Articles: BULB CHAT October 2003 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 May 2011 23:40



This heading has appeared in the last few Bulb Chats. Well, the symposium has now come and gone. I am not going to give you a complete rundown of everything that happened at the symposium, but would like to share some impressions with you.

The symposium started off on the wettest weekend of 2003. The Cape of Storms lived up to its name. We had 2 full days of talks and discussions about subjects ranging from the upkeep of a large collection of bulbous plants to the growing of Crinums and everything in between. We now know everything about Amaryllidaceae, Gethyllis, Oxalis and many other plants. Most of the talks were magnificently illustrated with slides of high quality. The display of potted plants drew the attention of all the delegates. Delegates were discussing Babianas, Lachenalias, Romuleas, Gladioli and many more. As usual the Gethyllis display attracted the attention of everybody. Many of our overseas delegates had never seen these plants and could not stop talking about the interesting leaf shapes and forms of the Gethyllis.

During the next three days there were trips to Swellendam, Hermanus and Worcester. These outings were tremendously enjoyed because it gave delegates the opportunity to mix and talk to other delegates, most of whom they had never seen or even heard of before the symposium. To me the lasting impression of this Symposium is the friendships that were made. Some of us had corresponded with each other for many years and had never been able to sit down and discuss our big love - bulbous and cormous plants. The symposium enabled us to do and live out what IBSA is all about - The sharing of information and knowledge. After the symposium the IBSA family is sure to be closer knit than before. That is the impression I want all delegates to have. We all belong to one huge family and the only way to keep the family together is to have occasions like these . Roll on the next symposium!

During the two weeks that followed the symposium many of the foreign delegates visited some of us to see our collections. We had hours of fun talking to them and showing them these collections. These foreign delegates are our connection with the rest of the world and I hope that we will soon see them back in South Africa, hopefully with more of their friends.


Gladiolus bullatus is one of the most difficult species of Gladiolus to grow successfully in pots.

Rossouw Malherbe, a quiet and soft-spoken member who lives near Paarl, has flowered a Gladiolus bullatus this year that he has grown from seed. We congratulate him on this fantastic achievement. Over the last 10 - 15 years we have sporadically heard of one or two growers who have managed to flower Gladiolus bullatus. We could never really check these reports and never saw a photo of a flowering Gladiolus bullatus in a pot. This latest reported flowering Gladiolus bullatus was actually seen by a few IBSA members and there is no doubting this report. We take our hats off to you, Rossouw. Well done.!!!

We are waiting on Rossouw to let us know all his trade secrets.


We have recently had some enquiries about this plant. The rootstock of Bulbine torta is tuberous. The plants have several wiry leaves that are normally tightly coiled in nature, but more loosely coiled in cultivation. The yellow or light-orange flowers have reflexed tepals and the stamens appear to be woolly. Bulbine torta flowers from August to October. It is found on sandstone outcrops from Namaqualand to the Olifants River Valley and the Cedarberg mountains. IBSA members have also seen it south of Middelpos along the road to Agterkop.

Early in October about a dozen plants were seen in flower at the foot of a south facing ridge between the Wolfberg Cracks and the Archway in the Cedarberg.


Some of our members are interested in developing hybrids as usable cultivars. It seems that there may be a way of producing truly lovely cultivars particularly of the genus Romulea and possibly other genera including those Moraeas that were previously known as Homerias. Most of you have probably read Mike Dash's splendid book Tulipomania. In it he relates the emergence in the late 18th century of Tulips of quite astounding variety and beauty. Tulips that have not, I believe, ever been reproduced. The basic method, though not understood by the contemporary growers, was by ' breaking ' an indigenous form and grafting or hybridizing it with an existing cultivar or hybrid. This was only discovered about 150 years later by the John Innes Institute and depended on contamination by the Mosaic Virus. It seems that the essential factors are an indigenous species that frequently displays a variety of colour forms and an easily hybridized species. Also, of course, access to Mosaic Virus. There are several Romulea that qualify for the first factor, notably R unifolia, R obscura and R flava. There are several which hybridize frequently in the wild, notably Romulea komsbergensis and R diversiformis. I suspect that others can be found in the common complexes like R tortuosa and R rosea. I also remember that erstwhile Homeria vallisbelli normally described as pale yellow but sometimes produces flowers with most striking and attractive bright darkish green wagon wheel markings. It might even be a source of the Mosaic Virus. Just a suggestion.


