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- Yellow Rain Lilies

Yellow Rain Lilies

Yellow flowered rain lilies occurring in the U.S.A.

There are several more-or-less yellow flowered rain lilies in the U.S.A. Besides Habranthus tubispathus, better known in the past as "Habranthus texanus," there is Habranthus longifolius (formerly known as Zepyranthes longifolia), the exotic Zephyranthes citrina, and the group of interesting and inter-related Texas plants: Zephyranthes pulchella, jonesii, refugiensis, and smallii.

Habranthus tubispathus is a very wide-ranged species, found from Texas to Argentina. There are numerous local forms of it in Brazil and Argentina. The plant is small as is the flower. The dull green leaves are about 4 mm wide, apearing after the flowers have opened. The golden yellow flower has red veins on the outside surfaces of the tepals. The basal portions of the outside of the tepals usually have the red, purple, or bronze coloring like the veins. Alberto Castello of Argentina has pointed out to me that the three lobes of the stigma distinguish this species from most other rain lilies. They are characteristized by a fringed appearance, having a unique "ostrich feather" or spirally twisted form, and they are not filiforn or cylindrical as in the other species. The key is their resembling a feather with a twist. For its chromosomes, 2n=24.

This species was probably brought to Texas from South America by the early Spanish but now seems to be naturalized. Thad Howard discussed the discontinuous ranges of this species and of Zephyranthes drummondii, both found in Texas and in Brazil and Argentina.

Habranthus tubispathus (c) copyright by Ina Crossley.  Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Habranthus tubispathus

Habranthus longifolius used to be known as Zephyranthes longifolia. It is native to West Texas, southern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and adjoining parts of Mexico. The leaves are dull green and 1 to 2 mm wide. The light yellow flower is funnel shaped, with the tube green. The flower is held slightly inclined to erect. The stigma is trifid and usually at the level of the anthers. Chromosomes: 2n=24.

This species, like H. tubispathus, is yellow and has a trifid stigma. The flower of longifolius is uniformly light yellow, the stigma is not feathery, and the peduncle tends to be longer than that of tubispathus. This species differs from citrina in having the trifid stigma, while citrina has a capitate stigma. H. longifolius is not common in cultivation.

Habranthus longifolius (c)  copyright 2014 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Habranthus longifolius

Zephyranthes citrina is thought to have originated in Central America, but it has been found in many parts of the world where rain lilies are definitely not native. The leaves are dull green and up to 4 mm wide. The flower is lemon yellow and funnel shaped. The stamens are of two distinctly different lengths. The tube is green and tapered, widening as it meets the tepals. The stigma is capitate and is usually at or just below the level of the anthers, and never more than 1 mm above them. Chromosomes: 2n=48. I don't have a picture of this species yet.

Zephyranthes pulchella is another small cadmium yellow flower. The stigma is capitate and held at about the same level as the anthers. The dull green leaves are up to 3 mm wide. This species is native to southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. 2n=48.

One distinguishes between this species and the following species by the relative lengths of their floral tubes (the basal portion of the perigone where the tepals are all fused into one tubular structure), the tepals themselves, and the filaments. At the moment I do not have a picture of Z. pulchella.

In pulchella, the floral tube is green and less than 1/4 the perianth length and only about half the length of the filaments. Rather than being purely cylindrical, the floral tube increases in diameter as it rises to meet the tepals.

Zephyranthes jonesii is the first of three species that are considered to have arisen from hybridization of Z. pulchella with Z. chlorosolen. It is found only in one small area in coastal Texas. The leaves are dull green, up to about 3 or 4 mm in width. The pale lemon yellow flower is salverform to funnelform. The tube is yellow with some green and longer than the spathe. The style is longer than the floral tube and the stigma is capitate. 2n=48, 72.

It is distinguished by having the perianth tube about 7 or more times the length of the filaments.

Zephyranthes joensii (c) copyright by Ina Crossley.  Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Zephyranthes jonesii

Zephyranthes refugiensis is thought to be the result of a back cross of a hybrid parent (pulchella x chlorosolen) onto pulchella. The leaves are dull green, up to 4 mm wide. The funnel-shaped flower is held erect, and the color is a dark lemon yellow. The perianth tube is green. 2n=46, 48. We have no picture of Z. refugiensis. While jonesii and smallii are in many rain lily collections, refugiensis seems to be much rarer in cultivation.

Zephyranthes smallii, the third species resulting from a natural hybridization, occurs only in and around Brownsville, Texas. It is thought to have become extinct in the wild, since the region where it occurs has undergone major commercial development. Z. smallii is also thought to be from a hybrid between pulchella and chlorosolen. 2n=53, 54, 58, 70, 72.

The leaves are 5 mm wide. The lemon yellow flower is held erect. The cylindrical perianth tube is shorter than the spathe and 3 to 5 times as long as the filaments. The stigma is capitate.

Zephyranthes smallii (c) copyright by Ina Crossley.  Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Zephyranthes smallii from Ina Crossley

When we start to consider the rain lilies from outside the U.S.A., the number of species explodes. There are approxiamtely 175 know species of Habranthus and Zephyranthes, and many of them are rare and not well known even to botanists. The coverage will therefore be limited to species that are in cultivation (at least by serious bulb collectors) and about which at least something is known.

Good sources for information on rain lilies, which I have drawn heavily upon, are these:

  • R. Flagg, G. Smith, and W. Flory, "Flora of North America," vol. 26, pp. 281-282 and 296-303 (2002).
  • Scott Ogden, "Garden Bulbs for the South," Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, Texas (1994).
  • T. M. Howard, "Bulbs for Warm Climates," University of Texas Press (2001).
  • Pacific Bulb Society's Images Wiki

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Pink Rain Lilies

Pink Rain Lilies

Pink flowered rain lilies occurring in the U.S.A.

The pink rain lilies are all exotics, and if you see any in the wild in the U.S.A., they have escaped from cultivation. Species that you could expect to encounter in Southern and Southwestern gardens might include Habranthus brachyandrus, Habranthus robustus, Zephyranthes grandiflora, Zephyranthes macrosiphon, and Zephyranthes rosea.

Habranthus brachyandrus has a large flower of variable size, but it tends not to open very wide, appearing almost tubular sometimes. The uniquely recognizable characteristic is the rich red-purple base and heart of the flower below the lavender-pink tepals. This species is native to Paraguay and northern Argentina, but is often seen in cultivation. According to Thad Howard, brachyandrus hybridizes easily with H. robustus, and the hybrids have been given the name Habranthus x-floryi.

Habranthus brachyandrus (c) copyright by Ina Crossley.  Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Habranthus brachyandrus from Ina Crossley

Habranthus robustus is pink with a green throat. The stigma is held about a centimeter above the anthers, which are held in Habranthus-like posture, at an angle to the filament. The leaves are dull green and up to 18 mm (3/4 inch) wide. The flower is usually not as large as that of brachyandrus but opens more fully, with the tepal tips spreading. H. robustus is native to Brazil and northeastern Argentina. 2n=12.

Habranthus robustus Hidalgo (c) copyright by Ina Crossley.  Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Habranthus robustus, form from Hidalgo

Habranthus robustus (c) copyright by Ina Crossley.  Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Habranthus robustus, form with lot of white

Zephyranthes grandiflora is rather similar to H. robustus in general appearance, but the anthers are held in Zephyranthes posture, erect and parallel to the filaments, and the long style extends well beyond the anthers and flops over to lay on the tepals. The cultivated form with the name "grandiflora" is mostly not fertile. The wild species with the name minuta is however fertile. The two names probably refer to just one species, which is native from Mexico to Guatemala. 2n=48.

Zephyranthes grandiflora (c) copyright by Ina Crossley.  Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Zephyranthes grandiflora from Ina Crossley

Zephyranthes macrosiphon is not so commonly encountered in cultivation. It resembles grandiflora, but the style is shorter and the stigma is carried lower, at the level of the anthers. The anthers are incurved. Z. macrosiphon is native to northeastern Mexico, in the states of Hidalgo and San Luis Potosi. 2n=48.

Zephyranthes rosea has the tepal tips not reflexed. The filaments are rather short, less than 8 mm ( 1/3 inch) and form two sets, one slightly shorter than the other. Feral in parts of Florida, but native from Colombia to Peru. It is reported that most of the plants in cultivation under the name Zephyranthes rosea are other pink species and hybrids. The flower is much smaller than that of Z. grandiflora. Incidentally, Scott Ogden says Z. rosea is from Cuba, but Kew says it is from Colombia and Peru. 2n=24.

Good sources for information on rain lilies, which I have drawn heavily upon, are these:

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- White Rain Lilies

White Rain Lilies

White flowered rain lilies occurring in the U.S.A.

Zephyranthes atamasca (or atamasco) has bright green leaves up to 8 mm (1/3 inch) wide. The flowers are funnel shaped and white, sometimes with pink tinge or veins. The tepals (i.e., petals and sepals) are usually reflexed. The floral tube is green and 1 – 2 cm long, no more than ¼ the perianth length and only about ½ the filament length. The filaments are all the same length. The style extends at least 2 mm (ca. 1/10 inch) beyond the anthers. Pedicel length is variable, sometimes absent. The spathe is about 2 to 3 cm long.

It flowers in mid-winter to spring in habitat, and ranges from Mississippi and Alabama to Virginia and Maryland. It tends to grow in moist areas. I water and feed it heavily in late winter through summer, then water it only moderately in autumn and early winter.

Zephyranthes atamasca (c) copyright 2014 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Zephyranthes atamasca
Note the trifid stigma extending somewhat beyond the anthers.

Z. atamasca can be distinguished from simpsonii by the length of the style, as the stigma is at the level of or below the anthers in simpsonii but at least slightly above the anthers in atamasca and ssp. treatiae. In simpsonii the floral tube is 1/3 or more the length of the perianth; in atamasca, the tube is 1/4 or less the length of the perianth. All these species have the stigma trifid (3-lobed). Z. candida is also white and naturalized in this region, but it has a capitate stigma – one rounded knob, not three parts or lobes. All of the white flowered species found in the U.S.A. can have pink coloration or be completely pinkish, and this becomes more pronounced as the flower ages.

Another white species found in the same general region is drummondii, which flowers in summer. The tepals are usually not reflexed. The flower is funnel shaped and 6 - 9 cm across. It has the stigma, which is trifid, down in the floral tube. The floral tube is white to green and 3 - 4 cm long. The filaments are of different lengths. Z. drummondii occurs in Mexico and Texas and may be natural or introduced in the Southeastern States. The leaves of drummondii are distinctly wide, up to 8 mm across, and glaucous, having a gray-green color.

Z. atamasca has 2n=24 chromosomes as does its subspecies treatiae. Z. simpsonii has 2n=48. In the greenhouse, both species readily produce seeds when hand-pollinated. Z. drummondii can have 2n=48 or 72; it is abundantly fertile, producing seeds apomictically. Z. candida has 2n=38 and the forms in cultivation or escaped from cultivation are often sterile; fertile populations of candida are reported in the wild in the native habitat.

Zephyranthes chlorosolen is native to Mexico and Texas, extending northward into Oklahoma and even Kansas. The plant and flower are noticeably smaller than Z. drummondii. Z. chlorosolen is separated from the other white species in the U.S.A. by its long floral tube. The floral tube is longer than the spathe and longer than the filaments. The stigma is capitate (a single knob) and is held at the same level as the anthers. Z. chlorosolen has 2n=48, 60, 68, or 72 chromosomes. The leaves are dull green and about 5 mm (less than ¼ inch) wide.

Z. candida is native to South America but has been introduced widely into the U.S.A. from Texas to Florida and up into North Carolina. The rounded flower is 3 - 4 cm across and occurs in summer to autumn. The tepals are never reflexed. The stigma is capitate (a single knob) and occurs at about the same level as the anthers. The leaves are narrow, only 3 mm (1/8 inch) wide and glossy dark green. If you line up chlorosolen, candida, and drummondii side by side, they are easily told apart by their leaves alone, even if not in bloom. When you set out to identify a rain lily, you need to consider the leaves as much as you consider the flowers.

Z. chlorosolen, Z. drummondii, and Z. candida seem to be pass-along plants, common in gardens and easily shared in parts of the country where they can grow. Even in Indiana, Z. drummondii self-seeds in my larger pots, especially with lantana and Chinese hibiscus trees, which winter over inside a greenhouse. For the first-time grower of rain lilies, I recommend Zephyranthes drummondii very highly; it gets plenty of water and sunshine in summer and a little water regularly in winter.

A much less well-known white species from the U.S.A. is Zephyranthes traubii. It is found in Coastal Texas. This white flower has a capitate (single knob) stigma that extends slightly above the anthers. The flower is salverform (dinner-plate like, atop a narrow tube). The leaves are narrow, almost thread-like at 1 mm wide. I am just starting to grow this species, from seeds; I haven't seen it bloom yet myself. 2n=24. This species differs from Z. chlorosolen in flowering from a smaller bulb but producing a larger flower, and the traubii flower opens flatter. Z. traubii also has narrower leaves than chlorosolen.

I have to admit that I have long considered Z. chlorosolen and Z. drummondii to be so commonplace that I have not bothered to take any pictures of them in the last 20 years or more. I think I will have to work on my gallery of rain lily pictures in the coming years.

Zephyranthes drummondii (c) 2014 by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Zephyranthes drummondii, from Ina Crossley.
Note that stigma is not visible.

Zephyranthes candida (c) 2014 by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Zephyranthes candida, from Ina Crossley.

Copyright by Ina Crossley. Reproduced by permission.
Zephyranthes candida close up, from Ina Crossley.
Note the capitate stigma clearly visible above the anthers.

Good sources for information on rain lilies, which I have drawn heavily upon, are these:

  • R. Flagg, G. Smith, and W. Flory, "Flora of North America," vol. 26, pp. 281-282 and 296-303 (2002).
  • T. M. Howard, "Bulbs for Warm Climates," University of Texas Press (2001).
  • Pacific Bulb Society's Images Wiki

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Rain Lilies

Rain Lilies: A Project

After a long hiatus, I'm returning to this blog. As noted in the previous entry in July, after a much longer period of neglect, I am working on rejuvenating my collection of rain lilies. Thanks to some swapping and some generous gifts, I am raising quite a few species of rain lily that are quite new to me.

In looking through the Kew on-line database called the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, I found that there are somewhere around 175 accepted species names in Habranthus and Zephyranthes together. Many of them are very rare or obscure, known from a very limited range. Some of these, even after going through the taxonomic sieve of the Kew checklist, are likely to really be the same thing as older named species. My goal is going to be to tabulate the orignal descriptions of as many of these ca. 175 names as possible, and to get actual plants (seeds or bulbs) of as many of the species as is practicable.

On the basis of some recent DNA work by Alan Meerow and his collaborators*, it looks as if the rain lilies might be a complicated group for which to get precise relationships drawn. Dr. Meerow suggests that there is a good chance that there has been reticulation (hybridizing) in the ancestory of the groups. For instance, in one analysis, Zephyranthes filifolia seems to group with Habranthus and Sprekelia, well separated from the rest of Zephyranthes. In that same analysis, Rhodophiala seems to break down into perhaps three distinct groups, not closely related to each other -- it is polyphyletic. This is one good reason for me not to delve too deeply into Rhodophiala; another is that I have a very hard time growing the various members of this genus other than R. bifidia. I will limit my rain lily project to Habranthus and Zephyranthes, including groups subsumed into them such as Cooperia and Haylockia. I'm not sure where Pyrolirion stands in this; it too may be polyphletic.

Looked at broadly, without too much concern for details of DNA sequences, there are three main groups that concern me: the species native to the Southeastern United States, those native to Texas and Mexico, and those found in South America, especially in Argentina and Brazil.

Hybridization is well known in the rain lilies as a source of new species. Both Zephyranthes jonesii and Z. smallii are the result of hybridizations long past between Z. pulchella and Z. chlorosolen. The parental species are various polyploids, above the basic diploid number of 2n=24, so the daughter species have a range of odd and unusual chromosome counts as well. It is thought that Z. refugiensis probably arose from a hybrid between Z. pulchella and Z. jonesii. All these species are predominantly apomictic in their mode of reproduction, but it takes no stretch of the imagination to conceive of other crosses between Zephyranthes and Habranthus also giving rise to new species. Back crosses would then tend to disguise the original intergeneric hybrid in the ancestry.

An example of a very rare rain lily is Zephyranthes guatemalensis.

Zephyranthes guatemalensis (c) 2014 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Zephyranthes guatemalensis

This species makes seeds that are mostly infertile. It's flower when open fully is one of the largest among rain lilies, being about 10 cm or 4 inches across the face.


I note that the accepted name for what I referred to previously as Zephyranthes longifolia is now Habranthus longifolius. Z. longifolia, requiescat in pace.

*"Convergence or Reticulation? Mosaic Evolution in the Canalized American Amaryllidaceae" by Alan W. Meerow, in "Diversity, Phylogeny, and Evolution in the Monocotyledons," Seberg, Petersen, Barfod, & Davis, eds. Aarhus University Press, Denmark, 2010.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Summer Blooms

We are in a cool, rainy spell, at the same time that the Western U.S. is enveloped in a massive heat wave. After last year's heat wave in this part of the country, I am happy to settle for the cool weather. What is less certainly positive is its possible effects on my potted plants.

Rain Lilies

After a long period of neglect, my rain lily collection is getting some rejuvenation and encouragement. I had blooms on Zephyranthes atamasco and Z. simpsonii already a month ago. More recently, Z. guatemalensis bloomed and set seed, for I think the first time since I got it a decade or more ago. Habranthus tubispathus has bloomed, set seed, and is starting to bloom again. Now, Zephyranthes longifolia is starting to bloom.

Zephyranthes longifolia is native to West Texas, a hot a dry place. The leaves are narrow, 1 to 2 mm wide (0.04 to 0.08 inch), and there are about 4 leaves per bulb. The flower is light yellow and appears in summer when the bulbs are given plenty of water.

Zephyranthes longifolia (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Zephyranthes longifolia

I got the original bulbs of this accession from Ray Shelton in about 1978. I think all the bulbs I have now are probably seedlings from that first batch of bulbs. I store them bone dry under a bench in the greenhouse over winter, above freezing. In summer, I put the pot outdoors in full sun, where it gets all the rainfall we get naturally plus some hand watering in between. Multiple generations of inbreeding seem to have brought at least one idiocyncracy to light: some of the flowers have their petals windmilled, like an airplane propellor.

Other Blooms

Haemanthus humilis humilis is starting to bloom. This form is from the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa, and usually blooms in late June or early July, after the pots have been taken out of the greenhouse for the summer.

Haemanthus humilis humilis (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus humilis humilis

H. humilis humilis usually has pink flowers and smooth, hairless leaves. Its sibling subspecies, Haemanthus humilis hirsutus, is from the High Veld and Drakensberg Escarpment, in Mpumalanga province in South Africa. H. humilis hirsutus normally has hairy leaves and white flowers. For me, it blooms in summer but at erratic times, anywhere from early June to late August.

Haemanthus humilis hirsutus (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus humilis hirsutus

Ammocharis baumii are blooming again. Their first blooms ever for me were just two weeks ago. Now, rebloom scapes are growing, and one of them is showing two flowers on one scape, whereas the norm is just one lone flower per scape.

Ammocharis baumii (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Ammocharis baumii with two flowers

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- June Bloom

So! A very long time with no update to the blog. I would have to say that nothing new has happenend, or so it felt to me. Things were getting to be too repetitive, so I let it rest. Well, finally, something new has indeed happened.

New Species First Blooms

Two species that I have been growing for rather a long time have finally bloomed, at long last, for the first time in my greenhouse. One is Hymenocallis franklinensis, and the other is Ammocharis (formerly Crinum) baumii. These two events are worth reporting.

Hymenocallis franklinensis

I posted this to my Facebook page the other day: "Hymenocallis franklinensis is a narrowly endemic species found only in one river system in the Panhandle region of Florida. It is similar to Hymenocallis crassifolia, but the flowers are said to be larger. I got these from Vic Lambou in 2004, and this is the first time they have bloomed for me; I suspect I have not been growing them quite right. I don't know if these will set seeds; the first plant finished flowering before the last one started to bloom. Not common in collections, so far as I know."

Hymenocallis franklinensis (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved. Hymenocallis franklinensis

The flowers are smaller than Hymenocallis liriosme, indeed the whole plant is much smaller than liriosme. My plants of franklinensis are both showing red streaks, probably Stagnospora. It started doing better when I started watering its pots all through the winter, which it spends under a bench inside a greenhouse. On the other hand, the Stagnospora might be due to the additional moisture. It looks like a trade-off.

Ammocharis baumii

Ammocharis baumii is blooming for the first time for me. Grown from seeds from Dr. Lehmiller, from plants collected in Namibia. It took ten years. I received 6 seeds in 2003 from the I.B.S. seed exchange. I now have 3 plants, and two are blooming. Previously classified as Crinum baumii, now known to belong in Ammocharis. The single flower per scape is characteristic of this dwarf species.

Ammocharis baumii (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved. Ammocharis baumii

The genus Ammocharis has grown by leaps and bound in recent years, not so much by the discovery of new species as by the realizations that several old species in other genera were actually members of this genus. Ammocharis baumii used to be considered Crinum baumii. Cybistetes longifolia has recently become Ammocharis longifolia. Crinum nerinoides is now Ammocharis nerinoides.

