humilis and Watsonia hysterantha of particular interest. Watsonia hysterantha is an extremely rare watsonia from the Saldanha Bay area where it grows on granite outcrops. It flowers in early Winter before the leaves had developed. This Watsonia was on the front cover of Veld & Flora of September 2002. In that issue Graham Duncan describes ten Watsonias suitable for cultivation in containers. It is well worth reading his article.


According to Graham Duncan in the Kirstenbosch Gardening Series publication on the growing of Nerines Nerine pusilla is an extremely rarely collected Nerine and completely unknown in cultivation. At the January monthly meeting one of our members showed his pot of Nerine pusilla which was flowering for the first time. The natural distribution of this Nerine is in the eastern as well as the western parts of Namibia. It flowers during December and January, depending on the rainfall. The flowers are white or pale pink, with darker, central keels. Considering the area that it comes from and the erratic rainfall that it gets in its natural habitat it would be advisable to grow Nerine pusilla in well drained sandy soil and to give it occasional heavy waterings during the summer growing period.


No, this is not what some members suffer from because they do not like Lachenalias. This is in actual fact a Contact Dermatitis ( a type of eczema ) that some members suffer from when they touch the bulbs of Lachenalias. There is a crystal in dry Lachenalia bulbs that causes this allergic reaction. Luckily, only a few unfortunate people respond this way. The allergic reaction could vary from only a mild skin irritation with itching to a more severe reaction with severe itching, swollen eyes and even urticaria (hives). As in all aspects of life there are always those people who take everything to the extreme - when it comes to allergic reactions nothing is more extreme than death. Please take care when handling your Lachenalia bulbs.


In our last issue we wrote that Gladiolus scabridus is the only Gladiolus in which extra-floral nectar is produced. We were wrong. It also occurs in Gladiolus pole-evansii.This phenomenon is known as guttation which the dictionary describes as loss of water from the surfaces of a plant in the form of liquid drops rather than vapour. Dr Manning observed very large ants on the G. pole-evansii. It has been suggested that this is a method of relieving the plant of excess water. It is also suggested that it is intended to attract ants as deterrent to herbivores and nectar robbers. G pole-evansii and G scabridus are in different sections according to Goldblatt and Manning. Gladiolus pole-evansii belongs to Section Ophiolyza : Series Oppositiflorus and Gladiolus scabridus belongs to Section Densiflorus : Series Scabridus . It therefore seems unlikely that the characteristic of guttation implies any closer relationship.

If the ant theory is correct we are back at the risk of imputing intent which many people deny is an attribute of plants. Members should look out for guttation in other bulbous plants and report it to Bulb Chat.


We have been advised by Goudini Spa, the location for the Symposium, that they do not need final figures before the end of June 2003. We have therefore been able to extend the closing date for bookings to the end of May. During June we will make the final bookings and pay over all the monies owed to Goudini Spa. This means that you have more time to book if you have not done so yet. Most of the speakers have confirmed their participation. We are extremely thankful for the large amount of overseas members who are going to come and join us. This is surely going to be the biggest IBSA event ever! If you want to book please contact our new Secretary, Chris Schultz at the normal IBSA address.


A plant, which is claimed to be only the sixth new genus discovered in Britain and North America in the last 100 years, has been published 12 years after discovery. Those years have been taken up with " scientific checks and a nation wide search for other colonies". It is a groundsel found in the City of York. It is thought to be a natural hybrid between the Common Groundsel and the Oxford Ragwort, itself a colonist from the Isles of Sicily in the early 1800s.So perhaps we should not be impatient when some of our new species discoveries are not published as soon as we would like.


Following on on the theme of sharing information, the following is an extract from a letter written by Andries de Villiers in about 1998 to the current Editor of Bulb Chat.

Syringodea pulchella : Flowers in March and April. Between Middelburg and Graaff Reinet and

on the Middelburg - Somerset East plateau.

Syringodea concolor : Widespread from Prieska to Victoria West and from Colesburg to

Queenstown. Also found near Grahamstown.

Syringodea bifurcata : Widespread from Colesburg to Stutterheim and Willowmore. Also found

near Grahamstown.

Syringodea flanaganii : Found between Port Elizabeth and Stutterheim.

Syringodea derustensis : Very local on a stony koppie on the farm Drinkrivier near De Rust,

north of Oudtshoorn.

These are some of the Syringodeas found in the Karoo, if we can call Port Elizabeth the Karoo.


Haemanthus canaliculatus was seen in flower near Betty's Bay on the 21st of March 2003. The area where it was seen to flower had burnt in the preceding months. This Haemanthus is known to only flower after summer fires. It was first collected after a fire in 1943 and then not seen again until 1960. Thereafter it was seen in 1970 and 1982. Since 1992 it has been seen in flower more often. This is the fourth time that I have seen it flowering since 1992.

If we stick to the theory that this Haemanthus flowers after fire had cleared the area as well as the dense Fynbos covering the plants we could argue that it is the reason for suddenly seeing them flowering at shorter intervals. With so many fires raging through that area over the last ten years we have come to a situation of "permanent" clearing. It is now taking longer for the surrounding Fynbos to recover from the fires. The question that now arises is the following : could these plants keep on flowering year after year? The bulb of Haemanthus canaliculatus is made up of loose, fleshy tunics. Not the biggest and most awe inspiring bulbs in the genus Haemanthus. In fact, the have some of the smaller bulbs in this genus. Do these bulbs need a rest period of more than one year before they can flower again?

Haemanthus coccineus and H. sanguineus are the only other Haemanthus species found in areas of Fynbos where fires frequently occur. They occupy more open stands and flower regularly, although particularly good displays are seen after summer fires. If you look at the size of the bulbs of these two species you will find that they are at the top of the range when it comes to bulb size in the genus Haemanthus.


At the AGM at the end of February Gordon Summerfield exhibited a pot of Nerine gracilis. This species is not common in cultivation but judging from what Gordon's pot looked like it could become extremely desirable. The pale pink flowers are cup-shaped and upright.

Nerine gracilis occurs in Mpumalanga and the eastern parts of Gauteng. In the past it grew in large colonies but most of these have now disappeared due to excessive overgrazing. Flowering time is during February and flowering is spectacular during wet years.


At the monthly meeting at the end of March, Robin Jangle gave us some of his ideas about the direction IBSA is moving in as well as the direction he thinks IBSA should be moving in. Some thought provoking ideas were put forward.

Sharing of information as well as plant material is an ideal we should all embrace. Major strides in this direction have been made since the early nineties. The discussions around the table of exhibits are open to everyone and the idea is to get as much information from the growers of the exhibits as possible. IBSA has also started going on organized outings to see rare plants in their natural habitat. Nobody is excluded from these trips and we find it a great forum to teach members the ethic of CONSERVATION.

The amount of seed available at the AGM is increasing every year. There were more than 200 different species available this year. The mail-order list for members who could not be at the meeting also consists of more species than ever before. All members can now share in the seed that becomes available. A huge THANK YOU must go to everybody who shared some of their seed.

At the discussion table we had many magnificent pots of Nerines. There were Nerine filifolia, the normal pink as well as white specimens. There was more than one pot of Nerine sarniensis. The consensus was that to get them to flower successfully the pots had to be kept totally dry during the resting season. Carol Turnley-Jones had a magnificent pot of Nerine rehmannii. The bulbs originally came from Charles Craib, about 5 years ago as seedlings. Nerine humilis was also on show. These were some of the smaller-flowering specimens that are found on Du Toit's Kloof. In the past they were known as Nerine humilis var tulbaghensis or also as Nerine tulbaghensis.


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