Johan Loubser, our Moraea expert, sent in the following:

The problem was that so few of my seeds resulted in flowering plants. I found that the main cause of the problem was that rain splashed the seeds out of the pots.

Eventually the solution was very simple. I took gauze, attached it to a frame and put it over the pots with seed. The gauze is available from hardware shops and the frame can be made from wood to a size to suit requirements. The gauze breaks both the size and the speed of the raindrops. I had spectacular success with several species, but I'll give one example: Hesperantha pauciflora. I got seed from Kirstenbosch two years ago, which resulted in two flowering plants. They produced plenty of seed that was sown under the protection of a gauze shield. I counted 60 seedlings. In fact, I have more seedlings of the seed protected by the gauze than I can cope with.

I also use the gauze to cover the holes in the bottom of the pots. A layer of coarse sand over it gives perfect drainage.


This extremely rare species is listed in the Color Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs. Unfortunately no photo accompanies the text. Well, the reason for the lack of a photograph is the fact that the authors of that magnificent book had not seen this Babiana until very recently. The text in the Encyclopedia states that it is a yellow flowering Babiana, with a zygomorphic flower and a longish ( 8 - 10 mm ) tube. The 6 to 7 leaves are similar in shape as the leaves of Babiana thunbergii, linear, plicate with 2 - 3 prominent veins. The leaves are dark green and not grey coloured as the leaves of Babiana thunbergii usually is. There are 4 - 8 bilabiate flowers on a spike and the flowers face the apex of the stem.

The text also states that it grows on the lower mountain slopes of the Nardouw Mountains. Joyce Lewis wrote in the Babiana handbook that these plants were only occasionally found, and then on the mountain slopes above the Olifants River. This is where the problem has started. According to Dr Peter Goldblatt he has searched for this plant along the base of the mountain and up the mountainside along the pass that goes up there. All to no avail.

During early August 2002, two IBSA members collected specimens of a Babiana in leaf ON TOP of the Nardouws Mountain. These Babianas flowered during September 2003, and Drs Goldblatt and Manning positively identified them as Babiana unguiculata. According to the records the last people to see and collect these plants were Stokoe, who made the Type collection, and Louis Leipoldt ( a Medical Man, a Poet/Writer and Naturalist and collector of plants in the Clanwilliam area.) On 17th of September2003 two of us went to the farm where the plants were collected in 2002. We found quite a few specimens in flower , and also many that were still coming into flower. A herbarium specimen was collected and labeled as IBSA No 1. We are now officially handing in herbarium specimens to the Compton Herbarium under IBSA's name. Babiana unguiculata was growing in close association with another rare endemic of that area, namely Haemanthus nortieri. Other bulbous plants seen growing in the same area included Gladiolus alatus, Gladiolus scullyi, Lachenalia mutabilis, Moraea macrocarpa, Ferraria ferrariola, another Ferraria species as well as a few Lapeirousias, not yet in flower ( ? L fabricii ). There was also another Babiana species that had not come into flower yet.


All three these species of Lachenalia were on show at the September meeting. Identification is always a problem because they all have white flowers with a bit of maroon in. The stamens of all three these species are normally included or just protruding beyond the tip of the perianth.

Pedicels of these species vary from being nearly totally absent to slightly longer than 2 mm. The following is my attempt at a key to separate these three species.

1 Leaves - one or usually two . Flowers at 45 degree angle to peduncle L. liliflora

1' Leaves - three or more

2 Leaves - grass-like, 6 to 10, channeled above, plain or with green or brown spots on

upper surface. Flowers oblong campanulate, facing slightly upwards . Stamens included. L. orthopetala

2' Leaves - grass-like, 4 to 7, semi-terete or slightly channeled above, green or maroon and can be erect or lie horizontally. Flowers campanulate to widely campanulate. Stamens included usually, but can be exserted. L. contaminata

As you can see Lachenalia liliflora is relatively easy to differentiate from the other two species. It usually has two lanceolate leaves, which are plain green and could be pustulate on the upper surface. The flowers are oblong campanulate. The outer perianth segments are white with a brownish gibbosity. The slightly longer inner segments are white with dark magenta tips. The pedicels are about 2mm long and the flowers face upwards.