Other things in bloom

Several other plants have been blooming: Hymenocallis liriosme (the almost hardy form in the ground); Hymenocallis guerreroensis; Hymenocallis imperialis; Hymenocallis eucharidifolia (still just in bud); Haemanthus humilis hirsutus; Zantedeschia pentlandii; Crinum bulbispermum and Crinum [variabile x bulbispermum]; Caliphruria korsakoffii; Proiphys cunninghamii.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- February Bloom in the Greenhouse

Early Clivia miniata

The plant actually started to bloomed over two weeks ago, and is still in bloom. It went from the cool Clivia greenhouse to our cool entryway, so the flowers have stayed fresh a long time. The temperature in the greenhouse has been set at 50°F or 10°C for about two months now.

Clivia [Foxy Lady x L-35] (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Clivia [Foxy Lady x L-35]

This hybrid came, as seed, from Felicity Weeden, in Hermanus, South Africa. Last year, this plant produced four scapes in succession. That is truly fantastic performance! I really like the pastel color with a hint of picotee as the flowers age. For me, this is a real keeper.

The only other clivias in bloom are a couple plants of Clivia robusta "Maxima" that came from Fred van Niekerk several years ago. To bring the miniata hybrids into scape, I will have to raise the temperature to 60-65°F roughly a month before I want to start seeing flowers in bloom.


It is past time for the Lachenalia to have started blooming, but things are slow this year. I delayed watering until after we returned from Tanzania.

Lachenalia bulbifera (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lachenalia bulbifera

Graham Duncan changed some of the species names in his new book on the genus Lachenalia; I don't know what the newest names are, so I'll stick with the older ones.

There is also an unknown hybrid in bloom now that is big and robust. Unfortunately, the greenhouse got down to almost 25°F (ca. -04°C) this morning (a spider built a nest inside the thermostat in the last couple of days!) so it is still wilted. Fortunately, there are some other interesting hybrid Lachenalia among the bulbs my friend sent to me awhile back. This cross below shows up as a mixture, a couple of which are nicely variegated:

Lachenalia hybrid #2 (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lachenalia hybrid (my #2306)

This hybrid came from some nursery in South Africa, probably from the Western Cape province. A friend there hunted through several local nurseries for any unusual Lachenalia he could find for me. This is one of the results. I like the variegation, which also seems to have some spotting as well.

What is a Species?

This question is always good for an argument. The reason is that "species" is a human concept, made to satisfy our own desires for order in the world around us. Nature has not always obliged us with such orderly results. To make matters worse, human biologists have tried to define the concept for all living things, while nature seems to have taken three different approaches for animals, plants, and bacteria.

Animal species seem to be easy to pick out and tell apart. Animals hybridize much less often than plants, for instance, and the hybrids seem to usually be much less fertile that pure species. That may be why modern Europeans have only about 5% Neanderthal DNA in their genomes instead of perhaps 50%. Our remote grandparents hybridized with the weird Neanderthals they encountered when they moved into Europe from the Middle East ca. 50,000 years ago, but those babies grew up to have relatively few children, perhaps. We don't know yet, of course, about our great-great-great-etc. grandparents. About horses crossed with donkeys we do know. The male mules are never fertile, an occasional jenny mule will be fertile when back-crossed to one of the parent species.

Bacteria are chaos embodied, where genes are concerned. There is little morphology to go on -- round cells, rod-shaped cells, spiral cells. Smooth coats vs. rough coats, maybe? At any rate, we now know that there is rampant exchange of DNA between totally unrelated species of bacteria. It is no wonder that microbiologists have started giving new forms of bacteria serial numbers linked to their DNA sequences rather than genus and species names. In fact, biologists are finding new species of microorganisms based solely on the sequences determined for samples of DNA simply found in seawater. I would myself be afraid to use the term "species" when referring to any microorganism these days.

Plant species are sort of in between. They are usually not nearly so clear-cut as animal species, but they are one heck of a lot more distinctive than microbial species. This makes for good sport and bitter rivalries among plant taxonomists. The traditional morphologists and the new molecular geneticists sometimes have a tough time communicating with each other.

Some of the discussants in the Pacific Bulb Society on-line discussion group have pointed out that taxonomy serves two purposes:

  1. To identify a particular specimen as nearly as possible to Order, Family, Genus, and if possible, Species.
  2. To determine the phylogenetic relationships between individuals, species, genera, etc.
This gives us some leeway when trying to define plant species. In my own view, as a biochemist, the morphology is the first set of data to be considered. In cases where morphology is ambiguous, then we should resort to DNA sequences -- and whole genome sequences are becoming easier every day -- to settle the final word on the issue. Morphology is useful; but it is not definitive. DNA sequences are the most nearly definitive data we have today on taxonomy and phylogenetics.


The little Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel, got it partly right....., as did Watson and Crick. But, oddly enough, Lamarck also got it at least a little bit right.

What we are is determined by our DNA sequences, as acted upon by the environment in which we find ourselves. Normally this results in barely detectable variations in metabolism, for instance. This adjustment of DNA genotype to the environment is by the activation and silencing of various individual genes. Proteins called histones bind to and stabilize the conformation of DNA and are the immediate agents of some aspects of these processes.

The hereditary parts of these gene activation and silencing functions involve the epigenetic process that is currently a hot topic in biology. This is the methylation of cytosine residues. A methyl group, CH3-, is bonded to the number 5 carbon atom in cytosine to form 5-methyl-cytosine.

When certain cytosines are methylated in this way, they encourage histones to bind to that part of the DNA double helix, and this stabilizes the DNA in a conformation that is not readily transcribed into RNA or translated into proteins.

Somehow, when the cell divides, those methyl-cytosines cause the corresponding cytosine bases in the daughter DNA chains to also become methylated. How this occurs is not something I know anything at all about, but my guess is that that methylation occurs during the duplication of the DNA chains and before the daughter chains have separated from the mother chains. That is my guess. I don't actually know how or when this process of daughter methylation might take place. Maybe I'll try to look that up on the Internet -- you can supposedly find anything at all on the Internet.

I recently saw in one of the science e-newsletters that the way the cells manage not to pass on the methyl-cytosine modification is by converting the methyl group to a hydroxymethyl group, all the while still in the DNA chain:

CH3-cytosine -> HO-CH2-cytosine

It seems that hydroxymethyl-cytosine bases in the mother DNA chains are not converted to methyl-cytosine in the daughter DNA chains. It makes a beautiful little story, in retrospect.

The upshot is, there is a molecular mechanism that explains how some acquired traits are passed on to succeeding generations, sometimes, but not irreversibly, it would seem. This is a complicated story, and there it still a very great deal of it to be told.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- January Bloom in the Greenhouse

Strelitzia reginae

This is the Bird of Paradise flower. It actually started blooming in December. This also isn't a geophyte; it is a perennial evergreen. (Geophytes lose all their leaves at some point each year.) There are about 5 species in the genus, all native to South Africa.

The leaves look a lot like banana leaves, and one Strelitzia (S. nicolai) even grows into a respectable sized little tree, but they are not in the banana family. They actually have their own plant family, Strelitziaceae.

Strelitzia reginae (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Strelitzia reginae

These are all subtropical plants, endemic to Africa. Other species include Strelitzia alba, S. juncea, and S. nicolai which grows into a palm-like tree up to 30 ft. tall. I don't try to grow nicolai because of the height.

Cattleya Hybrid

This old white hybrid blooms pretty reliably almost every year. If I ever had any information on its parentage, that has long since been lost. It was probably a nice but not exceptional seedling discarded by the hybridizer to the retail public. That works for me.

Cattleya hybrid (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cattley Orchid Hybrid

I think it is rather fragrant, but my weak sense of smell can't be certain.

Hippeastrum aulicum var. robustum

This species of Hippeastrum is native to brazil. This form is called "robustum" probably because the plant generally looks a little heavier or sturdier than the typical form. This is one of several Brazilian species that are evergreen or almost so, but need a rest period in mid-summer. This bloom is a bit late in the season, since they usually flower in November or December.

Hippeastrum aulicum var. robustum (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum aulicum var. robustum

Zantedeschia aethiopica'Hercules'

This selection of Zantedeschia aethiopica is supposed to grow huge. Perhaps it does in mild climates, but here in Indiana it lives in a 7-gal. container in the greenhouse and is not very big. The spathe of the inflorescence is almost flat, rather than deeply funnel shaped as is more usually the case with Zantedeschia.

Zantedeschia aethiopica 'Hercules' (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Zantedeschia aethiopica 'Hercules'

The most reliably flowering Zantedeschia aethiopica variety I have is a large plant from California, apparently someone's garden hybrid. It is just getting ready to bloom.


We got 2.6 inches (66 mm) of rain last night and this morning. The back yard has standing water from the creek, and greenhouse #2 has its gravel floor covered with water. That's a "January Thaw" with a vengeance. I hope the water goes down before the promised freeze arrives. This is normal high water after a heavy rain, not a flood by any means.

High Water in January 2013 (c) copyright 2013 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
High Water in the Back

By the time I got this ready to post, the water was already going down.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Cyclamen


Cyclamen is a genus in the Primula Family, Primulaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean basin, parts of Europe, and the Caucasus. The flowers vary from white to deep, rich rose in color. The leaves vary widely in shape, from round to heart-shaped to ivy shaped to arrow-like, and may be plain dark green or decorated with intricate silver patterns. The plants reproduce readily from seed, so there are no named clones of the wild species although many seed strains are passed from gardener to gardener.

The florists' cyclamen are all derived from the species Cyclamen persicum. They are huge compared to the wild species. I suspect they are propagated by tissue culture techniques, and I won't deal with any of them here.

It is an unusual genus in that almost all its members undergo summer dormancy or aestivation. As a result, they are not well suited to growing in the Midwest with its hot, humid, and usually very wet summers.

Except for one brief mention of Cyclamen hybrids in November 2009, I think I have not mentioned this group of plants in this blog. I've grown some of the species of Cyclamen in the past, so I'll talk a bit about them now. This is a pretty dull time of year for flowers, and is therefore a good to time review a genus I have been neglecting.

In fact, I have let my collection of Cyclamen dwindle in recent years, but I'm getting ready to try to build it back up a bit. There is much to be said for occasionally cleaning up the potting bench. I ran across some seeds of cyclamen varieties sent to me by friends over the past year's time, and this got me to planting them. And about time, too!

Common Species

The commonest and the hardiest species are probably coum, hederifolium, and purpurascens. These tolerate or even need some summer moisture, and survive cold winters in Europe.

C. coum is native to the region from Bulgaria through Turkey to the Caucasus and Israel. The leaves are simple round or heart-shaped, the flowers pink with a red nose. It blooms in autumn. The tubers are supposed to be fairly hardy, but the squirrels around here really love them; they must be tasty.

C. hederifolium is native to most of southern Europe and is widely naturalized elsewhere in Europe. The leaves are varied in shape and coloration, with round shapes, arrow shapes, and others. There are forms that have intricate patterns in silver on the leaves. This species produces roots only from the upper surface of the tubers. The flowers appear from mid-summer into autumn, and vary in color from white to rich carmine. An obsolete synonym for this species is Cyclamen neapolitanum.

C. purpurascens occurs widely in the Alps, northern Italy, and the former Yugoslavia. The leaves are round, plain green or with a slight pattern, and the flowers appear from late summer into autumn. Flowers are light to deep rose in color. This is the hardiest species; but it can be difficult to establish in the garden, as I can attest from personal experience.

More Exotic Species

Here are some of the less common species. Most of these are also much less hardy in cold climates, as far as I know. I would grow these only inside a greenhouse or in a cool, bright window.

C. africanum is native to North Africa, and superficially resembles hederifolium very strongly. It must be kept dry in summer, and blooms in autumn, usually as soon as you start watering it again.

Cyclamen africanum (c) 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cyclamen africanum

C. cilicicum from Turkey blooms in the autumn. The flowers are light pink with a deep pink eye at the base of the petals.

C. graecum is native to Greece and the Greek islands and near-by parts of Turkey. It needs a dry rest and survives baking and totally dry storage in the greenhouse over summer. The leaves are large and may be marked with patterns of silver. Blooms in early autumn, sometimes starting before I resume watering. The roots grow from the bottom of the tuber and are fleshy and contractile, capable of pulling the tubers deeply into the soil.

C. intaminatum occurs locally in western Turkey. It is much less common in cultivation than any of the above species. This is one of the smallest species of Cyclamen, with only parviflorum being smaller. The flowers appear in autumn. The flowers are white or light pink, with very distinctive veins in the petals.

C. libanoticum is native to Lebanon. The mottled leaves are deep purple on the underside. The large flowers are white to pink and appear in late winter. Must be kept frost-free, according to some books.

Cy clamen libanoticum (c) 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cyclamen libanoticum

C. pseudibericum is almost extinct in the wild. It comes from southern Turkey. The large flowers come up in spring. The leaves have a red underside. The roots grow from the base of the tuber.

Cyclamen pseudibericum (c) 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cyclamen pseudibericum

C. repandum is native to southern France and southern Switzerland to Italy and Bosnia, Corsica, and Sardinia. The leaves are light green with dark green mottling; they are red on the underside. The flowers are carmine with a deeper rose nose.

C. trochopteranthum - the propeller shaped flower - is found in southwestern Turkey. The unusual pinwheel flowers appear in spring.

There are plenty of other species, and numerous subspecies in addition to those I mentioned here. I recommend Christopher Grey-Wilson's book, Cyclamen, published in 1997 by Timber Press. There is also a nice section on Cyclamen in "Bulbs" Revised edition, by John E. Bryan, pub. by Timber Press in 2002.

Rebuilding my Collection

Pamela in the Pacific Northwest sent me some tiny seedling bulbs of Cyclamen hederifolium. There seemed to be quite a lot of them, so I simply spread the mixture of little bulbs, their dried-up roots, and the brown peat in which they had been packed. They went on the surface of my gritty mix in one 10-inch diameter by 5 inches deep round plastic bulb pan. I then covered them with a layer of brown sand and set the pot in a tub of water up to the surface of the mix. The pot went into the greenhouse once the medium was thoroughly soaked.

Next I came across a nice batch of very dry seeds of Cyclamen "rhodense" which according to the ARS-GRIN database is Cyclamen peloponnesiacum ssp. rhodense. It is also called C. repandum rhodense and is so listed in Christopher Grey-Wilson's book, "Cyclamen." Both forms of the name are listed in IPNI. In the Kew Plant List the preferred name is given as C. repandum subsp. rhodense (Meikle) Grey-Wilson.

I planted these seeds pretty much the same way as I did the small hederifolium seedling bulbs, in the same medium in the same size pot.

Next come a very few seeds of Cyclamen intaminatum and later a large batch of seeds from select plants of Cyclamen purpurascens. I have had the purpurascens in the past, but eventually lost them. In my climate, they really need to go outdoors in the ground in a protected spot. They need some moisture in summer and can supposedly take some freezing temperatures in winter. I will simply have to find the right spot for them, and then plant them deeply enough that they survive the cold winters.

My plants of various forms of Cyclamen graecum, from seed given to me years ago by Joy Bishop, survive the summers here in the greenhouse, very hot and very dry, and no water. Cyclamen africanus does just as well under the same conditions. Every other form of Cyclamen I've treated to this type of summer conditions has dried up and died on me. On the other hand, Cyclamen in containers left outdoors over summer, in shade but exposed to natural rainfall, have gradually rotted away over two or three such summers. Most forms need a middle way to survive the summers here.

I have probably mentioned in the past that Cyclamen coum and C. hederifolium planted outdoors in the ground here have survived for a few years, but never bloomed. Most of the coum were stolen by squirrels the first winter. So I think that one will have to plant coum, hederifolium, and purpurascens outdoors, plant them deep - 6 inches - and treat them very carefully, to grow them outdoors in the Midwest. It is certainly worth a try.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Safari in Tanzania. III. The Country

Tanzania and the National Parks

Tanzania has an area of about 365,000 sq. mi., larger than Texas (267,000 sq. mi.) but smaller than Texas plus California (158,000 sq. mi.). Its population is roughly 40 million, of which about one-third or more are Christian, less than one-third Muslim, and the rest are animist. There are 146 different tribes and distinct languages or dialects in the country. The national language is Swahili, but English is also an official language. It was a British colony until about the 1960s, when it became independent. Subsequently it went through a period where it was communist and is today a peaceful democracy. In fact, it and South Africa are about the only countries in all of Africa that are not fighting insurgencies or some sort of civil wars. And it looks to be dirt-poor. Over half its total national income derives from the tourist industry. It ought to tell you something that the best paying jobs in the country are in the tourist trade.

Tanzania lies just south of the Equator and is a tropical country with no seasons recognizable as summer or winter by someone who lives north of the Tropic of Cancer (about 23 degrees North latitude). Instead, it has rainy seasons and dry seasons in the savannahs. These distinctions are much less pronounced in the mountains, where rain can fall at other times than the rainy season and agriculture appears to be much more rewarding.

Gibbs Farm, Tanzania, view from the garden.  (c) Copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Gibbs Farm view from the garden

Kenya lies just north of Tanzania and is famous for Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, which is actually in Tanzania.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. (c) Copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Mt. Kilimanjaro late in the afternoon

The elevation of Tanzania ranges from sea level along the Indian Ocean coast to 19,000 ft at the top of Kilimanjaro. Much of the area we visited, including Tarangire National Park and the Serengeti, lies at around 4,000 ft. elevation. The higher elevation areas carry less risk of malaria than do lower elevations.

The Ngorongoro crater is the center of a large Conservation Area. The rim of the crater reaches about 7,000 ft. elevation in places, and the bottom of the crater is around 5,000 to 6,000 ft. (estimates our guides made). Wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, various antelopes, and elephants are transient residents of the crater, wandering freely into and out of the basin. There are also resident lions and hippos. Lions are territorial and tend to wander less than the other species. Although Ngorongoro is famous for its black-maned lions, there are currently only two adult black-maned male lions in the crater, according to our guides. The male lion we saw was magnificent but he was as blond as you could ask for.

Male Lion in Ngorongoro Crater.  (c) Copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Male Lion in Ngorongoro Crater

The Serengeti National Park has an area of about 5700 sq. mi. (ca. 15,000 sq, km.), smaller than Kruger Park in South Africa (7500 sq. mi., 19,500 sq. km.) For comparison, Switzerland is about 16,000 sq. mi. and Indiana is roughly 36,000 sq. mi. (94,000 sq. km.) The Serengeti is a huge area of grasslands and savannah.

Serengeti Savannah in Tanzania.  (c) Copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Serengeti Savannah Landscape

There are about 2 million wildebeests that migrate every year back and forth between the Serengeti and the Maasai Maru park in Kenya, along with a large number of zebras. The migration is driven by the seasonal rains, the animals trying to follow the more abundant grass growing where the rains have more recently fallen. The annual wildebeest migration was just starting to return to the Serengeti when we were there. We saw several long columns of wildebeests and a few zebras strung out from horizon to horizon.

Wildebeests at end of the migration.  (c) Copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Wildebeest at End of the Migration

The country is largely unfenced. Whereas Kruger Park in South Africa is surrounded by a wire fence that is perhaps ten feet high in places and protected by several strands of electrified wire, there are no fences at all around any of the Tanzanian parks. The animals can roam freely into and out of any of the parks and conservation areas. This leads to trouble with the villagers when elephants raid farm fields and lions try to attack cattle.

Maasai Warriors.  (c) Copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Maasai Warriors, who kill lions that attack their cattle

See more on Tanzania, its plants, and its animals, on November 24, 2012 and on November 27, 2012.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- A Bit on Ammocharis

Update on Ammocharis

In trying to find out what was different about Ammocharis angolensis, I stumbled across a PDF file of a 2011 paper by Dee Snijman on a new species of Ammocharis from Namibia, and how it differed from the other species in the genus. The new species is named Ammocharis deserticola. In this paper, Snijman and Kolberg also list Crinum baumii as Ammocharis baumii. Crinum baumii has wandered back and forth recently between these two genera, and it is clearly not a "good" Crinum, so Ammocharis seems as good a place for it as any. A. nerinoides was also formerly in the genus Crinum, but was moved to Ammocharis on the basis of DNA sequencing.

Cybistetes longifolia was some time ago moved to Ammocharis, and is now a good member of the genus as Ammocharis longifolia. The genus therefore now contains the following species:

  • angolensis
  • baumii
  • coranica
  • deserticola
  • longifolia
  • nerinoides
  • tinneana
All are in cultivation except perhaps for angolensis and deserticola. Anyone with seeds to spare of either angolensis or deserticola please contact me at <shieldsgardens@gmail.com> and let's see if we can work some sort of deal!

Ammocharis coranica (c) copyright 2007 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Ammocharis coranica

Ammocharis coranica grows readily in cultivation, in containers. My plants spend the summer out on the deck in sun and rain, then winter in the cool greenhouse with Haemanthus and Scadoxus. They are somewhat opportunistic growers, yellowing off their leaves if left too dry for a bit too long. On the whole it seems best to treat AA. coranica and nerinoides as summer growing, A. longifolia as winter growing, and it's not clear to me how one ought best grow AA. baumii and tinneana. The seedlings of tinneana are still too young to show which way they prefer, so I'll probably try to grow them as summer-growers as that's most convenient.

Flower Shows

Readers in Vermont, named Deb and Ashley, sent in this link to an on-line listing of flower shows. They thought it was interesting, and I thought so too, so here it is: Guide to Flower Shows. Thank you, Ashley and Deb.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Winter Bloom

The autumn blooming bulbs are almost finished, like Haemanthus albiflos, Hippeastrum aulicum, and Nerine bowdenii. Some of the winter blooming species, like Nerine undulata and many of the Lachenalia species, are not yet getting started.

