Articles: BULB CHAT April 2010 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 May 2011 23:43

BULB CHAT April 2010 No: 73

Our wonderful country

Week Two in the Eastern Cape

by Rhoda McMaster

To pick up from the first instalment: we had booked a tour with Adele Moore at Maclear on her Orchid Trail. Because we were short of time, we didn't do the hike, but went up into the mountains in vehicles. Adele's enthusiasm and the rewarding sights made for an exceptional day. We saw well over 15 different orchids in the Maclear district, but what was an unexpected bonus was a large field of Protea dracomontana in full flower, with colours ranging from dark deep pink to almost white, each more photogenic than the next. On the road outside Maclear, another stunning flower was Pachycarpus campanulatus (Asclepidaceae), with large hanging bells, also in perfect condition, that had us all lying just about flat on our backs trying to get the best shot.

The bulbs were in the minority - Gladiolus inandensis, Dierama reynoldsii, Oxalis obliquifolia and, in my opinion, the most attractive of the Hypoxis species, H. costata with its brown fuzzy-edged leaves. Cameron spotted a beautiful trio of flowers: deep pink Hypoxis baurii, bright yellow Hypoxis argentea, and a salmon-pink hybrid between the two (see photo on the web-site) parentage confirmed by Dr Snijman of the Compton Herbarium.

Eriospermums can be fascinating! Cameron McMaster

Most of us don't see, or either overlook or ignore Eriospermums. Pay a little attention to them and they can be fascinating. There are a number of species in seed on the Napier commonage at present. They were hard to see when in flower the tiny white insignificant flowers appearing in neat panicles in summer, but when the seed ripens and pops open in a cottony ball, they are easy to see dotted all over the veld. As winter sets in the single leaves of our commonage species emerge and develop into large spectacular saucer-shaped leaves almost flat on the ground.

However Eriospermums can be very varied, some with bizarre-shaped leaves. Over 100 species have so far been recorded. Most are hysteranthous (they flower before the leaves develop). In the course of one of my regular walks in the mountain behind Napier last week I noticed some small pretty yellow flowers on thin wire-like stems, popping out from groups of short sword-shaped leaves nestled in cracks in the rock shelves on the steep fynbos covered mountain slope. Some leaves were green and others dried off. I suspected they might be Eriospermum. On closer examination I discovered the flower stems and leaves were emerging from large potato-like tubers. Checking our Eriospermum Revision by Pauline Perry (Contributions from the Bolus Herbarium No. 17), Rhoda determined it to be Eriospermum schlechteri Baker, confirmed later by John Manning, who was pleased to get a pressed specimen from a new locality. The Napier record is a considerable extension of range.

On nearly every occasion I walk in the veld around Napier I find a plant or two I had not yet seen. These regular discoveries make my excursions so exciting. So when next you might be in the veld, be observant. Look out for even insignificant species such as Eriospermums. They can be fascinating and will hook you in no time.

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Discussion on Growing Seed at the March meeting

by Alan Horstmann

Growing medium: Recommended was a soil mixture of 75% sand and 25% sifted compost. Commercial seedling mixes require coarse sand to be added.

SIFT the compost & put only the finest material in the pot.

Sand : No. 1, obtained from Consul Glass factory has the most uniform size of particle

Or "Coarse River sand", bought from a nursery.

Sow seeds LATER, rather than earlier, i.e. towards the END of April. Most winter-growing corms need the cycling temp drop of cool nights to come out of dormancy.

40% shade is optimal, with protection from heavy rains

Dymo stickers are the most reliable identification for pots.

Have a watering schedule eg. group Nerines & Cyrtanthus from summer rainfall areas together, & water accordingly. Keep germinating seeds moist with a fine mist.

Allan Hill told us that corms need MORE water than bulbs, e.g. Gladiolus need more water than Lachenalias. Be careful NOT to give too much water to Lachenalias, which have their leaves ON the ground, as the leaves will rot when too damp.

Feeding : Feed 3 times a year: first, after the growth has started, i.e. in May, then at the end of June & finally towards the end of August ( for Spring flowering bulbs in the Cape). f Higher amounts of potassium result in larger flowers developing. If more nitrogen is given, bigger leaves are produced.

Remember: Very diluted solutions are required; geophytes are adapted to nutrient-poor soils.

"Bounce Back" organic fertiliser can be dissolved in water & then given to the plants.

Allan Hill recommends 3:1:5 fertiliser.

Pests : for Amaryllis caterpillar the pesticide Ripcord or Clorperifos is effective, but it is dangerous !

Babiana corms want to "go deep" ........so plant in a deeper pot.