Lachenalia orthopetala has up to 10 grass-like leaves. The leaves are channeled above and about 2 - 5 mm wide at the base. The oblong-campanulate flowers are white. The outer perianth segments each have a maroon gibbosity. The slightly longer inner segments have dark maroon markings at their tips.

Lachenalia contaminata is the smallest of the three species. It has 4 - 7 grass-like leaves. The leaves are semi-terete and slightly channeled above ( much less so than the leaves of

L. orthopetala ). Leaf colour varies between green and more often maroon. The dense inflorescence consists of white, campanulate to widely campanulate flowers. The outer perianth segments are white with a dark maroon or brown gibbosity. The inner perianth segments are slightly longer than the outer segments and have a dark maroon central stripe near the tips. As already mentioned, the stamens are usually included, but in some populations they are exserted.

I hope that this information will help in the identification of these three species of Lachenalia

that are often flowering in our pots at the same time during September and October.

To make matters worse Lachenalia zeyheri and even Lachenalia bachmannii could be added to this group of Lachenalias that are so similar. I have left them out of the equation because they were not represented at the September meeting.


At this meeting Dr John Manning gave us a talk on record keeping in collections. He stressed that meticulously kept records are helpful to Botanical science and that unfortunately the most impressive potted specimen with poor or no record attached to it is of very little value. I would like to quote from a textbook on Haworthias by Bruce Bayer : " Several overseas collectors built up good collections from which relatively little useful information has ever flowed. This, together with the failure of local collections to provide any permanent and reliable record, should be a clear indictment of collecting per se as a corollary of preservation and scientific record. A specimen without a locality record is a liability in taxonomy ". It is our duty to make sure that nobody can ever point fingers at us. Please keep records as meticulously as possible

because your collection is sure to outlive you.

At this meeting there were some exceptional specimens on display. Despite the poor rainfall that the Cape has had this year some members always succeed in showing high-class specimens. Many Lachenalia species were shown, including L. pustulata. unicolor, L. liliflora L. contaminata, L. orthopetala and L. mathewsii. The ' Best on Show ' for the September monthly meeting has to be the pot with a single Moraea gigandra in perfect condition. These plants are extremely rare in their natural habitat, which has been destroyed by wheat fields. They are/were found on clay soils between Piketberg and Porterville. The flowers are blue with darker blue nectar guides on the three large, outer tepals.


Andries de Villiers feels that as the editor when Bulb Chat was featuring the controversy over Moraea aristata tepal colour he would like to record the following : A few years ago he stopped growing corms in pots and transferred them into the garden, haphazardly because he wanted it to be over-full with a wide variety of colours and forms. This year two stems of Moraea aristata flowered with immaculate white tepals. Andries states that he has never been fond of Moraeas and that he has never had pots of Moraeas, nor can he remember ever growing Moraea aristata. If he had at any stage possibly grown Moraea aristata they most definitely never flowered. The soil in the garden is the natural sand of the Cape Flats with a thin overlay of local composted soil. While these two specimens probably originated from the pot line, the fact that Edgemead is part of what was once the floral inheritance of the Cape Peninsula, there is just the faintest chance that the two specimens are long dormant local residues, like the strong community of Gladiolus carinatus under the adjacent power lines.


SABONET is a magazine published by the NBI and distributed to all herbaria and botanical institutions world wide as well as to individuals on a subscription basis. In the March 2003 issue of SABONET the Color Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs ( a catch-penny title insisted upon by the Publisher ) was reviewed by some minor local botanical luminary who skillfully avoided any mention of a bulbous family, genus or species and who described it as a ' Fynbos book ' which it is not and has never claimed to be. The reviewer has perhaps noticed that the word

' Fynbos ' frequently occurs in environmental studies of the Cape and has dragged it in in order to provide a spurious suggestion that he has read more than just the title of the book. He advanced the utterly irrelevant statement that there are 24000 plant taxa in Southern Africa, a statement that could have no possible bearing on the substance of the book. He boasted that he reacted to the book with a yawn and a snore, a piece of collegial rudeness founded probably in professional jealousy. He is not, nor is ever likely to be, a Krukoff Curator like one of the co-authors or even a Herbert Medallist like another. He failed to recognise the considerable research that went into this, the first comprehensive study of the subject in more than a hundred years. He lacked the intellectual honesty to decline to review a book for which he was manifestly unsuited. The critique was a shoddy piece of impertinence.


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