What we do have blooming in the greenhouse are Haemanthus deformis and Haemanthus pauculifolius.

Haemanthus deformis

This is another evergreen species, related to the well-known Haemanthus albiflos. This plant is one of a group raised from seeds planted in May, 2008, so it is now about 4.5 years old. This is the only one blooming so far, but all are starting to put out new leaves.

Haemanthus deformis (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus deformis

This has broad leaves, almost round, that lie close to the ground. The bulbs usually seem to grow below the surface of the medium, and mine have not offset much in the past.

Haemanthus pauculifolius

This species in the evergreen group with albiflos was discovered less than 20 years ago. It has erect, hairy leaves, usually only one at a time and never more than two at a time. The umbel, like the leaves, is erect and narrow. The bulbs tend to grow high in the medium, and beneath the loose tunic, the bulbs are as green as the leaves. They offset freely, and in a pot, the offsets crowd each other out of the soil.

Haemanthus pauculifolius (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus pauculifolius

Because of how freely this species offsets, it should someday be as common in collections as Haemanthus albiflos is. It's small size makes it an ideal windowsill plant in this genus.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Safari in Tanzania. II. Plants and Animals

Mystery Crinum Species

The unknown Crinum species appears to be one of a small group of possible species:

  • Crinum acaule (Namibia, South Africa)
  • Crinum minimum (Tanzania, Zambia)
  • Crinum piliferum (Kenya)
  • Crinum walteri (Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe)
This is according to Dr. David Lehmiller, who has studied Crinum of Southern Africa and Madagascar extensively. The ranges of none of these species are known with absolute certainty. The distinctions lie mainly in the structure of the fruits and of the seeds. We can't say for sure what we saw in Tanzania based only on my photographs. The betting, depending on whom you talk to, is either on C. minimum or on C. walteri.

Checklist of Amaryllidaceae of Tanzania

An advanced search of the Kew online web site for "Amaryllidaceae" and "Tanzania" gave the following list of species.

  • Ammocharis angolensis (Baker) Milne-Redh. & Schweick.
  • Ammocharis tinneana (Kotschy & Peyr.) Milne-Redh. & Schweick.
  • Boophone disticha (L.f.) Herb.
  • Brunsvigia kirkii Baker, Handb. Amaryll.: 99 (1888).
  • Crinum kirkii Baker
  • Crinum macowanii Baker
  • Crinum minimum Milne-Redh.
  • Crinum ornatum (Aiton) Herb.
  • Crinum papillosum Nordal
  • Crinum politifolium R.Wahlstr.
  • Crinum stuhlmannii Baker subsp. stuhlmannii
  • Crinum subcernuum Baker
  • Cryptostephanus haemanthoides Pax
  • Cyrtanthus breviflorus Harv.
  • Cyrtanthus sanguineus (Lindl.) Walp.
    • Cyrtanthus sanguineus subsp. minor Nordal
    • Cyrtanthus sanguineus subsp. wakefieldii (Sealy)
  • Nothoscordum gracile (Aiton) Stearn
  • Pancratium tenuifolium Hochst. ex A.Rich.
  • Scadoxus multiflorus (Martyn) Raf. subsp. multiflorus Scadoxus puniceus (L.) Friis & Nordal
  • Tulbaghia cameronii Baker
  • Tulbaghia rhodesica R.E.Fr.
  • Tulbaghia violacea Harv. subsp. violacea

We saw an Ammocharis, which I presume to have been A. tinneana, but at this point I still don't actually know what distinguishes A. angolensis from A. tinneana.

Elephants of Tarangire

The characteristic animals of Tarangire are the elephants, which find refuge there in the dry season. Elephants need a lot of water, and the Tarangire river never dries up. The elephants can't stay there all year, because the soil is deficient in phosphate, which pregnant and lactating mothers need. So when there is sufficient moisture elsewhere, the elephants leave Tarangire to browse where there is more phosphate in the soil and hence in the plants they eat.

Elephants in Tarangire (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Elephants in Tarangire

The elephants come and go from Tarangire with no warning. Two days before we arrived, there were no elephnats in Tarnagire National Park. Two days after we left, there was again not a single elephant in the park. While we were there, one could see literally a hundred elephants at a time in the Tarangire river valley.

Elephant mother and calf in Tarangire (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Elephants in Tarangire

If all the elephants that gather seasonally in Tarangire stayed there all year long, they would eventually overwhelm the ecosystem. They need to leave, not just to obtain sufficient phosphate in their diets but to preserve the Tarangire river valley for future generations of elephants to use in times of need. I wonder if they realize that?

Elephant playing in a mud hole (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Elephants in Mud

Finally, some adult elephants trying to get babies and calves to stop playing in a mud hole and let the herd move on. The adults looked very human, and frustrated, trying to deal with slippery, happy, squirming babies having a really great time! It seems you can't just grab a playful baby elephant by the ear and drag her out of the mud.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Safari in Tanzania. I. Plants

We have returned from our tourist safari in Tanzania. Tanzania lies just to the south of the Equator, so there are no particular summer or winter seasons. January was said to be the hottest month of the year. While there are lots of pictures of wild animals to share, there are also a very few pictures of flowers as well. I'll start with the flowers.

There are two rainy seasons in Tanzania, a small one in November, December, and January, which is fed by convection from the large freshwater lakes bordering Tanzania to the west: Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. There is also a big rainy season, fed by the monsoons in March, April, and May, coming in off the Indian Ocean which bounds Tanzania on the east. There had been some light rain about two weeks before we arrived, representing an earlier-than-usual start to the small rainy season. As a result, the countryside was greening up, and we had the good fortune to see a few bulbs in bloom.


Ammocharis tinneana occurs in East Africa, including Tanzania. It looks very much like A. coranica from South Africa, and from a distance is easily confused with it. We saw only a few of these, usually not in any sort of group.

Ammocharis tinneana in Tanzania (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved
Ammocharis tinneana in Tanzania

None were in seed, and several plants were still just flower buds, like the one shown above.


We saw many plants that were clearly Crinum macowanii. They tended to grow in moist areas but not right down in the wet areas. We saw this species in Tarangire National Park, in the Ngorongoro crater at about 6000 ft. el., and even in a couple places in the Serengeti.

Crinum macowanii in Tanzania (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crinum macowanii in habitat in Ngorongoro, Tanzania

Crinum macowanii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crinum macowanii in Tanzania

There was another species of Crinum at one location. The peduncle (stem) was only a couple inches tall when we were there, and the umbel bore only one or occasionally two flowers. The flowers looked white from a distance, and the local vernacular name for them was "Waste Paper." Close-up, the petals had a faint pink midrib band on the outside. They grew as a scattered colony in an area that showed signs of having recenly been covered by run-off from a rainfall. We only saw them in one single location.

Crinum species in Tarangire (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crinum sp. indeterminate, in Tanzania

The leaves were very narrow and strongly channeled or canaliculate. The foliage seemed to be just getting started growing, so I am not sure what the mature leaves might look like.


We saw occasional isolated blooms of a Scadoxus species that most probably was Scadoxus multiflorus multiflorus, from the Lodge at 7500 ft. el. on the Rim of the Ngorongoro crater to a Kopje in the Serengeti at about 4000 ft. el. The colors varied from very bright orange to a deep rich red.

Scadoxus multiflorus multiflorus in Tarangire (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Scadoxus sp., cf. multiflorus subsp. multiflorus

There are only a limited number of species of Scadoxus, and only multiflorus ssp. multiflorus seems to extend its range through Tanzania. This one puts up its scapes before the leaves appear, which is consistent with the descriptions of multiflorus multiflorus.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Geography, Morphology, and Genetics

There has been a fascinating discussion of phylogenetics in the on-line discussion group of the Pacific Bulb Society the past several days. I've not been able to resist getting involved, even though my professional expertise does not include taxonomy or phylogenetics, and not even DNA sequencing. I'll try to reproduce the ideas raised by several participants here, but in a very general way.

Geography's Relation to Species

Every botanist and zoologist knows that the single most important piece of data that must accompany every specimen collected is its precise geographical location when collected. Date when collected is also important and very helpful. The name of the collector is usually included in the collection data. But the "where" is the sine qua non for biological specimens collected in the wild.

In our discussion of the possible identity of a bulb specimen one of the members had received, we felt that the missing collection locality would have been of critical importance in providing an identification. While this seems self-evident to me, it was apparently not seen that way by all the participants in the discussion. What is the importance of geography, and why is it questionable?

Locality is important, of course, because it confirms and potentially extends the known habitat range of the species. It is of uncertain value in determining what species one has collected, since species may grow wild outside their known range, or other species ranges may overlap a given species' range.

Where locality data is helpful in determining species identities is where the known species resemble each other closely in physical appearance but are known to have discrete and separate geographical ranges. Since this is not all that rare a circumstance in biology, knowing the collection locality for an ambiguous specimen can tell you its identity.

Still, I see geography as two levels removed from the actual identity of a specimen.

Morphology's Relation to Species

Traditionally, morphology, the physical structure of the organism, was the sole basis for classification. We identified species by the physical characteristics of the plant or animal, and inferred relationships strictly on the basis of these. Used this way, morphology will give you answers that are determined by the limitations of the kinds of data you utilize. Morphology is actually one level removed from phylogenetic relationship. It does not actually address genetic relatedness, as far as I can tell, although it was the traditional basis for all phylogenetics.

Since morphology is comprised of the results of genotype interacting with environment, a given species may have a variable morphology depending on climate, geography, and human alterations to its environment. Then too, different species may converge in physical appearance in response to living in a similar or the identical environment and habitat. Questions of structural convergence in response of similar evolutionary pressures seem to me to require molecular genetic analyses for clarification. I am reminded of the phenomenon of "cryptic sibling species" in butterflies, but those were first uncovered by detailed morphological studies (of the male genitalia, as I recall), prompted by observed behavioral differences. They nonetheless still pose an epistemological question.

Morphology was our first and original tool for studying phylogenetics and, if I'm not mistaken, the sole basis until DNA sequencing was invented; but it can also mislead.

When DNA sequencing came along, it opened a new and entirely different window on what constituted a species.

Species Definitions and DNA

We have reached the point in modern biology where one can say that the DNA sequence IS the organism. The genome defines the organism. It would follow from this then that the species is definable from DNA sequence data as well. Since we know that sexually-reproducing organisms almost never have two individuals who are precisely identical in the DNA sequences, we will have to learn to define the sequence variation that a given species concept can include.

How one defines "species" is dependent on what one intends to use the definition for. Look in many books on phylogenetics and you will see several formal definitions of species. Biologists use different ones of those several definitions depending on what direction their research is taking and what methodologies are available to them to use.

The one I think is most popular, the concept of the Biological Species as the interbreeding population, is fraught with problems. Operationally, the weakness in the biological species concept is that we can rarely if ever actually define the "breeding population." It is not really definable (in terms of "do this then this and you define the breeding population") using any doable steps so it is not really a scientific concept.

This leads me to feel that there is probably no such thing as a "species" but rather many ways of viewing the biological world. That is, it seems clear that there is not at present a single unambiguous working definition for the concept. I infer from this that the concept we are trying to define may in fact not exist as a single logical entity. Our discomfort with this, if any, is probably because our subconscious minds are still trying to fit everything into a pre-Darwinian frame of reference, which contained fixed, rigid species. Taxonomy needs to be viewed not as the Platonic Ideal of biology but rather as a heuristic tool for use in real life.

I think that a future definition(s) of "species" will attempt to circumscribe the "envelope" of DNA sequences that are encompassed by a given species. This answer will probably be different for different species. I think it will be very different for plants than for animals; and microbiologists seem to have already gone off on their own very separate track for defining populations rather than species. Binomial nomenclature seems to be giving way to serial numbers that computers can more easily handle. You don't draw pictures of phylogenetic trees, you calculate new ones using the latest data as you need them. Today's tree won't look like yesterday's unless the databases were locked down overnight.

An excellent reference for the nature of species is "Speciation" by Jerry A. Coyne and H. Allen Orr, available from amazon.com, as of this writing. Pub. 2004 by Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA.

These comments contain direct quotes from my personal posts to the on-line discussion group of the Pacific Bulb Society on October 31, 2012, with minor changes in wording.

Impending Travel

We will be traveling to Tanzania for a tour of Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, and Olduvai. I don't know how to post new entries to this blog using the iPad we are carrying with us, so I will post some pictures during the trip to my facebook page, ShieldsGardens on Facebook.com. After we return home, I'll try to post more pictures and a summary of the trip to this blog. I think this is the dry season in Tanzania, so I don't really expect to see many plants. We're going in order to see the animals!

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Autumn in the Greenhouse

Zephyranthes atamasco

This large-flowered rain lily is native to the Southeast of the U.S.A. This pot is blooming out of season in the greenhouse, as they usually bloom early in the spring in the greenhouse.

Zephyranthes atamasco (c) 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Zephyranthes atamasco

There are other white-flowered rain lilies native to the southeastern U.S.A. One of them is Z. simpsonii, which I also have. Z. atamasco is probably the hardiest rain lily, since its range extends as far north as parts of North Carolina. I have not heard of any rain lily surviving outdoors in the ground over a winter as far north as Indiana. Pity, as I think they would look very nice blooming naturalized along country roadsides.

Cyrtanthus sanguineus?

This bulb came to me labelled Cyrtanthus eucallis, but now that it has finally bloomed, it looks much more like Cyrtanthus sanguineus.

Cyrtanthus sanguieus or eucallis (c) 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cyrtanthus eucallis or sanguineus?

After checking the descriptions of both species in the booklet, "A Review of the Southern African Species of Cyrtanthus" by C. Reid and R. Allen Dyer, Amer. Plant Life Soc. (1984), I have to conclude that the flower shown is sanguineus. Here is a comparison:

FlowerSmaller, not recurvedLarger, recurved
UmbelUp to 6 flowersSingle flower

According to Reid and Dyer, the two species are closely related. Sanguineus ranges from the Eastern Cape Province north through KwaZulu-Natal into tropical East Africa. Eucallis is restricted to the Barberton district of the former Transvaal, now Mpumalanga Province. Rather than being too upset that I don't actually have eucallis, perhaps I should be happy that perhaps I have a second clone of the self-sterile sanguineus and can now try to produce seeds of this species!

Nerine bowdenii wellsii

Nerine bowdenii wellsii is maybe a subspecies of bowdenii that occurs in the high elevations of bowdenii's range. There are two general populations of bowdenii, as far as I understand the situation. A more or less typical form at moderate elevations in the Eastern Cape Province, and the form wellsii in the high ridges of the Drakensberg Escarpment between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. This one is from the high elevations.

Nerine bowdenii wellsii (c) 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Nerine bowdenii wellsii

The form wellsii may not be significantly different from typical bowdenii, as others in fact claim. I wanted high-elevation ecotypes in any case to try to develop cold-hardy varieties. It turned out that bowdenii takes forever and a decade to reach bloom size when grown from seeds in my nursery!

On the Road to Africa

A week from now we will be on our way to Tanzania, in East Africa. I'm not lugging a computer on this trip, so there will be no posts to this blog while we are there. However, I am taking a camera and my iPad along, so we will post to Facebook while travelling. You have to be a Facebook "friend" to see my stuff on Facebook, but I will post some pictures from the trip in this blog after we return home.

On Facebook, I'm James Shields but you will find me as shieldsgardens@facebook.com, if you look hard. There are hundreds or thousands of people called "James Shields" in this world.

While we are gone, I'll try to catch my e-mail every couple of days from the iPad. At home, the house-sitter won't answer our phone, but our 80-pound Husky mix will definitely answer the doorbell!

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- End of Summer

It was a long, very hot, and very dry summer. It sapped the spirit of gardening entirely from these bones. Things bloomed, but not enthusiastically. The daylilies, those we have left, did bloom in spite of the heat. They are under an overhead sprinkling system, so they never suffered from the drought. Other bulbs did not fare so well nor perform so nicely.

This morning brought cold rain, and temperatures hovering in the upper 40's F. But the past week was delightful! It was beautiful Indian Summer weather, and I took what may have been my last walks on the Monon Trail until next Spring.

Monon Trail, Carmel, Indiana (c) copyright James E. Shields 2012.  All rights reserved.
The Monon Trail in Carmel, Indiana, on a beautiful Indian Summer day.

A New Bloom

Back in September, there was one flowering of note. Haemanthus unifoliatus seedlings finally bloomed at an age of about 6 years.

Haemanthus unifoliatus (c) copyright James E. Shields 2012.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus unifoliatus

Haemanthus unifoliatus is very similar in appearance to Haemanthus dasyphyllus. In my opinion, an individual plant of one would be almost impossible to distinguish from the other species, unless you know the geographical provenance of the individual plants. The diagnostic difference between the two is the leaf count: dasyphyllus is supposed to have two leaves, and only two; unifoliatus is supposed to have one leaf, and only one leaf. My dasyphyllus has had 1, 2, and 3 leaves in different years. Most of my unifoliatus seedlings have two leaves in most years. I think the inflorescence is going to look different, somewhat, but I'll want to see future years' flowers on the unifoliatus to be sure.

I have received three seeds of Haemanthus tristis, and one of those germinated. The young seedling is still going strong, but this species seems to produce seeds that germinate with a ratio of about 30%. No wonder it's rare! I hope to get more seeds from the same colony next season.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Bloom Continues

What we have in bloom this week are Scadoxus multiflorus katherinae, a particularly beautiful form of the most common Scadoxus in cultivation; what some might call the most beautiful species of Hymenocallis, H. eucharidifolia; and a dwarf member of the South American Eucharis Lily group, Caliphruria korsakoffii.

Scadoxus multiflorus katherinae

This is a very attractive subspecies of Scadoxus multiflorus multiflorus, by far the most common Scadoxus in cultivation. I suspect S. multiflorus multiflorus may be mass produced in India, but S. m. katherinae is much harder to find. My plants were grown from a large batch of seeds I received many years ago from Bill Dijk in New Zealand. I only have a few plants left, but a couple of them are blooming this summer.

Scadoxus multiflorus katherinae (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Scadoxus multiflorus katherinae

I think this species, or at least this subspecies, needs a large pot -- the two plants blooming just now are both in 2-gal. pots (22 cm diameter by 22 cm deep). I also suspect that they need to be given regular moisture in winter. Mine spend the winter in my cool South African winter-growing greenhouse, but sit under the bench. In summer they are moved out to the lath house, with the Hymenocallis eucharidifolia.

Hymenocallis eucharidifolia

This plant is a medium sized member of the Mexican group of the genus. It grows as an understory plant in the rain forest of southern Mexico, and was lost to botanists for many years until a plant explorer stumbled on it in its natural habitat a few years ago. It is surely one of the most beautiful flowers in the genus.

Hymenocallis eucharidifolia (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis eucharidiflora

I grow it as a pot plant, outdoors in the lath house in summer, where it gets natural rainfall supplemented with twice weekly overhead misting. It winters in the warm greenhouse, kept dry while inside. This has not been a completely satisfactory way of growing it, and my stock has dwindled steadily down to just a couple bloom-size plants.

Caliphruria korsakoffii

This dwarf member of the South American Eucharis group does quite well in my big greenhouse with the Clivia plants. I think it is native to Peru. This pot is blooming quite abundantly this year, but I'm not sure every pot blooms every year. They are on drip irrigation with liquid feeding, and tend to be left drier but not bone dry in winter, with temperatures getting down in the 40s F (perhaps 4 to 10°C) in that season.

Caliphruria korsakoffii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Caliphruria korsakoffii

This species seems to be very unusual in cultivation. It produces quite a few offsets over time, so it ought to be more widely available. It is nearly evergreen, so there is not an ideal time of year in which to ship it. And before you ask, we don't ship anything at all anymore unless someone offers me an absolutely irresistible trade. The picture shows the pot of Caliphruria sitting in the lath house. Proiphys amboinensis is sitting behind it and Scadoxus m. katherinae is sitting to the right of it.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hymenocallis Time

This past week we have had Hymenocallis in bloom! This is the time for "Big Fatty," also known as Hymenocallis imperialis, to bloom. It's also when some of the smaller Mexican species bloom. This week we saw blooms on Hymenocallis guerreroensis, H. durangoensis, and H. glauca. I see buds on H. eucharidifolia as well. While the Mexican dwarf species tend to all look somewhat similar, Hymenocallis imperialis has a very unique look.

Hymenocallis imperialis

As I recall, this species was first collected in some old lady's front yard in Mexico. I'm a little vague on the details, as I wasn't there; but for a long time its name was simply "Big Fatty." If it should be classified in the Mexicana Group, it is probably the largest Hymenocallis in that group by far. Personally, it looks to me more like one of the Tropical group from Central America and northern South America in the lowlands.

Hymenocallis imperialis (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved. Hymenocallis imperialis (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis imperialis

The staminal cup is like a wide funnel, and reaches 50 mm or about 2 inches across. The tepals (petals and sepals) are about 11 mm (less than a half inch) wide and about 11 cm (over 4 inches) long. The floral tube (from the ovary to the point where the tepals start to separate) is 105 to 110 mm (about 4 to 4½ inches) long. The height of the inflorescence (i.e., peduncle plus the flowers) is about 60 cm (24 inches).

The glossy, bright green leaves are 65-70 mm wide by about 55 cm long. It is deciduous, losing its leaves in my greenhouse each winter. I haven't tested its hardiness, but I fully expect that it would be killed by a hard frost and certainly if the ground froze around the bulb.