NB: The summer species are usually sown in spring, but certain species need to be sown within a few weeks for best results, such as Agapanthus, Cyrtanthus, Ledebouria and Scilla. The fleshy seeds of the Amaryllidaceae, such as Brunsvigia and Nerine, are also sown within weeks, but they can be left in the envelope or in a box until the first root emerges, to facilitate planting and germination. These fleshy seeds should be pressed into the soil, leaving the top of the seed showing above ground. If seeds need to be kept for a while, keep them in the refrigerator to prolong viability.

Propagation: Some species of Lachenalia, Eucomis and Haemanthus will form bulbils on the cut edge of a leaf that has been placed in sand and kept just slightly damp.

Drainage is very important. Sift the sand & put the coarsest sand at the bottom of the pot.

Fanie Avenant successfully grows seedlings in bulk in sheep feeding tubs! (See photo below)

Seedlings seem to be doing ok in sheep feeding tubs.

Albuca spiralis in Victoria West by Fanie Avenant

Readers who have come across Albucas in the wild would probably not have been impressed by these plants but I find Albuca spiralis which grows in the Victoria West area very interesting with its coiled leaves resembling the springs of a watch. It is a member of the Hyacinthaceae family and is more commonly represented here by flat leafed examples such as Massonia depressa and M. pustulata and is closely related to the Ornithogalums or chinkerinchees. The most recognisable feature of this genus is the flower of which the three external petals extend at 45 degrees from the stem whilst the three internal ones form a tube. The flowers are usually white or pale yellow with a prominent green stripe through the length of each external petal. These flowers hang downwards like bells in A. spiralis but in other species may point outwards or even upwards. The plant reaches a height of about 15 cm.

Propagation of this plant is by seed as bulb division does not take place. Flowering time is during February and March and seed can be planted immediately thereafter, preferably in a pot under controlled conditions. Plants reach their flowering stage after about three years. The charm of A. spiralis lies in its beautifully coiled leaves and, whilst there is very little interest in the plant locally, readers will be surprised to see on the internet how sought after it is by American and Japanese collectors. The lack of local interest might be a disguised blessing because overcollection might soon lead to the extinction of this little plant which is never plentiful in the wild.

A Preliminary Enquiry of Interest: Tour to Sutherland Observatory

Professor Brian Warner is willing to lead an excursion in the spring to Sutherland, with a stop-over at the fascinating hamlet of Matjiesfontein for a talk on Karoo geology (which is related to the plants growing in the area) and history of the area. Accommodation would be at the Sutherland Hotel.

Professor Warner would conduct a tour of the Observatory at Sutherland, to be followed by a three-course dinner at the hotel. Then a return visit to the Observatory for viewing the brilliant night sky through the visitor telescopes if the weather permits. Viewing is only possible through the two dedicated visitor telescopes (16" and 14"). Note that visitors cannot visit any of the research telescopes at night.

On Sunday morning after breakfast, you are free to then proceed to the Middelpos and other areas to view flowering bulbs.

Brian Warner is an Emeritus Distinguished Professor and Emeritus Professor of Natural Philosophy (BSc (Hons) PhD DSc London MA DSc Oxon Assoc.RAS FRSSAf MASSAf). He has a long and illustrious career in astronomy at UCT where he was Head of the Astronomy Department before his retirement. He remains an active researcher and respected scholar world-wide. He recently gave a very informative and erudite talk to IBSA on Sir John Herschel, his botanizing and painting of the flora of the Cape, and his influence on Charles Darwin during his visit to Cape Town.

Please note: This tour may be feasible after the Symposium in 2011.

Do email me if you are interested, and we can pursue the matter with Prof Warner.

Note from Erika Watson: The Library

Seeing that we are continuing to meet at Huis der Nederlanden, the IBSA library will once again be available at the next meeting. So DO come & look at which books you might like to borrow. You may keep them for a month. This is a valuable resource, which should be utilized.

Remember this wise Chinese saying.......... "you never open a book ( or perhaps a "Veld & Flora" magazine), but you LEARN something new.............! "

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Quote from Steve Jones' book: "Almost Like a Whale" Submitted by Marion Went

"A celebrated Chinese encylopaedia of the tenth century classifies plants and animals as follows:

a) those that belong to the Emperor

b) embalmed ones

c) those that are trained

d) suckling pigs

e) mermaids

f) fabulous ones

g) stray dogs

h) those that are included in this classification

i) those that tremble as if they were mad

j) innumerable ones

k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush

l) others

m) those that have just broken a flower vase

n) those that resemble flies from a distance."

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