Hymenocallis guerreroensis

A typical member of the group of dwarf species found in Mexico, this one was discovered by the late Dr. Thad Howard in Guerrero. I don't have a very good picture of guerreroensis. It bloomed ahead of the others and I almost missed its bloom entirely.

Hymenocallis guerreroensis (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis guerreroensis

This has the floral tube 95 mm long, and the straight tube is characteristic of this species. The staminal cup is narrow and elongated -- somewhat trumpet shaped -- and the neck of the cup curves. The tepals are quite narrow. It could easily be mistaken for the following species. The height of the inflorescence is about 34 cm (ca. 13 inches). It has somewhat glaucous foliage.

Hymenocallis durangoensis

Another dwarf in the Mexican Alliance, this one was found by Thad Howard in Durango. The specific name may be "durangoensis" or simply "durangensis." I found one version in one index, the other in a different index.

Hymenocallis durangoensis (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis durangoensis

The floral tube is 60 mm long, about 2½ inches more or less, and slightly curved. The staminal cup is small, compared to imperialis, and the tepals very narrow. The bloom stalk grows about 36 cm. (ca. 14 in.) tall. The leaves are plain green (not glaucous), with a slight twist in the outer third.

Hymenocallis glauca

This was discovered by Herbert, and is a dwarf in the Mexican group. It is a perky looking plant when in bloom, and Thad Howard told me the bulbs got to be as big as grapefruit. Mine have not, perhaps because they grow in pots no bigger than 2-gallon size. The specific name comes from the broad, glaucous leaves. This is one of my favorites.

Hymenocallis glauca (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis glauca

The leaves are broad, but narrow toward the base until they are almost petiolate. And of course they have the matt, grayish blue-green color that gives them their name. The staminal cups open to 40 mm across, and are almost flat. The floral tube is 105-115 mm long (about 4¼-4¾ inches) long. The tepals are 3 to 6 mm (1/8 to ¼ inch) wide and 65-70 mm long (2½-2¾ inches). The inflorescence varies from ca. 30 to 40 cm. (12 to 16 inches) in height.

Hymenocallis glauca is reminiscent of H. eucharidifolia, especially the flowers and leaf shape. However, eucharidifolia has bright green leaves and prefers dappled shade, whereas glauca has glaucous leaves and tolerates full sun quite well.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Summer Bloom

Zantedeschia pentlandii

This calla lily (Araceae, Aroid Family) from South Africa has solid green leaves and a large, rich yellow spathe. It is native to the summer-rainfall region. They do rather well in my cool greenhouse (No. 2) in winter (bone dry, chilly temperatures around 50°F [10°C]) occasionally falling to near freezing for short times. In summer, it is outdoors in full sun on our deck, where it gets watered regularly and occasionally fertilized.

Zantedeschia pentlandii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved. Zantedeschia pentlandii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.

Zantedeschia pentlandii

The photos above were taken almost a week ago, but the plants are still in bloom and still look very nice. I think all my plants of this species may be one clone, since they will not set seeds even when hand-pollinated. They are slowly producing offsets. The original stock came from the late Charles Craib.

Proiphys cunninghamii

This member of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis Family) is native to tropical areas of Australia. It is in bloom right now. It spends the winter mostly dry in my warmer greenhouse (No. 1), where I try to keep the temperature at 55°F [13°C] or above in winter. In summer, it goes outdoors into the lath house where it gets regular overhead irrigation and occasional feeding. So far, this seems to suit it.

Proiphys cunninghamii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Proiphys cunninghamii

Proiphys amboinensis is better known than cunninghamii, and is rather similar to cunnighamii. Amboinensis blooms a couple weeks later than cunninghamii, and the flowers of amboinensis are upward facing while cunninghamii flowers are semi-pendant.

Proiphys amboinensis (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Proiphys amboinensis

Cunninghamii flowers appear to be self-fertile or possibly parthenogenic. My amboinensis have never set any seeds for me.

Ornithogalum ponticum

This hardy member of the Ornithogalum clan is not a rampant weed like its better-known congener, Star of Bethlehem. It is slowly forming a nice clump in the bed where I planted it. Perhaps all my bulbs are a single clone, as it does not appear to set seeds.

Ornithogalum ponticum (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Ornithogalum ponticum

These came as just 3 bulbs, from Jane McGary in Oregon back in 2000. The flower stems reach 33 inches tall, and the individual flowers are about 1.25 inches in diameter.

Triteleia x-tubergenii

The genus Triteleia has bounced around from family to family, including recently into Themidaceae. At the moment it seems to be back again in the Alliaceae, the Onion Family, according to IPNI. On the other hand, the Angiosperm Phylogeny web site puts them in Family Asparagaceae, subfamily Brodiaeoideae. The genus is native to Western North America, and is most closely related to Brodiaea and Dichelostemma.

Triteleia x-tubergenii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Triteleia x-tubergenii

This hybrid seems perfectly hardy outdoors in a bed here in Indiana. The clump has increased in density, and chipmunks or field mice seem to have spread a few of the bulbs around a bit. It probably came from the old van Tubergen nurseries in the Netherlands, judging from its name.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- More Catching Up

Cyrtanthus montanus

I'm not sure what the proper bloom season is for C. montanus, but mine seem to bloom at various times of the year. This one bloomed two or three weeks ago, but a second is in bloom right now.

Cyrtanthus montanus (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cyrtanthus montanus

Not every pot of this species blooms every year, but with several pots I almost always get at least a couple scapes.

Haemanthus montanus

Four of my pots bloomed at the same time, almost a month ago. There were no other Haemanthus in bloom at that time, and the weather was summer-like, so there were bugs around. Maybe we'll get a few seeds, although even when hand-pollinated, this species does not set much seed for me.

Haemanthus montanus (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus montanus

This one shown here bloomed two weeks later, and is still in bloom. Haemanthus humilis hirsutus is also in bloom just now, so I'm trying (for the "nth" time!) to cross these two species. Wish me luck. It has never worked so far.

The differences in the leaves are marked -- hirsutus has hairy leaves that are almost a broad as they are long. Montanus has long, linear leaves that are 1 to 2 inches wide and perfectly smooth and hairless. The flowers seem to differ very little; but the stigmas of hirsutus elongate out beyond the anthers when they are ready to be pollinated, while the stigmas of montanus seem to remain hidden down in below the anthers. In addition, the stamens of hirsutus elongate to at least double the length of the stamens of montanus at anthesis.

Haemanthus humilis hirsutus (c)
Haemanthus humilis hirsutus

Haemanthus tristis

Bernie Klee in the Facebook Haemanthus group warns that young seedlings of Haemanthus tristus are exquisitely sensitive to excess moisture, even when actively growing. Be warned! If you get any seeds or bulbs of the very rare H. tristis, water them very sparingly or risk losing your treasures.

I have successfully forced seedlings of Haemanthus coccineus and H. barkerae with abundant water and fertilizer to grow continuously for 18 to 30 months without a rest perioid. It appears that this would be a good way to kill seedlings of H. tristis.

Crinum walteri

This minature Crinum, in the trade under the mistaken name "Crinum minimum," is still very rare in cultivation. I think all the current stock came from the late Charles Craib, who had it propagated. I don't know whether it was done by bulb cuttage or by tissue culture, but the bulbs are self-sterile; and no one I know has been able to get seeds from the species. I have also failed in attempts at crossing its stored pollen with or pollinating it with stored pollen from bulbispermum and other species.

Crinum walteri (c)
Crinum walteri

This one is currently blooming as I write (in the evening) and will be past prime when I photograph it tomorrow morning (see above). It has a single flower with only end of the peduncle above ground. Mine sometimes produces a second flower, perhaps from a second scape (below ground). I've not dared to dig down and investigate so far, for fear of terminally disturbing the bulb.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Catching Up

Time Flies

It's not like May had no flowers blooming. I took a few pictures along the way, which I'll share here. I just never got anything written up while it was in bloom.

Ammocharis nerinoides

This was probably the high point of the month -- the first ever bloom on a pot (two pots, actually) of seedlings of Ammocharis nerinoides. I have, thanks to recent taxonomic revisions, three species of Ammocharis now: coranica, nerinoides, and longifolia (formerly Cybistetes). The first two species are summer growing, or perhaps opportunistic growers. The third is strictly winter-growing, and has been growing exceedingly slow growing for me. My plants of longifolia were seeds planted in 1998.

Ammocharis nerinoides (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Ammocharis nerinoides
The flower pot is 22 cm across (ca. 8.6 inches).

The Ammocharis nerinoides seeds were planted in 2009. Only one plant bloomed this year, and it has only two flowers in its umbel. It is clearly a miniature as these things go, at least so far. Dave Lehmiller (Texas) has crossed it with Crinum baumii, I believe (see the IBS Members Forum on Yahoo). At any rate this species is producing some very nice miniature "Crinum" bigeneric hybrids.

Other species in this genus, besides coranica, longifolia, and nerinoides, include angolensis and tinneana (see: IPNI listing). Crinum baumii is sometimes called Ammocharis baumii, but someone has pointed out that it probably belongs in its own genus between Ammocharis and Crinum. I prefer to continue calling it Crinum baumii for now. My own plants of baumii have not yet bloomed for me.

Sprekelia Blooms

My set of Sprekelia howardii, the dwarf species in this genus, bloomed again this year. They have gotten pretty reliable about blooming every year, and all but one pot bloomed this year. One pot bloomed twice! I pollinated the blooms among themselves, and any seeds will go to the Pacific Bulb Society Seed Exchange. (Anyone can join the PBS e-mail list, but you have to be a dues-paying member of the Society to participate in the seed and bulb exchange.)

Sprekelia 'High Priest' is my own hybrid of formosissima, ['Orient Red' x f. williamsii]. Like 'Orient Red' and forma williamsii, 'High Priest' has flowers that are larger than those of the commercial form of S. formosissima.

Sprekelia howardii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.Sprekelia High Priest (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Sprekelia howardiiSprekelia 'High Priest'

The howardii is in a square pot 5.5 inches on a side; the 'High Priest' is in a 7 inch diameter pot. I tried cross-pollinating these two varieties, and I seem to have a pod or two on the 'High Priest'. The howardii flower is a slightly lighter red than those of formossissima, while its narrow, grass-like leaves are grey-green compared to the bright glossy green leaves of formosissima.

Hymenocallis liriosme

The first Hymenocallis of the season is in bloom. This liriosme is growing outdoors in the ground, but the species is otherwise not hardy here. This one came from Thad Howard years ago. I'm not at all sure where he got it -- apparently he just was driving down a road, saw it, and thought of me. It is the only "hardy" accession of liriosme I have ever had. It grows only in one spot, outside the south end of one of the greenhouses. All other accessions I've planted outdoors, in that spot or elsewhere, have died the first winter. Only this one, my #1261, survives.

Hymenocallis liriosme (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis liriosme #1261 "Hardy 

This and occidentalis are the only two species of Hymenocallis I have been able to get to survive outdoors here. Once in the ground, neither species responds well to being disturbed. I start seeds of both in large pots, and have always lost more than 50% even of occidentalis when trying to transplant from the seedling pot into larger pots or to the outdoor bed.

You have to be a "Friend" to see my stuff in Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ShieldsGardens). If you try to "Friend" me, be sure to drop me a note explaining who you are! If I don't recognize your name, I'll ignore the request. Don't count on my memory, because it does not work all that reliably anymore.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Currently Blooming


The trillium bloom this year has been very spotty. Many of the plants transplanted from the Smoky Mountains seem to be doing very poorly in my garden, perhaps because the last year has been rather dry. One new species doing well here seems to be Trillium stramineum, which someone in Alabama gave to Richard Vagner a few years ago. When Richard sold his house in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, he had me take these plants and plant them here. Two of them are blooming.

Trillium stramineum (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Trillium stramineum

Most of the trillium flowers are well past prime, but this Trillium flexipes still looks decent. It too came from Richard Vagner's garden in Gatlinburg, but it got there from some other collector, so I'm not sure of its provenance.

Trillium flexipes (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Trillium flexipes

The few T. simile and T. erectum album that came up this year are stunted, and the flowers are unusually small. The winter was very mild here, so I doubt that low temperatures were a problem. It must be the dry weather, even though I ran sprinklers over the trillium beds several times last summer. I begin to doubt that either species will survive here many more years. In contrast, TT. cuneatum and luteum seem to be doing very well here. The luteum flowers are still quite fresh-looking.


I can't see much sign of the native Arisaema triphyllum being up yet, but Arisaema sazensoo bloomed three weeks ago, and A. ringens is in bloom right now.

Arisaema ringens (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Arisaema ringens

There are lots of Chinese and Japanese species of Arisaema that are fairly hardy here in central Indiana. Some that come to mind are kishidae, ringens, sazensoo, serratum, sikokianum, and thunbergii. The only one that seems to be lasting year after year, however, is heterophyllum. The native Indiana species that are perfectly hardy here are dracontium and triphyllum.


Aloe microstigma bloomed in the greenhouse last winter and two years ago. Now, Aloe maculata is blooming here for the first time.

Aloe maculata (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Aloe maculata

Aloe maculata has spotted leaves and is native to the Eastern Cape Province and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and in Lesotho. Among the spotted-leaf aloes, this one is characterized by the rather uniform color of the flowers and the flat-topped form of the racemes. It is a fairly common species within its range. Aloe microstigma is also quite common in its range, which includes the western part of the Eastern Cape Province, parts of the Western Cape, and adjacent areas in the Northern Cape Province. Both species seem to be doing well in my greenhouse in winter and outdoors on the deck in summer.


This is the bloom season for the Epiphyllum cacti in the greenhouse. Epiphyllum is a genus that lives in trees in the rain forests. I have some cultivars and hybrid seedlings, the most spectacular of which is the cv. 'Big Red'. The huge flowers are a brilliant scarlet red, and about 6 inches across.

Epiphyllum 'Big Red' c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Epiphyllum 'Big Red'

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Break

An American Wildlife Preserve

The first week in April, we took our grandchildren on a trip through the American Southwest. We flew from Indianapolis to Dallas-Fort Worth, then drove a rental car to about 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth. There we stayed in the Lodge at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.

Mixed Herd of Antelope and Deer.  (c) copyright 2012 by Brian Strother.
Mixed Herd of Antelope and Deer
Photo by Brian Strother

This resembles an African wildlife preserve; and the Lodge, a camp in such a preserve. The Lodge is enclosed in a fence, with a cattle gate at the entrance. Numerous species of antelope, mainly African, roam freely within the 1800 acre enclosure. It has the flavor of such an African camp, and we have been to several in South Africa over the years. A visit to Texas would certainly cost much less than a trip to Africa! As in an African lodge, the air conditioning was marginal, so I would recommend visiting at some time of year other than summer.

Giraffe Relaxing  (c) copyright 2012 by Brian Strother.
Giraffe Relaxing, an unusual sight.
Photo by Brian Strother

The breakfast is served about a mile from the lodge, in a pavilion on a hilltop. There is a large waterhole about a 100 yards from the pavilion, and there are usually a few antelope grazing in the area. At sundown, the guest can again drive up from the lodge to watch the animals come to the waterhole. The atmosphere is remarkable. My family and I recommend this as a worthwhile experience if you can't fly off to Africa this year or next. (See my South African Blog for comparisons.)

White Rhinoceros with Calf  (c) copyright 2012 by Brian Strother.
White Rhinoceros with Calf
Photo by Brian Strother

Many of the species at Fossil Rim are rare or endangered in the wild. They have herds of dozens of species of antelope and a few of deer, which graze freely within the outer fence. The rarest species are kept in enclosures away from the general animal population, but these can be visited in a private tour (advance reservations required), particularly the black rhinoceros. While zebras and giraffes roam freely in one part of the preserve, the white rhinoceros are kept in separate enclosures, as are the cheetahs. Both these species are visible on the public drive-through tours. No lions or elephants are kept at Fossil Rim.

I didn't see many flowers in Texas, but the lupines were in bloom; and where they massed, the effect was striking. These are the State Flower of Texas, the famed Texas bluebonnets. And of course, we saw people photographing their small children in the midst of the swaths of bluebonnets.

Grand Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon

From Fossil Rim, we spent two full days driving across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to get to Sedona. We stayed in Sedona rather than Flagstaff or Grand Canyon Village as a matter of personal taste (Sedona has an excellent selection of restauants!) We stayed at a small out-of-the-way bed & breakfast, the Sedona Bear Lodge in West Sedona. The new owners specialize in gourmet breakfasts, and are eager to make your visit comfortable and pleasant. We enjoyed our three nights (and breakfasts) there.

One day we drove to the Grand Canyon, a trip of about 2 to 2½ hours, including the scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon. Sedona is located at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon, and my father was enamored of the small jewel almost in the shadow of the Grand Canyon. When I was just a kid, our family would drive through Oak Creek Canyon on every vacation trip from Indiana to the Southwest.

I have to say that I have never been down into the Grand Canyon. Just standing on the South Rim and looking down into the Canyon is all I am game for. It is still stupendous and overwhelming, just standing on the Rim. I think they still must give mule rides down into the Canyon, since there is still a mule barn and paddock with mules in Grand Canyon Village. Sixty years ago, my mother took one look at the mules and another look over the rim, and refused to get anywhere near a mule. You could walk the trails down into the Canyon then and you can still do that, but be aware that the climb back up out of the Canyon is very hard (the Rim is at about 7000 ft. elevation), it can be very hot down in the Canyon, and the rangers won't be happy if they have to drag your exhausted carcass up out of there because you underestimated the difficulties.

Flowers Back Home

The dogwoods are in full bloom, but the redbuds have gone over. The Narcissus are almost all gone now. Arisaema ringens and Arisaema sazensoo were starting to bloom when we left for the Southwest and were in full bloom when we returned home. Claytonia virginica was in bloom before we left; a few of the Trillium are in bloom now. The weather seems to have been dry for the last two weeks, with rain promised for this weekend.

I noticed that I have quite a few volunteer seedlings of Fritillaria acmopetala in one bed. Only one other frit has volunteered for me, F. crassifolia kurdica. A few others are somewhat hardy here, including F. pallidiflora and F. thunbergii, but they either don't set seed or at least don't seed around. A few patches of Ipheion uniflorum are in bloom, one probably 'Wisley Blue' and the other paler, nearer white in color, with no cultivar name.

In the greenhouse, Hippeastrum glaucescens seems to have set seeds, so is probably the true species rather than some random garden hybrid. This species is diploid, and if crossed with a tetraploid should be a completely sterile triploid. In a few years, maybe we will see what the offspring look like. Note that some Hippeastrum hybrids are fertile, e.g. [papilio x mandonii] is quite fertile, and I have a pot of F2 seedlings growing on. My Hippeastrum evansiae are in bounteous bloom just now; they are usually much less generous with their flowers. They all seem to be from a single clone, as no pure evansiae seeds have ever been formed.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Unintentional Hippeastrum Hybrids

Hippeastrum morelianum Hybrids

Many of the seeds of Hippeastrum species I've gotten from South America have turned out to be hybrids. Here are two more, both received labeled as Hippeastrum morelianum, but neither is likely to be the pure species.

Hippeastrum morelianum hybrid (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum morelianum Hybrid No. 2251.A

My guess is this is maybe [morelianum x aulicum]. What does anyone else think?

Now here is another hybrid, also perhaps of morelianum.

Hippeastrum morelianum hybrid (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum morelianum Hybrid No. 2140.A

I think this one is probably [morelianum x papilio]. Any other opinions? Both of these hybrids came as seeds ex hort labeled as the species, so I surmise that the seeds actually came off of plants of wild-collected morelianum.

Hippeastrum glaucescens Maybe?

Another plant grown from seeds from the same source, received labeled Hippeastrum glaucescens and supposedly the true species. At this point, I really don't kinow what it is.

Hippeastrum glaucescens (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum glaucescens -- Pure Species or Hybrid?

It's an interesting enough flower, but I really wanted the pure species. Most hybrids are sterile, except for those from papilio. Sterile hybrids are dead-ends, just cluttering up the greenhouse.

More Weird Weather

This past winter has been strangely mild, apparently over almost the entire Lower 48 States of the U.S.A. Here in the Midwest, we have been having record high temperatures almost every day, in the high 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (ca. 21 to 26°C). Normal high temperatures averaged 55°F in the past for this time of year. As noted before, this seems to be the result of an interaction between the La Niña in the Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Oscillation as well as the Arctic Oscillation. I worry that if this continues, we will have a very dry and very hot Spring and perhaps even Summer.

The Narcissus are all in bloom; well, except for the pink forms which come later. Scilla siberica naturalized in the beds and Chionodoxa lucilae naturalized in the woodland garden are in bloom scattered all over. The Magnolia trees are in bloom, and not just the stellata hybrids but the soulangiana hybrids as well. It certainly feels like a gorgeous Spring, but it is a month early and that scares me a bit.

The Corydalis solida 'Beth Evans' are already going over. There are buds on Trillium cuneatum, T. sessile, and T. stramineum. T. nivale did not bloom this year! I'm very concerned about that; I'll probably give them some Calcium (maybe gypsum) this summer, and a little dilute fertilizer.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum Species

Hippeastrum petiolatum

I had a dwarf form of this species, under the name "flammigerum," many years ago. It reached perhaps 12 inches tall. This one has scapes at least twice as tall; and the flowers, at about 3 inches across, are larger than that old accession's. Still this makes a nice show in the greenhouse, the ruffled and twisted petals are attractive, and people seem to like it. It blooms reliably each year about this time.

Hippeastrum petiolatum (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum petiolatum #1800

I distinguish this from striatum by the ruffled and twisted petals and sepals, the slightly smaller flower size than striatum, and the production of the rather more numerous bulbils by the bulb of petiolatum, compared to striatum.

Hippeastrum papilio

This is a unique species of Hippeastrum, and fairly common in cultivation. I find it hard to produce seeds of this species, and I suspect that most of the plants in cultivation are descended for only a very few wild-collected ancestors. It does cross with other species very readily, and some of those hybrids are fertile themselves. The characteristic compression of the flower makes it instantly recognizable.

Hippeastrum papilio (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum papilio

Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii]

Another of the [papilio x mandonii] plants has bloomed; I've given this one the number 1455.H. This cross was made in 2002, and the first plants bloomed in spring 2010. That's eight years to get from seed to first blooms, a long time to wait. Such long lead times are why one needs to have many crosses coming along all the time.

Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] #1455.H (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] #1455.H

Almost every plant from this cross that has bloomed has produced a flower that was strikingly beautiful. Note the plumbing for the drip irrigation system beside this flower. I was reluctant to try to disentangle the flower and its pot from the drip lines, so the portrait has an unpolished look to it, I'm afraid. You can see more of the plants from this cross in the blog archives at February 15, 2010 and at March 27, 2010.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- A Bit More Bloom

What's Blooming in the Greenhouse

The only other Clivia in bloom at the moment is this seedling from Felicity Weeden's 'Foxy Lady', ['Foxy Lady' x L35].

Clivia [Foxy Lady x L35] (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Clivia ['Foxy Lady' x L35]

Several of the Lachenalia are in bloom in the cool greenhouse, No. 2. I like this particular Lachenalia, because it is not floppy.

Lachenalia Hybrid No. 7 (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lachenalia Hybrid No. 7

It is growing in a 5½ inch square pot, so you can estimate the size of the plant.


Most of the Galanthus nivalis are just showing traces of white on buds that are barely half-way up. The exception is Galanthus nivalis atkisii.

Galanthus nivalis atkinsii (c) copyright 2012 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Galanthus nivalis atkinsii #1061

This came from Jane McGary when she had an annual sale of surplus bulbs from her garden in Oregon.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- What Winter?

What's Blooming in the Greenhouse

In the warm greenhouse (No. 1), there is a pot of bright yellow Cyrtanthus in bloom. These look like Cyrtanthus mackenii cooperi, except they bloom much more freely and the yellow color is more vivid. Stan Tyson gave the pot to me several years ago, and the fading tag seems to say 'Yellow Gloria' if I am reading it correctly.

Cyrtanthus mackenii 'Yellow Gloria' (c) copyright by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cyrtanthus mackenii 'Yellow Gloria' (?)

John Ingram mentioned in Facebook that he had several colorful types of Cyrtanthus mackenii hybrids from Greg Pettit in South Africa. They were apparently developed as potential cut flowers, a big item in South Africa; but John says they are too short-lived to make useful cut flowers. The one I have makes a very nice pot plant.

Numerous Lachenalia species and hybrids are blooming in the cool greenhouse (No. 2), and the Scadoxus puniceus are starting to send up their blooms. I always look forward to the Scadoxus puniceus blooming, as their inflorescences are large and vividly colored. And nothing else is really in bloom in my greenhouses as this time of year. They are a treat to grow. The Lachenalia tend to get very leggy, but not strictly "etiolated," probably because of the weak winter sun at these latitudes (40°N). I try to keep the temperatures in greenhouse No. 2 at about 45°F in winter, but that does not compensate for the poor sunlight.

In the big greenhouse (No. 4) a couple of Clivia are blooming. One is a nice almost-yellow interspecific, my No. 1686, from seed from James and Connie Abel. This was planted in 2003, and this is not the first time it has bloomed; it just looks much nicer this year!

Clivia interspecific No. 1686 (c) copyright by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Interspecific Clivia Hybrid #1686 from the Abels

To the eye, #1686 looks more intensely yellow, and there is less pink color to it. My camera is under-sensitive to yellow (or overly sensitive to blue perhaps?) in my opinion.

What's Blooming Outdoors

Very little is happening outdoors so far, except that Galanthus elwesii is blooming a few weeks earlier than usual. Galanthus nivalis is in bud, with white color showing, and many of the daffodils (Narcissus cultivars) are coming up. There are no blooms showing color yet on the daffs.

Galanthus elwesii (c) copyright by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Galanthus elwesii #1913

One other Galanthus is in bloom now, G. nivalis atkisii, which looks like elwesii at first glance. The leaves are distinctly nivalis-like in atkisii.

Weather (continued)

I've seen more articles on this peculiarly mild winter weather that attribute it to the combination of La Niña and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). I certainly can't remember a winter as mild as this one has been! I anticipate that there will be swarms of noxious little bugs to deal with once warm weather arrives in earnest. Cold winters kill off lots of the bugs, and this has not been a cold winter. Ergo, many more bugs await us! Be prepared.

I have not noticed any articles directly linking climate change/global warming with this unusual combination of abnormal Arctic Osciallation (AO), La Niña, and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Still, the linkage certainly suggests itself. By the way, the AO has been keeping the cold arctic weather confined in the Far North, which may explain why Alaska has been having unusual problems with heavy snows and sea ice leading to isolation of towns like Nome.

It looks as if many places in the U.S.A. are going to see unusually early bloom on spring flowers this year. This always increases the risks to flowers and trees that they will be caught by a late freeze. So watch for this, since perfectly hardy plants newly emerged from dormancy and in active growth can be very sensitive to a hard freeze.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Catching Up

Chestnut Worms

Thanks to a knowledgeable reader of this blog, we now know that the insects attacking my chestnuts are chestnut weevils. They may be either the Larger or the Lesser Chestnut Weevils, Curculio sayi and Curculio caryatrypes, respectively. These members of the Beetle Order lay their eggs on the ripening chestnut burrs just as they are about to open, so sometime in late September. The eggs hatch soon after, the larvae bore into the ripe chestnuts, and they grow to maturity inside the nuts in just a few weeks.

With this knowledge, we can now spray against these pest in a more timely manner. My sincere thanks to Tim Eck.


We have had unseasonable weather over most of the U.S.A. this winter, and to some extent over Europe as well. Most commentary on this phenomenon has blamed La Niña, in which the waters of the central Pacific Ocean are cooler than usual. Of interest was a piece in 80 beats last week that blamed the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). It appeared on January 12th, so scroll down to that entry, if you look in 80 beats.

My take on it is that global climate change, caused by the extra energy that is being trapped in the atmosphere and oceans, is simply driving weather farther from equilibrium over a background of generally higher temperatures year-round. This should show up in more extreme weather, whether in La Niña, the Arctic Oscillation, or the North Atlantic Oscillation.

On January 10th, there was also a piece in 80 beats suggesting that global warming may be delaying the next Ice Age. A small Silver Lining to a scary Dark Cloud?

Mealy Bugs

Last year, we had a devastating plague of mealy bugs in the big greenhouse. I'm not sure which species this outbreak was, and that is not critical in any case. In the autumn, we threw out all the plants that were too sick to recover, and many of those that had the heaviest infestations with the bugs. Then we started spraying.

At this point, there are far fewer plants in that greenhouse. Most of those remaining have no signs of living mealy bugs, but here and there I still find a few plants with bug sign; so I'm still spraying occasionally.

Having been fighting mealy bugs for years using imidacloprid, I am beginning to worry that my strain of mealy bugs is becoming immune to this insecticide. As a result, we now treat with a second insecticide mixed with the imidacloprid. This is generally a pyrethroid type, and we currently are using bifenthrin as the second component. It is supposed to be an effective contact insecticide, and to have residual action. This technique appears to be working, as we have to really search to find any living mealy bugs now.

If you get an infestation of mealy bugs that you can't control by hand-killing them (e.g., with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol), be sure to use some sort of combination of insecticides. Always using just one insecticide can lead to development of resistant strains. Consult your local Agricultural Extension agent for specific instructions, and always follow label directions.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Haemanthus. V. Pictures.

These pictures of Haemanthus, some in bloom, some just leaves, some new and some old, can serve as illustrations for the material discussed in the series on Haemanthus species, hybrids, and their care.

These are arranged in the approximate order of evergreen-growing, then summer-growing, then winter-growing. Clicking on the picture will bring up a larger version of the same image.

Haemanthus albiflos (c) 2000 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus albiflos
Haemanthus deformis (c) 2004 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus deformis


Haemanthus pauculifolius (c) 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus pauculifolius
Haemanthus carneus (c) 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus carneus (close-up)


Haemanthus humilis humilis (c) 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus humilis humilis
Haemanthus humilis hirsutus (c) 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus humilis hirsutus


Haemanthus montanus (c) 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus montanus
Haemanthus amarylloides polyanthus (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus amarylloides polyanthus


Haemanthus barkerae (c) copyright 2008 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus barkerae

Haemanthus canaliculatus


Haemanthus coccineus (c) copyright 2009 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus coccineus
Haemanthus crispus (c) copyright 2008 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus crispus


Haemanthus dasyphyllus (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus dasyphyllus

Haemanthus graniticus


Haemanthus lanceifolius (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus lanceifolius
Haemanthus namaquensis (c) copyright 2009 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus namaquensis


Haemanthus nortieri Leaf (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus nortieri
Haemanthus pubescens pubescens (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus pubescens pubescens



Haemanthus pumilo

Haemanthus sanguineus



Haemanthus tristis
Haemanthus unifoliatus Leaf (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus unifoliatus

For brief descriptions of the species, see below

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Haemanthus. IV. Care and Culture

I'm preparing an article to submit to one of the plant publications. I'm posting a preliminary draft of it here, in four parts (it was three), before I submit it anywhere. Part II is a brief survey of the known species. The best discussion of the species is to be found in the monograph by Deirdré Snijman, "The Genus Haemanthus." The rediscovery and culture of H. avasmontanus was recently described in HERBERTIA, (2010), by Charles Craib. The original description of the species pauculifolius is to be found in the South African Journal of Botany (1993). Part I of this series appeared in the December 2 blog (see below) and Part II in the December 5 blog (see below) and Part III on December 10th (see below).

This part describes the methods I've developed in my greenhouse for growing these plants.

I would appreciate getting your suggestions, comments, and criticisms.


I grow a lot of Haemanthus. Since the climate here in central Indiana is not optimized for Haemanthus, that requires a greenhouse and some improvisation. Much of the information on appearance and all the information on culture in this article are based on my personal experiences.

I use one mix for almost all my bulbs, including all Haemanthus. I call this my Gritty Mix; it is made up of Premier ProMix (based on Canadian peat) + sand + granite chick starter grit in the proportions (by volume) of 2 : 1 : 1. It drains fairly well, but the peat does hold water and I have to pay attention to my watering schedule in winter. The granite chick starter grit is crushed granite with a mesh size of about 1/16 to 1/8 inch. (Do not use a grit with any chicken feed in it for this part of the mix.) The ProMix I use is type HP, for succulents, and has somewhat more perlite and possibly vermiculite in it than other forms of ProMix.

I feed almost every time I water, using a soluble fertilizer with composition 20-10-20 plus micronutrients. Our water has calcium in it to about 19 grains of hardness, so I do not add any calcium to the system. My fertilizer is Jack's Professional Peatlite, soluble, with a fairly high content of nitrogen as nitrate. Avoid fertilizers that contain nitrogen mainly in the form of ammonia, urea, and/or ureaform. High levels of phosphate are not needed, as most South African plants are adapted to growing in phosphate-poor soils.

Caring for the winter-growing species is the trickiest part. Do not water when the temperatures are too high; heat promotes rot. Use low levels of nutrients when you feed (100-200 ppm nitrogen, no higher!) Do NOT use organic fertilizers -- they promote growth of bacteria and fungi, which are not desirable for South African amaryllids.

After the fourth or fifth years, I move my Haemanthus gradually to larger pots. H. crispus will bloom in a 5.5 inch sq. pot, as will young bulbs of coccineus, but a large bulb of coccineus needs at least a 2-gallon (22 cm diameter x 22 cm deep) pot. Most bulbs are in 1-gallon plastic pots (ca 18 cm x 18 cm). Repotting can be done just at the start of the growing season, but even then major disturbance of the roots can cause the bulb to suffer. It is perhaps best to repot Haemanthus without disturbing the roots at all.

I have a lot of bulbs and plants in pots, and I use strictly plastic pots, because clay pots are:

  1. too expensive
  2. too heavy
  3. too breakable
  4. may need too frequent watering

Using a mix of plastic pots and clay pots will probably make setting a watering schedule difficult.

Starting from Seed

I start my Haemanthus seed under lights in my basement. They are fluorescent lights on timers, and the light is on 16 hours per day year-round. The temperatures almost constant, at about 70°F ± 2°, being slightly lower when the lights are off at night.

I have found the hard way that seedlings of most species of Haemanthus do not tolerate disturbance after germination until they are over three years old. As a result, I now start every seed in its own individual pot. I then leave the seedling growing undisturbed in that same pot for at least four years, and usually until it has bloomed the first time. This has cut several years off the time required to get from seed to first flower for most of the varieties I have tried.

I have also found that getting young seedlings through their first dormant period is the trickiest part of growing this genus. I try to keep them growing continuously under lights for at least 18 months, and sometimes - if the plants cooperate - for even longer. This means watering and feeding regularly for at least 18 months. This works because most species seem to tolerate abundant moisture better as young seedlings than they do as mature bulbs. In the case of seedlings of nortieri, they seem to require summer moisture for several years in order to survive their dormant periods. When I do move the seedlings out to the greenhouse, it is always at the very beginning of their normal growing season. Once in the greenhouse, all plants are allowed to follow their natural growth and dormant cycles.


  • Deirdré Snijman, The Genus Haemanthus, National Botanic Gardens of South Africa, Claremont, (1984).
  • D.A. Snijman and A.E. van Wyk, "Haemanthus pauculifolius. A new species of Haemanthus (Amaryllidaceae) from the eastern Transvaal Escarpment, South Africa" So. African J. Botany, vol. 59, No. 2, pp. 247-250 (1993).
  • Charles Craib, "The rediscovery of Haemanthus avasmontanus (Amaryllidaceae) in Namibia", HERBERTIA vol. 64, pp. 67-90 (2010).

I have other material on Haemanthus in my section on Amaryllids and other bulbs.

This concludes the text of this draft article.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Haemanthus. III. The Hybrids

I'm preparing an article to submit to one of the plant publications. I'm posting a preliminary draft of it here, in four parts (it was three), before I submit it anywhere. Part II is a brief survey of the known species. The best discussion of the species is to be found in the monograph by Deirdré Snijman, "The Genus Haemanthus." The rediscovery and culture of H. avasmontanus was recently described in HERBERTIA, (2010), by Charles Craib. The original description of the species pauculifolius is to be found in the South African Journal of Botany (1993). Part I of this series appeared in the December 2 blog (see below) and Part II in the December 5 blog (see below).

This part describes the hybrids in the genus Haemanthus that I know about. There may be more unknown to me, and there are said to be some natural hybrids in places. For instance, [coccineus x sanguineus] is thought to occur in the wild where the two parent species' ranges overlap.

I would appreciate getting your suggestions, comments, and criticisms.

Haemanthus x-clarkii

The hybrid Haemanthus x-clarkii, which is [albiflos x coccineus], is well known and this cross has been repeated many times by many growers. I have not made this cross myself, but Terry Hatch in New Zealand has told me that the progeny can have any color, from yellow to pink, orange, and red. It sounds well worth repeating, and I will probably do it myself someday. Everyone should have a yellow-flowered Haemanthus on his or her windowsill.

The one example of this cross I have grown has deciduous leaves, grows in winter, and blooms in later summer or early autumn.

Haemanthus [humilis hirsutus x coccineus]

I have succeeded in making three interspecific crosses so far. The first and most striking result to date was [humilis hirsutus x coccineus]. This cross produced leaves with fine red edges and blooms with burgundy bracts. This is a striking Haemanthus, and all the eight seedlings that resulted have similar coloration. I have given this cross the group name 'Burgundy'.

The specification of this group 'Burgundy' is as follows: Bred from a white-flowered humilis hirsutus, having typical hirsutus hair on the leaves and peduncle, pollinated by a coccineus with red edges on the leaves. The progeny have bright pink-orange flowers enclosed in bracts of burgundy color. The bract color gradually changes to green over bronze as the inflorescence ages. The peduncle is covered in a uniform coat of fine hair. The hybrids are apparently sterile, but they produce offsets and occasionally produce a second bloom scape in the same season. In a world where more people had heard of Haemanthus, this hybrid would have had a bright future.

Haemanthus [barkerae x coccineus]

The second successful cross was [barkerae x coccineus] and its reciprocal [coccineus x barkerae]. The two crosses produce plants with leaves that are long and relatively narrower than coccineus but broader than the leaves of the strain of barkerae used.

The inflorescences are somewhat variable in form, but the bracts start out erect, enclosing the flowers. The initial bract color may be red-orange or a pink-orange, but they all seem to age to a uniform red-orange. The bracts may remain erect or may gradually spread out.

These hybrids seem to mature significantly faster than coccineus or barkerae seedlings, and the leaves seem to be longer than coccineus seeds and much wider than barkerae leaves.

These hybrids are quite fertile, and produce abundant F2 seeds when hand-pollinated.

Haemanthus [coccineus x crispus]

The third hybrid is [coccineus x crispus] and these are still too young to bloom. However, the leaves are clearly intermediate between the leaves of crispus and those of coccineus, showing significant albeit reduced wavy margins along the lower third of the narrow leaves. The plants look at this stage as if they might eventually be larger than crispus plants.

Haemanthus [barkerae x namaquensis]

I have one plant from the [barkerae x coccineus] batch, that looks like it might be the hybrid [barkerae x namaquensis]. I base this guess on the leaves having some wavy character and a lighter green color than the other [barkerae x coccineus] seedlings. Only this one plant shows the wavy character to the leaves.

I should repeat this cross intentionally, and compare the offspring to this one putative example that turned up in my other cross.

Pollinating by Hand

I gave up trying to remove a single anther and pollinate a single stigma with it. This method requires a very steady hand, much sharper eyes than I have, and vastly more patience than I can command. I now just brush my open hand, palm down, over the entire umbel of the desired pollen parent, and then brush the hand over the intended seed parent. It generally seems to work.

Part IV will talk about care and culture of Haemanthus in the greenhouse.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Haemanthus. II. The Species

I'm preparing an article to submit to one of the plant publications. I'm posting a preliminary draft of it here, in three parts, before I submit it anywhere. Part II is a brief survey of the known species. The best discussion of the species is to be found in the monograph by Deirdré Snijman, "The Genus Haemanthus." The rediscovery and culture of H. avasmontanus was recently described in HERBERTIA, (2010), by Charles Craib. The original description of the species pauculifolius is to be found in the South African Journal of Botany (1993). Part I of this series appeared in the December 2 blog (see below).

I would appreciate getting your suggestions, comments, and criticisms.

Haemanthus albiflos

This is probably the most common species of Haemanthus in cultivation. It is small enough for a windowsill, with bulbs reaching about two inches in diameter and with wide leaves two to six inches long. Its evergreen foliage makes it better as a houseplant than one of the species that spends half the year dormant and leafless. It grows a new pair of leaves each year, and it retains the previous year's pair of leaves as well. The oldest pair are lost when the new pair appears. It makes offsets and forms a clump with time. The flowers are white paintbrushes and usually appear in autumn. Pollination, including self-pollination, leads to the formation of bright red-orange berries.

Haemanthus amarylloides

The commonest subspecies of this is polyanthus, which occurs in large populations in places. The other two subspecies, amarylloides and toximontanus, are very hard to get, and I've never seen either of them. The plant has long, relatively narrow leaves and the umbel is rather small compared to some species. Winter growing and native to the Western Cape Province, in Namaqualand and the Bokkeveld Escarpment.

The leaves are lorate to oblanceolate, usually with red margins but otherwise not heavily marked. The inflorescence is pink. I have yet to see this species bloom, although I have been growing some specimens for several years.

Haemanthus avasmontanus

Long considered extinct, this species was recently rediscovered in its native Namibia by Charles Craib (HERBERTIA, 2010). Physically, avasmontanus resembles montanus, with linear, strap-like leaves and white flowers. It grows in partial shade on south-facing rocky slopes, unlike montanus which grows in full sun. Like montanus, it comes into flower at the start of the summer rains, just as or just before the leaves start to grow. It is apparently limited to areas around Windhoek in Namibia. Residential development near Windhoek has already destroyed one of the type localities for this species.

Haemanthus barkerae

Haemanthus barkerae is not an uncommon species, and it appears to vary over its range. We have two distinctly different foliage types, as well as a third type intermediate between the two. This winter-growing species occurs on the Bokkeveld plateau between Nieuwoudtville and Calvinia.

Haemanthus barkerae (c) copyright James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
This shows the flower of the type with long, narrow, bright green leaves (my #368). The other type has very similar flowers but the leaves are dark blue-green and lorate -- or broadly spatulate in shape (my #936).

Haemanthus carneus

Very similar in general appearance to humilis humilis, this summer-growing species is distinguished from humilis by having the stamens shorter than the flower petals. The leaves are smooth, held flat to the ground, and very broad. The pink flowers appear before the leaves. It is found in the Eastern Cape Province in the Boschberg area. It has also been found in the Free State and in KwaZulu-Natal.

Haemanthus canaliculatus

Perhaps the rarest species of Haemanthus, canaliculatus is not in my collection. The species name refers to the narrow, channeled leaves, which are unique in the genus in being smooth, succulent, and having red bars on the abaxial surface near the base. The inflorescence is red. This winter-growing species is found in a small area on the coast of the Western Cape Province, between Rooi Els and Betty's Bay. Descriptions adapted from Snijman (1984).

Haemanthus coccineus

Haemanthus coccineus is probably the most wide-spread species of Haemanthus in South Africa. Found mainly in the Western Cape Province, it also occurs widely in the Northern Cape and even into the Eastern Cape Province. It is winter-growing over its entire range. The red-orange inflorescence appears shortly after that of barkerae in cultivation. The smooth leaves are somewhat variable in shape, but most colonies have broad, rounded leaves. They are decorated underneath (on the abaxial surface) with red, brown, or dark green bars.

It is mostly quite uniform throughout its range, and this specimen, from Bainskloof in the Western Cape, seems pretty typical to me. Its foliage is two large, very wide, smooth leaves. One accession, from the Gifberg, has leaves that are markedly longer and narrower than any of the other accessions of coccineus in my collection.

In my experience, the bulbs of this species produce offsets in cultivation only when the apical meristem has been damaged. I find this to be a rather easy species to grow, although not so tolerant as H. albiflos.

Haemanthus crispus

This winter-growing species is one of the smallest in the genus. It grows easily in a 5-inch pot. The most striking characteristic is the strongly wavy form of the very narrow leaves. The narrow (1/4 to 1 inch wide) leaves have dark green or red bands and blotches, not only on the abaxial surface but also on the adaxial (upper) side. The inflorescence is a bright scarlet red conical umbel on a short (2 to 4 inches) peduncle. This species is found abundantly throughout Namaqualand.

My plants do not set seed readily, but produce a few with hand pollination. They also produce an occasional offset.

Haemanthus dasyphyllus

This species is found in large colonies, so it is not truly rare, but its distribution is quite limited, being found only on Langberg and on Kubiskouberg, in the Western Mountain Karoo.

Dasyphyllus is very similar to unifoliatus, except that it has two leaves, usually, while unifoliatus has a single leaf, usually. The hair on the leaves of dasyphyllus is long and soft, while the hair on the leaves of unifoliatus is short and patent. The bulbs of dasyphyllus and unifoliatus are also somewhat different and may aid in distinguishing between the two species. In cultivation, they may be easily confused. In the wild, the precise collection location will be important in distinguishing these two species. The inflorescence is bright red. Winter-growing.

Haemanthus deformis

This evergreen species is found in the midlands and coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal and down into the Transkei region. Unlike albiflos and pauculifolius, this species seems to grow with its bulbs below the surface of the ground. The two to four broad leaves are strongly recurved or prostrate. This species is unique in that the inflorescence is produced between the two persistent leaves, rather than from the outside of the leaves. The peduncle is very short. The amount of hair on the leaves and peduncle varies from none to densely hairy. I have only seen the smooth, hairless forms.

Haemanthus graniticus

This is another rare species that is not in my collection and that I have never seen. It is found only in two places in Namaqualand, near Springbok and Kamiesberg. It is a winter-growing form with 2 or 3 narrow, smooth, lanceolate leaves that appear after the flowers. The bloom is bright red, with the red color extending down the peduncle as well. Descriptions adapted from Snijman (1984).

Haemanthus humilis humilis

Haemanthus humilis humilis is a summer-growing bulb. The broad leaves may be almost spade-shaped to almost round. The leaves appear shortly after the flowers fade, and last well into winter. The flowers may be pink or white, but all of mine have turned out to be pink. They bloom in July here, usually shortly after the montanus have finished. The fruits are fleshy and seed sets readily if you have two or more clones to cross-pollinate.

This variety is quite variable, having both dwarf and giant forms. This one is fairly easy from seed. If you were only going to grow two species of Haemanthus, I'd recommend this one and H. coccineus.

Haemanthus humilis hirsutus

Summer-growing, with hairy leaves and peduncle, this subspecies usually has white flowers. In cultivation, it blooms and leafs out somewhat later in summer than does subspecies humilis. This subspecies occurs in the High Veld, including Mpumalanga and the Drakensberg Escarpment, the Free State, and the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, clear down into the Eastern Cape Province. Because of the climate of its habitat, it is probably one of the most cold-resistant forms of Haemanthus.

Haemanthus lanceifolius

This rare and localized species is known from two localities in Namaqualand. Its leaves have cartilaginous edges, either colorless or red tinted; this may be its most distinguishing characteristic. The flowers are either white or pink, as are the fruits. The leaves are usually two or three in number and lay flat on the ground. Pink flowers, red edges, and pink fruit seem to be associated in the same plant, at least in my small sample in the greenhouse. Winter-growing.

Haemanthus montanus

This is Haemanthus montanus, a summer-growing species with long, narrow leaves (1 to 2 inches wide). this one is growing in a 1-gallon pot (ca. 7 inches / 17.5 cm in diameter). This is the first species in my collection to bloom in the spring. The white inflorescence is carried on a tall peduncle.

Haemanthus montanus (c)
Haemanthus montanus

This species occurs in the High Veld, including Mpumalanga and the Drakensberg Escarpment, the Free State, and the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. Because of its range, this may be the most cold-resistant species of Haemanthus.

The fruits have a single large seed per berry and the skin is thin, not fleshy. The seed is a matt green, and to me it looks more like a Hymenocallis seed than a Haemanthus seed.

Haemanthus namaquensis

This uncommon species is the first of the "winter-growing" Haemanthus to bloom for me, flowering in late summer even ahead of barkerae. The inflorescence is a brilliant scarlet red, and quite pretty; but its main attraction is the two upright, heavy, pale green leaves with their wavy edges. Winter-growing. In my limited experience, this species is not self-fertile.

This species is found only along the western escarpment, from southern Nambia to Karkams in Namaqualand.

I have found namaquensis to be harder to grow in the greenhouse than most of my other winter-growing species. I've lost two good-sized bulbs of this now. I suspect it is much less tolerant of excess water than many of the other winter-growing species.

Haemanthus nortieri

My bulb of this came from a dealer in the UK, and was perhaps medium sized when I got it 10 years ago. It has still not bloomed, and Graham Duncan told me that he had his for 19 years at Kirstenbosch and it still had not bloomed. The single, paddle-shaped leaf is rigidly erect and has a sticky surface that holds small grains of sand and another debris. Winter-growing.

H. nortieri is one of the very rare species, found only in a very restricted area in the Nardouwsberge in the Western Cape Province. It grows in seasonally wet spots in Nature; so when it is in active growth in the greenhouse, it seems to tolerate frequent watering and generous feeding.

Haemanthus pauculifolius

The newest species of Haemanthus, described in 1993. One of the smallest species, evergreen, with hairy, light green leaves. The narrow white paintbrush` inflorescence appears in winter. Found in what was once known as the Transvaal, along the Drakensberg Escarpment. I have found it easy to grow. It produces abundant offsets, so it should eventually be quite common in cultivation. It spends the summers outdoors in the lath house and winters inside a greenhouse kept at temperatures above freezing.

Haemanthus pubescens pubescens

A common species in the Western Cape Province. The leaves are hairy. The brilliant scarlet inflorescence has sturdy, erect bracts that enclose the flowers. The fruits are characteristic, large, pink to almost white, and containing only one to three small seeds. Inside, the berries seem to be mostly air.

Haemanthus pumilio

A very rare species, not in my collection. Winter-growing. It occurs in the Western Cape Province in and around Stellenbosch, where there are only three reported colonies left. The sparse umbel has pink flowers with petals open. The bracts are narrow and spreading. The flowers appear before the leaves, which are rather short and narrow. The species is characterized by cream-colored bulbs lacking the dry brown tunics. It has been confused with barkerae, but the bulbs are different and their ranges do not overlap. This is another species that I have never seen. Descriptions adapted from Snijman (1984).

Haemanthus sanguineus

Very similar in appearance to coccineus, and where their ranges overlap it may be difficult to distinguish the two species. Winter-growing. The leathery, dark green leaves are generally very broad, almost round, and prostrate. The leaves are light green on the abaxial (lower) surface, with no marking or rarely somewhat spotted with red near the base. Their margins are cartilaginous. The inflorescence is a rich scarlet red, including the peduncle. The hairless, compressed and furrowed peduncle has no markings other than the solid pink to red color. The peduncle of coccineus normally has dark green, brown, or red bands and spots on it. Descriptions adapted from Snijman (1984), as I have not grown this species.

Haemanthus tristis

A very rare species, not in my collection. This species is found in only one location, in the southeast of the Tanqua Karoo. The site is very dry, with less than 4 inches of rainfall per year. The two leaves are ligulate, 4 to 7 inches long and narrow, to 5/8 inch wide. Margins are red, the abaxial surface pink toward the base. The leaves lack distinct markings. The flowers are white, turning pink as they age. Bracts are narrow and spreading. Winter-growing. Descriptions adapted from Snijman (1984).

This species is very similar to barkerae, but is distinguished by the leaves: narrow red margins, no marked bands or dots on the abaxial surface. Always smooth. The leaves are narrow and channeled. Barkerae always has dark green or red bands, and may be pubescent; its leaves are not so narrow nor so channeled.

Haemanthus unifoliatus

A very uncommon species, similar to dasyphyllus in having very hairy, light green leaves. Unifoliatus normally has just one leaf, while dasyphyllus normally has two leaves. In cultivation, the number of leaves seems to be somewhat variable, so one should know the geographic provenance of the plants or seeds to confirm the identity. Winter-growing. The inflorescence is bright red. This species is in my collection but as seedling plants that have not yet bloomed.

For pictures of some more of the species, see above.

Part III will talk about the few hybrids known in this genus, and about care and culture in the greenhouse.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Haemanthus. I.

I'm preparing an article to submit to one of the plant publications. I'm posting a preliminary draft of it here, in three parts, before I submit it anywhere. Today's part is a brief introduction to the genus.

The Genus Haemanthus

The genus Haemanthus is endemic to Southern Africa. It is found in South Africa and in Namibia, and it is probably found in Swaziland and in Lesotho as well. The species are all geophytes, characterized by having perennial parts that are true bulbs, the scales of which are the bases of former leaves. The leaves arise directly from the basal plate, without any intermediate pseudostem or pseudopetiole, and have heavy substance. The inflorescence is an umbel with the numerous flowers enclosed, initially at least, within several bracts. There is only one authoritative source for information on the botany of Haemanthus: Deirdré Snijman's monograph, The Genus Haemanthus (1984). I have drawn heavily on this book for information on the botany and occurrence of the various species. It is unfortunate that the book is out of print and not widely available.

Haemanthus nearest relatives are in the Scadoxus and were for a long time included in Haemanthus as well. They have rhizomes or tubers rather than true bulbs, and the thin leaves are petiolate and carried atop a pseudostem. Other relatives include the genus Clivia. I have not heard of any proven intergeneric hybrids involving Haemanthus.

There are three kinds of Haemanthus by growing habits: Winter-growing (the majority of species); summer-growing; and evergreen. I'll take them in reverse order.

The evergreen species are albiflos, deformis, and pauculifolius. The first is so easy that a corpse could grow it. The third is almost as easy, but deformis causes me problems. Albiflos and pauculifolius get watered and fed when I happen to remember them. They go dry in between. They still survive and produce too many offsets. Deformis does not like to dry out too much or for too long, and rots when it is kept too wet. I'm still trying to sort this one out. All three of these species spend their summers outdoors here in central Indiana, under light shade but open to wind and rain. They spend the winters inside a greenhouse, with plenty of light and occasional watering.

The "summer"-growing species are humilis (both var. humilis and var. hirsutus), carneus, and montanus. I keep them in the greenhouse, dry, from the end of September until the middle of May. In summer (May-Sept) they are outdoors in full sun. They are watered regularly, including getting all of our usually abundant rainfall. The montanus bloom in June under these conditions. Humilis humilis (pink flowers) blooms pretty reliably in early July. Humilis hirsutus (white flowers) can bloom any time from early July to September. The carneus usually bloom at the end of the humilis humilis bloom period. All these species start their foliage only after they have bloomed, and they keep their foliage well into winter. In the greenhouse, the montanus start shedding their foliage in November, but the leaves of the other three forms remain green and healthy for longer.

The winter-growing species are all the rest. I have most of the commoner species, including amarylloides var. polyanthus, barkerae, coccineus, crispus, dasyphyllus, lanceifolius, namaquensis, nortieri, pubescens var. pubescens, and unfoliatus. All have bloomed for me except amarylloides, nortieri, and unifoliatus. The rest have all finished blooming by the end of October and their leaves are filling out through November. They will keep their leaves until the greenhouse starts to get too hot for them, which can be as early as late February and always occurs by the end of April. These species are stored bone-dry in the greenhouse over summer. The mature bulbs seem to take the 125°F / 52°C high temperatures in stride.

The next part will be a list of the known species.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Collections

Finding Stuff in this Blog

This blog is a collection of short "essays," I guess you would call them, on a variety of topics. Most relate in some way or other to plants, but not all. What is in this collection? Can we find any of it after the fact?

There is an item called "Category Index" in the menu bar at the top of this page. That is the index for the whole blog -- at least to the extent that I manage to get a given plant species or particular subject that is discussed in the blog entered into the Category file. The category file is divided into two sections: the first lists all the plants I have mentioned, by genus. The second is a list of broad topics I have mentioned; it's perhaps a bit arbitrary but the broad topics are at least listed in alphabetic order.

In checking the category file for some collection-keeping topics, I found nothing. So, I will talk a bit about what data to keep, how to keep it, and something about labeling pots and plants.


A formal collection of anything is worth far less that it might be if there are no data recorded for the items in the collection. This applies to postage stamps, to salt and pepper shakers, to oil paintings, and most definitely to plants.

There are two ways that collectors, botanic gardens, and museums generally record data: traditionally, in a bound notebook using pen and ink; more recently, in an electronic database. Since I am old enough to still have a healthy distrust of electronic devices and stored data, I start with an entry in a bound notebook for every new plant, bulb, or batch of seeds that I acquire. Once the acquisition, which museums refer to as an "accession," is noted on its own page in the currently active notebook, you can go ahead and do things like add it to the electronic database, plant it, and put it in the greenhouse.

The first thing to do in entering the new accession in the data system is to assign it a unique Accession Number. This is like a serial number. I may have six different accessions of Haemanthus coccineus, so each one has to have its own accession number. For each one, I also record when I received the plant or seeds, and where it came from. For instance, some years back I got three different batches of Haementhus coccineus seeds, all from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa. But one batch of seeds was collected in the Richtersveld region, another batch on the Gifberg, and the third batch at Bainskloof. Each batch has its own separate accession number.

So the first and most essential items of information that must be recorded are

  • Accession number
  • Date of acquisition
  • Name of plant (as received)
  • Name of supplier
  • Location where found

The data entry for one of those accessions would look like this:

  • Accession number: 256
  • Genus: Haemanthus
  • Species: coccineus
  • Date of acquisition: 29 May 1997
  • Name of supplier: Rachel Saunders, Silverhill Seeds
  • Location where found: Richtersveld, South Africa

There are myriad other data that one might want to record for an acquisition, but these are the absolute barest minimum.

When one adds more data fields, the need for additional tables can also arise. Most likely, when one accession has proliferated until you have it in several different places. Then you need a Locations data table, related back to the original table through the Accession Number. If you record blooming times, you need a Bloom table for those, again linked back to the original table through the Accession Number. These subordinate tables can contain multiple records for any given entry in the original table -- you have one-to-many relationships between the data in the records in the original table (the one) and in the subordinate tables (the many). The group of related tables becomes a relational database.

Note that the botanical name(s) is(are) not the primary index field. The name as received is often wrong. Botanical names change as taxonomic and phylogenetic research progresses. You don't want to have to hunt through several separate data tables and perhaps dozens of records in each to find and change all the Plant Name fields when a revision shows up in the botanical literature. The Accession Number is always the primary datum, not the plant name.

For most home gardeners, a relational system is just not necessary. A simple spreadsheet in Excel or OpenOffice Calc will work just fine. The relational system is necessary for botanical gardens, botanists, and serious plant collectors to whom local ecotypes, subspecies, and rarities of all sorts are important.


Every pot needs to be identified. Every plant needs to be identified. One way or another, this is almost always done with a plastic or metal label on which information is written. The writing is where the trouble starts -- most writing fades with time. Beyond that, labels get pulled up, carried away, or blown away by the winds. Keeping your plants labeled can be a constant battle.

The label is the essential link between the actual plant and the data describing it. When that link is broken, the data entry for it becomes bare and the plant becomes valueless.

The label should bear, at the least, the Accession Number. All other data are optional on the label. I like to put, in addition, the botanical name, the date planted, and the dates when this particular plant has been repotted or divided.

Gardeners like to write on their labels with felt-tip markers, especially the Sharpie® brand. While convenient to use, this type of marker tends not to be weather- and ultraviolet-proof. I prefer to use either soft lead pencil, which will last as long as any of the plastic labels will, or a printed label. The plastic labels themselves eventually get brittle and crack if they are not otherwise lost.

To keep the label from becoming separated from the plant, many collectors bury one copy of the label in the pot with the plant, and then they add a second one above ground for display.

Printed labels must be both water-proof and UV light proof. Brother makes a printer and some label tapes that meet this requirement. The Brother P-Touch line of printers and the laminated TZ-tapes are what I recommend.

Plastic labels come in all shapes and sizes, in either vinyl or polystyrene. Metal labels are also available. I get metal labels from A.M. Leonard, and I prefer the vinyl pot labels 5/8-inch wide by 5 or 6 inches long for most pots, and metal labels with zinc plates approximately 1 inch by 2½ wide with 10-inch stainless steel legs for larger pots. I use the 1/2-inch wide and the 1-inch wide tapes in black printed on white.

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Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Cleaning up the Greenhouse

Fighting Mealy Bugs

My big greenhouse stood, jammed full of plants, for almost a year with no one helping me care for it. (When I call it "big," I mean 28 ft x 96 ft.) This was an untenable situation, and even though only a relatively few plants showed signs of disease, many, many were infested with the ubiquitous and nasty mealy bugs. It got to the place where I hated to even go near that greenhouse. Eventually, something had to be done, so I drafted my daughter and the grandkids. My daughter and I selected plants to be culled or treated, and the grandkids dumped the culls. I sprayed the ones to be treated.

The critical step was to get rid of as many plants as I could bear, so that the remaining ones would be seen as individuals and not lost in the masses. I would guess we threw out one-half to two-thirds of the plants that were in there. We started with those that were sick or dead. Most of those plants went into the trash, but their old potting soil went out in the field.

Next we pulled out the plants most heavily infested with mealy bugs. We had two options: 1) throw the plant with the bugs into the trash; or 2) spray the plant heavily with insecticides if I really wanted to save it. A great many of them went into the trash.

For option 2, I think the choice of insecticides was critical. Several years ago a greenhouse-keeper friend of mine got recommendations from the California Department of Agriculture for controlling mealy bugs in his new greenhouses. They, at that time, suggested using a mixture of imidacloprid and bifenthrin. In case you don't already know, imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid while bifenthrin is a synthetic pyrethroid. Both are neurotoxins; imidacloprid has a systemic action when absorbed by the plant, while bifenthrin has a very long residual surface action. Both can be used as soil drenches in pots, as I understand the situation.

I sprayed each infested plant thoroughly with the imidacloprid-bifenthrin mixture, then set them aside for a couple weeks. For three months, we have been working our way through this one greenhouse. I'm still not quite finished, as there are still plants crowded in places on some of the benches and still live mealy bugs on some plants. Nonetheless, I can see that this really is working. I will need to stick with it until every last mealy bug has been killed; if I don't, they will be back again by next spring.

Most of us who have greenhouses keep them too full. They are jammed with every odd and interesting plant we ever come across. This makes for an idea breeding ground for any pests that get into the greenhouse, and in particular for my personal nemesis, the mealy bug. Take a lesson from my misery (as shared with my daughter and grandkids) please!

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Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Winter in the Greenhouses

Nerine sarniensis Hybrids

My Sarniensis Hybrids are always problematic for me. I got my first such bulbs from a friend in the UK who was frustrated that I refused to even try to grow them here in Indiana. He sent me about a dozen different bulbs of various older hybrids, and a few of them still survive in my greenhouse. Most have passed along the trail to oblivion, but enough survived to inspire me to buy another half dozen from Nicholas de Rothschild a few years ago. All of these are still alive! In fact, they are in bloom right now.

Nerine sarniensis 'Garnet Glory' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.   All rights reserved.
Nerine sarniensis 'Garnet Glory'
Nerine sarniensis 'Inchmery Kate' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.   All rights reserved.
Nerine sarniensis 'Inchmery Kate'
Nerine sarniensis 'Koho' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.   All rights reserved.
Nerine sarniensis 'Koho'
Nerine sarniensis 'Miss Willmott' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.   All rights reserved.
Nerine sarniensis 'Miss Willmott'

There are several delicate points in successfully growing sarniensis hybrids in a climate like mine here in the eastern, wet, Midwest. The main climate-connected problem is getting them through the summer alive. Heat per se does not hurt them in summer, but our rainfall makes it imperative that they spend their summers protected from precipitation. Outdoors under a table or in the lath house under a bench were not good options. Too much rain blew in from the sides, and they tended to rot.

They survive in the greenhouse in summer, but this weakens them excessively, even with an occasional light watering. The temperatures in the greenhouse got up to 125°F on hot, sunny days. They survived best when stored in the basement over summer. I thought the cellar might be too cool, with temperatures around 68°F/20°C. In comparison to summering in the greenhouse, the basement seems better. Regardless of where they spend the summer, the bulbs of sarniensis need a little bit of water occasionally. I try to water them with just a spritz or two about once a month in summer.

Autumn Slides into Winter

The Haemanthus are finished blooming for now. The Lachenalia are just starting to bloom, and since many of them were repotted about 6 weeks ago, they may have rather wimpy blooms this time.

My two Brunsbigia litoralis bloomed last month, and were pollinated on each other. I'm getting a few seeds now.

Brunsvigia litoralis (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.   All rights reserved.
Brunsvigia litoralis
Blooming in Early October

I consider this an "interesting" flower, but not a beautiful one. What I really like about it is that these two bulbs have survived from seeds in my greenhouse, while many other Brunsvigia species have not.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Chestnut Season

I've been distracted by Chinese Chestnut season in my backyard. As a few people may know, up until about 100 years ago the eastern forests of North America where thick with native American chestnut trees. The trees were tall and straight, and their nuts were big and sweet. At least, that is what my father claimed. Then the European Chestnut Blight hit, and within a decade there were no chestnut trees left in North America. Italian chestnut trees are resistant to the blight but can't grow in North America, apparently for reasons of climate. The smaller Chinese chestnut trees are resistant and will grow here.

Chinese Chestnuts (Castanea mollissima)

We have a small nut orchard in the backyard, including 6 Chinese Chestnut trees. Three of these trees are worthless except as pollinators -- the nuts are too small to be useful and their flavor is very poor. They were, at least, very cheap when bought about thirty years ago. The other three chestnut trees produce tasty nuts of respectable size. These good trees cost more and came from a reputable commercial fruit tree nursery by mail order.

Into this seemingly idyllic picture now comes a villain -- some sort of worm. Actually, the worm is clearly the larva of some sort of fly, insect order Diptera, which have very characteristic young, commonly referred to as maggots. We can't get them identified to the species level, because I can't get the mature larvae to pupate and then produce adults. All maggots look more or less the same, it seems! These make a hole about 1/16th inch across when they emerge from the nut. The maggots themselves are about 1/4th to 5/16ths inch long as they emerge from the nuts. I assume they emerge after the nuts have fallen to the ground, and that they burrow into the ground to pupate and spend the winter. The adults almost certainly emerge sometime at or after the time the nut trees bloom in the early summer of the following year.

Since we can't identify the exact species of fly involved, we can't tell exactly when the flies emerge, mate, and lay their eggs on the young, immature nuts. For several years, we accidentally got the spray schedule just right, and we had no worms in our nuts. Then the guy who did the spraying left town, and his replacements have not yet figured out precisely when to spray the trees to prevent the worms completely. My preliminary survey of some of the harvested nuts shows a worm infestation of about 20 - 25%. It could certainly be worse, and this only applies to the first tree whose nuts ripened.

I would rather show you a picture of the adult fly, but since I can't seem to grow the worms to maturity -- I have in fact tried -- I will have to settle for a picture of the maggots. The ones pictured are alive, but I also pickled some in 70% isopropyl alcohol.

Nut Fly Larvae (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Mature larvae of nut fly (Diptera)
About 1/4 inch long

Being ignorant of the life cycle of our unidentified nut fly, I decided the spraying crew would spray just before anthesis, a second time at the end of pollination, and again later in the season. Our three useful trees ripen their fruit at 1-week intervals, the last tree ripening about two weeks after the first. I judged the time for the first spraying on the middle and last trees. We now find that the first tree to ripen has lots of worms, while the middle tree has only a very few. We can't tell for the last tree to ripen just yet.

Haemanthus (Continued)

My beloved Haemanthus have continued to bloom.

The Haemanthus coccineus have finished up except for a straggler or two. The Haemanthus lanceifolius seem to have all set seed after my pollinating attempts. The one group blooming now are the [humilis hirsutus x coccineus] hybrids.

The female (seed) parent was the hirsutus, and the male (pollen) parent was the coccineus. This cross has been discussed before in this blog, in the October 30, 2007 entry and again in the September 30, 2009 entry. I'm still very much taken with it! The color seems to be unique among Haemanthus in my experience, but I grant that I have seen very few hybrids in this genus.

The burgundy color is mainly in the bracts of the inflorescence. It gradually turns more bronze colored as the bloom ages, and I think the color is a result of adding the scarlet red (anthocyanin) pigment of the coccineus bracts to the green (chlorophyll) pigments of the hirsutus bracts. This had not occurred to me when I was making the original cross.

Haemanthus [humilis hirsutus x coccineus] (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus [humilis hirsutus x coccineus]

So far, the plants from this cross have proved to be stubbornly sterile.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Haemanthus. II.

It's still Haemanthus season for me.

Haemanthus lanceifolius

This is a very uncommon species, although not as rare as some such as canaliculatus, for example. It is found in only a couple of locations in Namaqualand between Vanrhynsdorp and Klawer. The area gets less than 6 inches of rainfall in a year. The plants grow at relatively low elevations in sandy or rocky soils. The blooms are described as white or pink, but most of my seedlings so far have had white flowers with pink-tinged bracts. The petals spread out so that each flower is a little white star. These are all first-year blooms, with the inflorescences 2 to 4 inches in overall height.

Haemanthus lanceifolius (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.      Haemanthus lanceifolius (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.

Haemanthus lanceifolius (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.      Haemanthus lanceifolius (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus lanceifolius
Click on small images to enlarge.

The flowers are followed by just two leaves, which lay flat on the ground. The leaves have a characteristic cartilaginous edge, often fringed, and either colorless or maroon tinted. These are just about the most un-spectacular Haemanthus blooms I've seen so far; they make the blooms of barkerae look showy by comparison. Valued for its relative rarity.

Haemanthus crispus

This is a dwarf species of Haemanthus, probably the best to grow if your space is severely limited. All of my plants of this species have brilliant red-orange inflorescences, but in Snijman (1984), she records the colors as "coral to scarlet or pink." Mine all reach no more than about 3 inches in height, but again she reports the heights as up to 6 inches. The short peduncles on my plants may result from the way I grow them. This is not a rare species, being found widely through Namaqualand in western South Africa.

Haemanthus crispus (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus crispus

The leaves, usually two in number, are characteristically narrow but channeled and heavily undulate. They are barred or blotched with red or dark green on the abaxial surface.

Haemanthus coccineus 'Richtersveld'

Haemanthus coccineus is one of the most widely occurring species of Haemanthus, ranging from the western part of the Eastern Cape Province through the Western Cape and into southern Namibia. This accession of Haemanthus coccineus was grown from seeds collected about 14 years ago in the wild (under permit) by Silverhill Seeds in the Richtersveld area of the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. This was along the Orange River very close to Namibia but in South Africa.

Haemanthus coccineus 'Richtersveld' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.      Haemanthus coccineus 'Richtersveld' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus coccineus 'Richtersveld'
Click on images to enlarge.

This accession seems pretty typical of coccineus: broad leaves, rich red-orange inflorescence. Number 256.A however (image on the left) on its first scape of each season has had the white blotches on the tips of the bracts for the last couple of years. Note that its second scape of the season is quite normal for coccineus. For comparison, Number 256.C (image on the right) shows the first and only scape of the season.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Haemanthus

It's Haemanthus season again for me. Granted, the Haemanthus bloom from late May or early June (Haemanthus montanus) until November or December (Haemanthus pauculifolius). Never the less, September is my favorite season for Haemanthus. This is when the winter-growing species from the Western Cape region come into bloom. The first to bloom is H. namaquensis (see August 28, below), which is a rare and unusual plant. Sadly, it seems slow to reproduce.

Haemanthus barkerae

This is a small-flowered species from the Bokkeveld mountains around Nieuwoudtville to Calvinia and south to the edge of the Karoo. The pink bracts and flowers, and its tendency to produce offsets, make it a cheerful resident of the late summer or very early autumn greenhouse. I imagine it would get lost in the garden in a milder climate. It is one of my favorites, not least because it grows and thrives in my greenhouse.

Haemanthus barkerae (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Haemanthus barkerae
Access #368

It is rather variable, and the form shown above seems more "typical" to me; but then I've never seen this species in the field. Its leaves are narrowly lingulate with transverse red bars on the outside near the base. In the greenhouse, the leaves can get rather long.

Haemanthus pubescens arenicolus

This rare subspecies in found only in the coastal plains of Namaqualand and southern Namibia.

Haemanthus pubescens arenicolus (c)
Haemanthus pubescens arenicolus
Accession #1438

I find this hard to distinguish from Haemanthus coccineus, since it sometimes occurs with the leaves almost totaly hairless. It seems to be another rather variable species, which helps make identification harder as well.

Both of the above pictures show plants growing in pots that are 22 cm or about 8½ inches in diameter (2-gallon size). That should give an idea of the scale and hence the relative size of these plants.

More Haemanthus as the season develops!

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Conservation

What's Controversial

There are all sorts of things about conserving endangered species that turn out to be controversial. For instance, whose land are you going to conserve a rare plant or animal on? I may want you to conserve them, but definitely not on my land. If they are on my land and they are covered by the Red Book, I may not be able to sell them, not even to give them away if it means transporting them off my land. But at least I can just go out and kill them if I want to plant corn and soybeans, or want to build a strip mall. Just as long as they or their remains stay on my patch of ground.

Another controversial question is can I conserve a rare animal or a rare plant in a zoo or botanical garden? One would assume the answer would simply be, "Yes," because that's what is being done to a large extent. There are those, however, who deny that any conservation not on the original habitat of the species is really conservation at all. Conserving rare plants and animals in their original habitat is called "in situ" conservation; it means "in place." Preserving a rare species outside its original native habitat is called "ex situ" conservation. It's what zoos and botanical gardens do. Conservation purists demand pure "in situ" conservation. Let's call these folks the "fundamentalists."

Another controversial subject relating to conservation is climate change. There are those who deny it is real, and there are others who admit it might happen, but vigorously deny that human activity has had anything to do with it. Both camps are spitting into the wind if you have any trust at all in science. They are both dead wrong. Climate change is happening, and it is going to affect the native habitats of practically every wild species on the earth. Already observers are reporting that birds are migrating to their summer feeding or breeding grounds earlier than ever before. Some are moving into new ranges. There are reports that some alpine plant species are growing higher up on the mountains than they used to. The climate is changing, and wild species are already starting to change their habits or where they live in response to it.

A revealing discussion of the difference between "introduced" species and "invasive" species is to be found in The Scientist for Sept. 7, 2011 entitled "The Invasive Ideology." I have a problem with scientists who become too engaged with the non-scientific and very political process of fighting against introduced/invasive species. Things from tea roses to wheat are introduced species.

In Situ

This is unquestionably the best type of conservation, at least for the moment. Safeguarding endangered animals and plants in their own native habitats. The U.S. National Parks do this. Think of Yellowstone Park with its bison, elk, bears, and wolves. Kruger Park in South Africa is the same. But even in national parks, they build roads and lodges for tourists. Even there, the protection isn't perfect.

Ex Situ

This is sometimes the only option, when all the natural habitat for a rare species has already been modified beyond the point where it can support the species. Then the surviving members of the species may be gathered into some safe place. In less extreme cases, representatives of the species may be collected in zoos or nature preserves. Most modern zoos are examples of this. The Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia is probably an example of this as well, or maybe a modified in situ situation.

Evolution and Conservation

The most common effect that endangers species' survival is habitat destruction by human civilization. All the other processes mentioned here and elsewhere are almost trivial in comparison. Still, all of these processes contribute to the extinction of species, and we need to consider all of them.

Besides climate change, there is another process that has a significant affect on our efforts to preserve rare and endangered species of plants and animals. Evolution is a constant, continuing activity that can act to stabilize a species' genetic constitution, or it may modify it. Natural selection is constantly changing the species. Genetic drift is constantly affecting the genes of small populations. Time changes everything.

Natural selection may be our opponent in conservation in another way. Many rare species may be rare because they have become unfit for their environment. That is, the climate may have changed and those changes may have altered the habitat of the species to the place where the species is no longer adapted to survive there and may be insufficiently flexible genetically to adapt to the new conditions. Here, human intervention is definitely called for: Moving the species to a new, more suitable habitat; or perhaps introducing genes from a related species that improve the endangered species' ability to survive in the changing habitat.

Another question that bothers me is what was the North American continent's ecology like at the previous warm interglacial period, say maybe 120,000 years ago? We know that the population density of African elephants plays a decisive role on the kind of ecology one finds in Africa: Elephants control the growth of thorn thickets and preserve savannah landscapes. We have at least a vague idea what it was like when Europeans first arrived on the mainland, with a heavily wooded eastern third of the United States and the open grasslands of the Great Plains. How much did the new human immigrants from Siberia (the ones who arrived about 12,000 years ago) contribute to that? What roles did mammoths (grazers) and mastodons (browsers) play in the pre-ice age ecology, before any humans were in North America? How much did their elimination, probably by the human immigrants, play in creating the immediate pre-European ecology? What is the real baseline for a "natural environment" in North America -- pre-European or pre-human? Cold Ice Age or warm Interglacial?

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Late August Thoughts

Hymenocallis from Nayarit

About ten years ago, someone gave me a very small bulb labeled simply "Hymenocallis from Nayarit." The only species I knew of that was specifically from Nayarit in Mexico was H. nayaritiana. I lost my bulb of nayaritiana many years ago, so I have nothing to compare this one to except a few vague memories. I remember it as being really tiny. In any event, I've been growing this little bulb faithfully every summer since then. Now it has finally started to bloom. This one looks larger than I remember that original nayaritiana as being, but it does seem to match: Leaves are petiolate to subpetiolate, i.e., the middle of the leaf is significantly wider than the base; and the flowers have a curved tepal tube (floral tube).

Hymenocallis cf. nayaritiana (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis cf. nayaritiana #1399
Staminal cup is distorted in this flower

I would like to get a bulb of Hymenocallis nayaritiana with known provenance to compare to this one (my #1399). I'm still not comfortable that this one is really nayaritiana. The flower is 12 cm across (petals tip to tip), the flower tube is about 55 mm and indeed slightly curved, and the peduncle is 18 cm tall. The leaves are about 23 cm long and (as standing) 20 mm wide, broadly U-shaped in cross-section, and glaucous light green in color.

Searching for Rare Haemanthus

I have accumulated a nice collection of Haemanthus species over the years, but none of the really rare species and subspecies seem to have come my way. One that I am still missing is not even supposed to be all that rare: Haemanthus sanguineus. This one comes from a fairly limited area in the Western Cape Province (South Africa). It has broad, almost dinner-plate shaped leaves, and a red scape. The trouble is, it is rather hard to grow from seeds.

I've been contacting everyone I can think of, trying to buy, beg, or swap for a couple bloom-size bulbs of this species. So far I'm striking out. If you have such for sale, please contact me at <shieldsgardens@gmail.com>.

I'm also always on the look-out for seeds of the really rare species of Haemanthus, such as canaliculatus, graniticus, pumilio, tristis, and such rare subspecies as amaylloides amarylloides, amarylloides toximontanus, pubescens arenicolus, and probably a few more that have momentarily slipped my mind. Please keep me in mind if you run across a source of any of these. I had some seeds of nortieri, and had a fine little crop of healthy seedlings about 3 years old. I tried letting them have a normal summer dormancy, and they all died during the dormancy. I felt (and still feel) like an idiot for losing those! I suspect the young seedlings need some summer moisture for at least the first full three years of their lives, and maybe even longer. I'm not game to try this one again just yet; I would hate to waste another dozen seeds of such a rare species.

Plants Mutate

There have been some studies on genetic changes in plants when they undergo clonal propagation. This seems to hold for everything from tissue culture propagation to taking simple stem or leaf cuttings.

The researchers found high frequencies of mutations in the DNA of propagated plants, using sequencing. The actual mechanism whereby propagation induces mutations was not discovered. This was summarized in ScienceDaily on August 8, 2011; the original scientific results were published in Current Biology for that same week. Surprisingly, this is quite different from the sorts of environmentally induced epigenetic differences between clonal individuals in animals (including identical twins in humans).

This puts a scientific base under what many of us have seen with our own eyes for years: vegetatively propagated plants, whether by division of clumps, by stem or leaf cuttings, or by tissue culture, are not all genetically identical.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Late August Flowers.

Haemanthus namaquensis

My bulb of Haemanthus namaquensis is in bloom. Since this started blooming, it is the first of the winter-rainfall group to bloom here. The inflorescence is generally reminiscent of coccineus, especially in color.

Haemanthus namaquensis (c) Copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus namaquensis #935.A

Haemanthus namaquensis is found from southern Namibia to Karkams in Namaqualand in South Africa on the escarpment between 300 and 900 meters (1000 to 3000 ft.) above sea level. The leaves, usually 2, are thick, upright, and have wavy margins. They are quite unique among Haemanthus and very attractive. However, I have not found this to be the easiest species to grow. Bulbs have not tolerated transplanting very well.

Hymenocallis occidentalis

Hymenocallis occidentalis is the only species in this genus that is native to Indiana. It occurs in the southwestern-most corner of the State, on the Ohio and Wabash rivers. The species ranges from the Gulf Coast States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia northwards through Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky into the southermost part of Illinois and the tip of Indiana. It is hardy here in Central Indiana, when you transplant it into this area. The plants shown below came to Indiana from Arkansas with a young woman about a centruy ago. Her grandson gave these to me.

Hymenocallis occidentalis (c) Copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis occidentalis #1141

This species is often confused with Hymenocallis liriosme, which is confined more to Texas and Louisiana. The flowers of the two species are virtually indistinguishable (at least to my eye), but the foliage of occidentalis is glaucous, a light gray-green, and has often disappeared by late summer. The foliage of liriosme is a bright, glossy green and persists longer. The flowers on occidentalis normally appear late in the season, which is right now in Indiana. The flowers of liriosme are seen in spring or early summer, long before occidentalis blooms. The habitat of occidentalis is meadows, woods, wooded hillsides, and floodplain woods on the edge away from the riverbanks. It is often found in light shade. Liriosme is a bog and swamp plant. It often grows in roadside ditches, and likes full sun.

Lycoris caldwellii

Lycoris caldwellii should be written "x-caldwellii" because it seems to be a natural hybrid. It is one of the later blooming species, and is just now coming into flower here in Central Indiana. It is a spring-foliage type, and seems perfectly hardy here. It does not however appear to increase at all rapidly. This small clump has been in the ground here for 10 years and is still just the original 3 bulbs.

Lycoris caldwellii (c) Copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris caldwellii #1102

The picture does not show the light primrose-yellow color of the petals correctly. Perhaps this is because the plant is growing in fairly heavy shade and the light was dim.

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Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Lycoris Season. II.

Lycoris sprengeri

The Lycoris sprengeri are now hitting full bloom here. They show up a little after the first group, which includes chinensis, longituba, and sanguinea. Now sprengeri and some of the hybrids are shining. The last to bloom for me here will be caldwellii.

Lycoris sprengeri #703.A (c) Copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris sprengeri #703.A

This sprengeri is one of my best clones, number 703.A. The blue highlights are especially nice this year, it seems.

Lycoris [longituba x rosea]

This is the most beautiful pink Lycoris I've ever seen! This came from China by way of Jim Waddick in 2001.

Lycoris [longituba x rosea] (c) Copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris [longituba x rosea] #1317

Lycoris [longituba x rosea] seems to be perfectly hardy here, but it has barely increased at all in the ten years I've been growing it.

Lycoris Hybrid ex sprengeri

This hybrid showed up among a batch of Lycoris sprengeri received from China by way of Jim Waddick in 1999. It is clearly unique, but I assume it has sprengeri in its ancestry somewhere. It blooms at the same time that typical sprengeri do, and the flower is about the same size as that of sprengeri, or perhaps a bit smaller.

Lycoris Hybrid ex sprengeri (c) Copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris Hybrid, Presumably from Sprengeri

I put one of the bulbs into twin-scaling, and it propagates just as readily as does sprengeri. As a result, I have a nice little batch of this one sitting in the nursery. It's lab number is V-35, but I'm thinking of calling it something like Lycoris "Stars and Stripes."

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Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Lycoris Season

The weather here was quite warm. Our string of continuous 90-degree or higher days reached 23, a new record for Indianapolis. For most of July, we had only about a half inch of rain until the last week. On about the 29th, we had a couple of rains that totalled 1 inch. Then this week, we had another inch. Our drought is broken, and our heat wave is broken. Yesterday's high here in Westfield was about 75°F and today's was only around 80°F. Virtually Heaven!

Late summer is Lycoris season here. They can show up any time from early August to mid-September, depending on the weather. The ones sending up stalks right now are in the beds that received some supplemental irrigation this summer. The beds that got no extra water are showing not a single Lycoris stalk so far. This is telling us something.

Lycoris sanguinea var. kiusiana

This is the first Lycoris to bloom for me each summer. I had it listed just as L. sanguinea, but Barry Yinger saw it in my Facebook page and set me straight. I have never actually seen the typical form, L. sanguinea var. sanguinea.

Lycoris sanguinea var. kiusiana (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris sanguinea var. kiusiana

This is also the smallest Lycoris among the spring-foliage varieties that I grow here. I'm not sure just how hardy this variety actually is, as I have it growing right up against the wall of a greenhouse. I seem to recall having bought quite a number of these bulbs and having planted them in several places. Well, however I did it originally, this is the only batch I have left.

Lycoris squamigera

This used to be an old, familiar, hand-me-down bulb when I was younger. You very rarely see it anymore, except perhaps in the occasional small town out in the countryside. It does not set seeds, as a rule, but it produces offsets abundantly over the years.

Lycoris squamigera (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris squamigera

L. squamigera is the second Lycoris to bloom for me. It is not hard to find in commerce, and it certainly deserves to be grown more widely in the cold climates that it likes. It looks absolutely terrific in masses! It is almost foolproof, once you plant healthy bulbs, but see the culture advice just below.

Lycoris longituba

Lycoris longituba is another spring-foliage species, perfectly hardy here in central Indiana. The one pictured below is apparently a hybrid, probably having L. sprengeri somewhere in its ancestry. The photo looks light blue, but to the naked eye the color is more of a very pale lavender. This one showed up in a batch of bulbs from the Shanghai Botanic Garden, imported some years back by Dr. Jim Waddick.

Lycoris longituba Blue Hybrid (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris longituba, Blue Hybrid
No. 1324.A

Note the sprengeri-like red coloration on the outside of the unopened buds.

L. longituba and L. chinensis are following along slightly behind L. squamigera in blooming. L. caldwellii will come along later. I have other hardy and semi-hardy types here, but they do not always bloom every year. We'll see what else shows up and blooms this year.

Lycoris Culture

The hardy, spring-foliage varieties of Lycoris I grow here require several things for success:

  • Healthy, undisturbed roots
  • Cold winters
  • Warm to hot summers, but with periodic rainfall
  • Light shade
This really ought to be all you need to give them. There are limits to how much cold they can take. They seem to be marginal in USDA zone 4, surviving in some microenvironments and disappearing in others.

If you are going to divide or transplant your Lycoris, the best time to do that would be right after the foliage yellows off in late spring or early summer. When you do dig them, be careful to disturb the roots as little as possible. Then replant them immediately, before the roots start to deteriorate in the air.


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Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- In Spite of the Heat

The weather in Indiana has been hot, miserably hot. But not as hot as in Texas or even New Jeresy. Also not as hot as this time in July of 1934 here in Indiana, when several all-time record high temperatures of 106°F (41°C) were set. The last time the temperature reached 106°F around here was in August, 1988. This past week's high temperature was a mere 100°F.

While other crinums are still blooming, like the hardy white bulbispermum, the [variabile x bulbispermum] hybrids, and another spike on 'Emma Jones', the highlight of the week has been the first bloom in my collection of a rare little crinum from Madagascar.

Crinum razafindratsiraea

I have first bloom on my plant of Crinum razafindratsiraea, which is native to Madagascar. This is a miniature crinum, about the size of Crinum lugardiae from KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, or a little smaller. This bulb came from I.B.S. in about 2001, but all in cultivation anywhere in the world outside Madagascar probably can be traced to David Lehmiller, who found it in 1996. This one is growing in a 2-gal. pot (22 cm X 22 cm). The flowers are about 5.5 inches (ca. 13-14 cm) across and the peduncle is 12 inches (30 cm) high. As a tropical plant, it probably does not like to get cold in winter. I'm sure mine has suffered because even my warm greenhouse tends to get down well below 50°F (10°C) on cold nights in winter here in Indiana.

Crinum razafindratsiraea (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crinum razafindratsiraea

The new species was described by Dave Lehmiller in an article in the 2000 annual issue of HERBERTIA, vol. 55, pp. 130-133. The plant is named for Alfred Razafindratsira, a local nurseryman in Madagascar who recognized it as a new species and pointed it out to Dr. Lehmiller.

The individual flowers have been very short-lived, lasting barely one day. This may be due to the unusual heat we are currently experiencing. The new buds are produced standing rigidly erect, but about a day before a bud opens, it arches over and points downward. By the time the flower has opened the next morning, the flower is again facing upward. A curious habit.

Proiphys amboinensis

This plant in the Amaryllis Family appeared suddenly in the trade a few years back. I bought three plants, and they have subsequently bloomed off and on. This year, only one of them is blooming. It is native to Queensland, Australia, but has naturalized in Malaysia and the Phillipines.

Proiphys amboinensis (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Proiphys amboinensis

Other species in this genus include Proiphys alba and P. cunninghamii, both also native to Queensland. So far, my amboinensis has never set seed; but sometimes cunninghamii will produce a couple of what look to be vegetative propagules in the fruit. I grew my cunninghamii from just such propagules.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Summer Season Advances


Crinum 'Catherine', Crinum 'Emma Jones', and Crinum 'Super Ellen' have been blooming!

Crinum 'Catherine' has been growing along side Crinum 'Emma Jones' just outside the greenhouse wall, along the east side, for several years. They have rarely bloomed, so I presume that even this very protected spot is almost too stressful for them to live in. Still, both have bloomed this summer. 'Emma Jones' put up one scape of pink flowers, all of which faced toward the greenhouse wall. Still, they are attractive flowers with a nice color, and their form reminds me a lot of C. moorei.

Crinum 'Catherine' (see below) is a hybrid that has star-shaped, almost completely white flowers. This clump outdid itself in bloom after its long hiatus. The current blooms are on the third flush of scapes.

Crinum 'Super Ellen' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crinum 'Super Ellen'

Finally, Crinum 'Super Ellen' was a new addition to my garden last summer. I received a nice-sized bulb and planted it out in an open bed, near my hardy C. bulbispermum and in the same bed with the several mature, long-established plants of C. [variabile x bulbispermum]. 'Super Ellen' survived the winter in good shape, although the foliage was rather yellowish when it first came up in late spring. Now, it has a scape up and a flower open. I'm quite excited by the hardiness of 'Super Ellen', since the original 'Ellen Bosanquet' has always died out when left outdoors in the ground here. I might note that a sib of 'Super Ellen' called 'Sunbonnet' failed to survive the first winter in the ground here.

The plants of hardy bulbispermum have run out of new scapes, at least for now; but the plants of [variabile x bulbispermum] continue to send up occasional new scapes. The long bloom season with multiple scapes is one of the best features of these hybrids. Of course, I am fond of the rosy pink flush and the red bands, too.


Old reliable Crocosmia 'Lucifer' has started blooming, and a new-comer is also blooming this year for the first time. Now here is one Barry Yinger said was hardier than 'Lucifer': Crocosmia 'Elizabethan Gardens'. I received 10 corms in September 2009 and planted them outdoors in the ground. I don't recall seeing them anytime last year, but now there is one plant in bloom.

Crocosmia 'Elizabethan Gardens' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crocosmia 'Elizabethan Gardens'

It remains to be seen whether this new one is as hardy as some of the strains of 'Lucifer' or not. My current strain of 'Lucifer' is quite hardy, but the best one I ever had (big flowers) was too tender for my climate. This new variety has fiery red-orange flowers, in nice contrast to the deeper blood- or brick-red of 'Lucifer'.


I have given up growing some of the hardy species of Arisaema outdoors in the ground. I keep them over winter in a refrigerator, either potted in their pot or bare in a bit of sphagnum moss in a zip-top plastic baggie. The other day, I found some that had been in the fridge since March 2010. I took them out, potted the bare root tubers, and put all the pots outdoors. They have been watered, and most are growing vigorously again. Most are in the lath house. There are two pots of Arisaema yunnanense aridum and one pot each of A. fargesii and A. tortuosum. Every plant of hardy Arisaema that I raised from seed and planted outdoors disappeared and has never been seen again. The tortuosum, new last year from U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden, and the fargesii are getting ready to bloom.

Arisaema fargesii (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Arisaema fargesii
Seedling getting ready to open its first inflorescence

Undeniably hardy outdoors in the ground here are the native Arisaema tryphyllum and A. dracontium, as well as A. heterophyllum. Rather hardy here are A. ringens and A. shikokianum. Moderately hardy are sazensoo, kishidae, and urashima. A. serratum was pretty short-lived for me. I don't think I've tried any others here.


Only Amorphophallus bulbifer and A. konjac survived the winter in my greenhouse. Both A. titanum and A. paeoniifolium tubers rotted over winter. The temperatures did get down around 40°F inside the greenhouse numerous times last winter. The option of trying to grow Amorphophallus as house plants does not seem viable. I'd worry that they might reach bloom size too quickly. My wife would not find that very amusing.

Even with its bulblets produced (sparingly) on the leaves, bulbifer increases slowly. A. konjac on the other hand generates loads of tubers from the mother tuber, so I should have a batch of it to ship off to the Pacific Bulb Society's BX (bulb and seed exchange) in a year or so.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Summer Season

I am getting only a few seeds on my hardy Hymenocallis liriosme, so I guess I'll plant all of them myself when they are ready. I'll grow them in a large pot for a few years before trying them outdoors in a protected spot. Someday I'm going to have to work on crossing Hymenocallis occidentalis with these hardy liriosme again. I can't think of any other Hymenocallis that could possibly be hardy here in Indiana.

I have good seed set on my hardy Crinum bulbispermum, "Mrs. Jordan's Red" and "Mrs. Morris" crossed with each other. Seeds from these two have volunteered in the mulch near their parents, so I think they are particularly hardy, even for C. bulbispermum. Most crinums here will die in winter until they have bulbs at least 2 inches in diameter. I'm amazed that some of these seedlings have survived.

I am getting only a couple seeds on my Haemanthus montanus, even though a half-dozen have been blooming for the past week or so. These all came from the same source, the nurserie of Dawie Human, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, so they must all be closely related. I have montanus from other sources, but none are blooming this year.

Lilium michiganense

Lilium michiganense (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Lilium michiganense

I think this is Lilium michiganense, a native wild flower in Indiana. I spotted this one growing along a creek bank, under tall trees, at the edge of a meadow. I've never seen it there before, and I've walked along that creek for years. They put a sewer line in through the area a few years ago, and I wonder if someone didn't reseed the construction site with wildflower seeds.

Sprekelia howardii

Sprekelia howardii (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Sprekelia howardii

This rare little gem is from Mexico. Looking like a miniature of the more familiar Sprekelia formossisima, it is barely 6 inches tall and the flower is only 5 inches across. My bulbs were grown from seeds given to me by David Lehmiller. The bulbs are each growing in an individual 5.5 inch pot. Dave said that they really hate to have their roots disturbed, so I have not repotted these since planting them. They are fertile, but self-sterile. I have several seedlings so I have produced some seeds in the past. I am trying to pollinate these to make more seeds, of course. I don't know the shelf-life of these seeds, but I suspect it may be somewhat short. So I will probably donate any seeds I get to the Pacific Bulb Society BX for immediate distribution. I grow these outdoors on our deck in summer. That means they get natural rainfall here in Indiana, anywhere from 2.5 to 6 inches per month -- quite variable from month to month and year to year. They are planted in a gritty mix: Promix + sand + granite chicken grit, 2 : 1 : 1 by volume. In winter, they are kept bone dry in the cool greenhouse -- the one with the winter-growing Haemanthus in it. Temperatures stay above freezing.

Crinum 'Catherine'

Crinum 'Catherine' (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crinum 'Catherine'

This hybrid has been growing outdoors next to the greenhouse for years. Before that, it grew in a large pot for several years. It came to me from Roy Works, who lived in Florida at that time. This is the first time I can remember seeing it in bloom. These are the first flowers open, but more scapes are coming up.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Succulent Season

In June we have had more Crinum and Hymenocallis blooming, as well as some of our cactus plants. As I write, the Hemerocallis (daylilies) are moving into full bloom as well.

Cactus and Succulents

Opuntia phaeacantha, from my niece's neighborhood in Centennial, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), put on a great display a couple weeks ago. Plants of this species have naturalized in an old cemetery in the sandy soil of Northwestern Indiana. I think we need to keep an eye on any of these hardy cacti, so they don't go feral on us.

Opuntia phaeacantha (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Opuntia phaeacantha

Echinocereus reichenbachii caespitosus is a small ball cactus with a flower about as big as the ball, around 2 inches across.

Echinocereus reichenbachii caespitosus (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Echinocereus reichenbachii caespitosus

A few feet away in the same bed, and an order of magnitude larger than the Echinocereus, is this Yucca filamentosa. The plant came from my cousin Janice's yard at her farm house outside Wabash, Indiana. As a kid, I saw these often in old cemeteries and outside old farm houses in Indiana. Now, thanks to Janice, I have a couple of my own.

Yucca filamentosa
Yucca filamentosa

At least I think it is probably filamentosa. I'm not strong at IDing Yucca and its relatives. In any case, the plants bloomed especially nicely this year.

Hardy Triteleia

Triteleia x-tubergenii is a hybrid that looks alot like T. laxa but seems a bit hardier here. This is a West Coast genus closely related to Brodiaea, some of which are also hardy here. This cultivar grows happily in a bed in the ground, perhaps protected by some large Red Cedar trees just to the northwest of it. The Brodiaea survive and bloom in a raised bed in sand and gravel.

Triteleia x-tubergenii (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Triteleia x-tubergenii

Once upon a time in the Onion Family, Alliaceae, these were moved into the family Themidaceae for awhile. With the most recent revision by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, these are now in Tribe Brodiaeoideae in the Family Asparagaceae, Order Asparagales. Incidentally, the onions are now in the Amaryllis Family, Amaryllidaceae (or the amaryllids are in the onion family, Alliaceae).

Hymenocallis glauca

This little beauty reminds me of Hymenocallis eucharidifolia, but the foliage is glaucous gray-green rather than bright shiny green, and the plants are much hardier in my greenhouse in winter.

Hymenocallis glauca (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis glauca

I have some hybrids between this species and eucharidifolia that are coming along nicely. I'd like to see a somewhat larger flower, or at least wider cup, on the hybrids. The cross is [glauca x eucharidifolia] so the seedlings could be glauca x self. In any case, they have glaucous leaves.

Half of my remaining pots of eucharidifolia seem to have died in the greenhouse over the winter. It did not get as cold as it has in some past winters, but we had lots of rain and snow. The greenhouse floor, where these pots were sitting, flooded a couple of times. I suspect that the winter moisture did them in.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Crinum and Hymenocallis in Bloom.


The hardy Crinum are in bloom. Well, some are hardy and some may be hardy, since they are growing in very protected spots. All are bulbispermum plants. Those growing in the protected areas include some seedlings from plants naturalized in Louisiana, some South African plants with well-opened flowers and lots of rosy pink color, and some volunteer seedling from these parents. I've crossed a couple of the rosy pink seedlings with each other, since I think the flower form and color is worth working with.

In the open field, three plants of bulbispermum collected from gardens in Texas have survived and thrived here. They are "Mrs. Jordan's Red," "Mrs. Jordan's White," and another garden plant. The white started blooming over a week ago, and the other two are just now blooming. I think a few seeds from "Mrs. Jordan's Red" have volunteered in the mulch not far from the mother plant, which would be a major step up in cold hardiness of Crinum for us here, if actually the case.

Blooming in pots right now are a couple bulbs of [bulbispermum x macowanii] that survived one or two winters in the open garden before I rescued them to pots again. I should pollinate them with some of the "Mrs. Jordan" pollens. I want to get hardiness, the macowanii tulip shape on the flower, and a good red color. That may take a few years....

Crinum macowanii hybrid (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Crinum [macowanii x bulbispermum]? #1022.A
This came labelled as macowanii, but its foliage and bloom time suggest the hybrid listed.

Not yet blooming are all the [variabile x bulbispermum] plants lined out in the open bed.


We planted two different accessions of Hymenocallis liriosme outside greenhouse number 2 last summer. One disappeared completely over the winter; the other one (my #1261) is in full bloom right now. I'm pollinating it as the flowers bloom. These were bulbs collected in the wild in Texas by Thad Howard in about 2001. I don't know exactly where in Texas Thad found these plants.

Hymenocallis liriosme (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis liriosme #1261

The Hymenocallis liriosme that did not make it through the winter was #2108, garden plants thought to have originally come from Louisiana, near New Orleans.

We planted a lot of seedlings of Hymenocallis liriosme out in the same bed with the "Mrs. Jordan" Crinum last summer, and none of them have so far reappeared at all. I fear all are gone. Of the H. occidentalis seedlings planted out in the same bed at the same time, a few have already come up. Hymenocallis may grow here in Indiana, but it is tricky getting them to do it. Microclimate is crucial, and the bulbs may need to be quite good sized even then, if you want them to survive.

Seedlings of Hymenocallis [occidentalis x liriosme] died in the pots before they got big enough to try outdoors in the ground. Because these two species bloom a month or two apart, one has to store the pollen of one to use on the other. This would be a good cross to try again. When you cross two wild species, the F1 plants usually show all properties intermediate between those of the two parents. So this hybrid should bloom in early July, and be hardier than the liriosme parent but less so than the occidentalis parent. They should tolerate light shade well. They should tolerate, or maybe require, more moisture than the occidentalis parent.

Other hybrids of interest are [imperialis x liriosme] and its reverse. I attempted these crosses and did get a few seeds; only time will tell whether I got hybrids or maternal/selfed seeds this time. A step closer to hardier plants would be to use occidentalis in place of liriosme: Make [occidentalis x imperialis], for instance. The F2 from that cross could be hardy and quite interesting.

Pollen Storage

To store pollen, you need to get it quite dry, then freeze it. In dry climates, you can simply air-dry the anthers overnight. In more humid areas, use a drying agent like the blue crystals of Silica Gel. Then seal the dried anthers in something -- not in a gelatin capsule! -- like a microcentrifuge tube with cap. Store these in a freezer until needed. See Tools and Techniques for more information. There is also information at ShieldsGardens.com/info

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Travels.

We have been traveling! We wanted to show my wife's brother and spouse the Grand Canyon and some other sights in the Southwest. We flew to Denver and rented a car, and we then drove to Colorado Springs, on to Taos, and finally to Flagstaff. We flew home from Phoenix.

There are no pictures with this recitation. My brother-in-law's wife took hours of videos and some stills, so I felt no need for a camera myself. Maybe she will share some later.

We spent the week, in essence, at about 7000 ft elevation (2100 meters) above sea level. Since home is at about 900 ft. (270 m.) elevation, we definitely felt the lack of oxygen. We did not religiously follow the natives' advice "to drink lots of water." It might have helped with something, maybe, in a land with more public restroooms. It would not have put more oxygen in the air we breathed.

The plants were in later spring mode, with few flowers to be seen. There had been recent rains, so even areas which are normally turning brown by now in most years had some green still showing. Most of the cacti we saw were already bloomed out. In any event, we were more interested in seeing mountains and deserts rather than plants on this trip.


Colorado Springs had pine trees starting to shed pollen. We probably left just in time to spare my allergies a serious overload. We did visit the Garden of the Gods, which is always spectacular with its upright slabs of red sandstone immediately at hand.

Wildlife in suburban Colorado Springs was limited this time to mule deer and a bobcat. I missed seeing both. There are also black bears in this area, according to the locals. I'm glad to miss seeing them.

New Mexico

We spent two nights, so one full day, in Taos. I like the atmosphere there, but stay out of the local supermarket: I got a hug there from a total stranger! Weird town. Things were more sedate at the Taos Pueblo, home of the Red Willow tribe of the Tewa.

New Mexico may have the most unique landscape of the area. It is strikingly beautiful.


Northern Arizona is almost as different from Southern Arizona as the latter is from the Midwest. My own line of demarcation is the northern-most limit of the habitat of the Giant Saguara cactus.

The Grand Canyon is in tree country. There are large pines and in drier areas, scrub trees of some sort -- I did not get out of the car to look at them closely. The whole landscape had a strange greenish cast, due to live growing grass, thanks to the spring rains thay had had.

Oak Creek Canyon is like a condensed, very intense version of the Grand Canyon. The colors are more intense, maybe because they are closer to hand in the much smaller Oak Creek area. Sedona, which we had not seen since 7 or so years ago, was so built-up I could hardly believe my eyes. Maybe my memories from 50 or 60 years ago overrode my eyes on our last visit.

The red rock cliffs at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon are every bit as spectacular as the vertical slabs in the Garden of the Gods. When approached from the north, after the dramatic descent into the canyon from the high plateau, the red cliffs just kind of sneak up on you. When approached from the south, they are overwhelming.

Our last day, spent in Sedona and in the Tlaquepaque mall, were very pleasant and restful. I particularly enjoy eating on the patio at the Secret Garden Cafe in Tlaquepaque. (I cannot give a precise pronounciation for that name!)

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Flowers. III.

Woodland Garden

The Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells, are blooming. The native ones that were on my property gradually disappeared over the years. These came from Mike Broz in Southern Indiana. Somewhere I picked up some exotic, possibly Siberian, Claytonia which apparently hybridized with our native Claytonia virginica in my garden; and now the hybrids are thriving. The flowers are larger and the plants stouter than either of the parents; and if it ever stops raining for a day or two, I'll get some pictures of them.

Sometime in the past week it did stop raining for two days. I got pictures of Trillium recurvatum and T. sessile, both native to Indiana and both blooming in my garden just now.

Trillium recurvatum (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Trillium recurvatum

Trillium recurvatum is instantly recognizable by the sepals hanging straight down when the flower is in bloom. The leaves also have a pseudopetiole, being gradually narrowed towards the base. Of course, strictly speaking, trilliums do not have leaves; they have three large bracts on the flowering stem, just below the flower itself. T. recurvatum is native to Indiana and to much of the Great Lakes area and south along the Mississippi River, according to Flora of North America, vol. 26, pp. 114-115 (2002). Another petiolated trillium is T. petiolatum from the Western U.S.A., which also has downward pointing sepals.

Trillium sessile (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Trillium sessile
From Southern Indiana

Trillium sessile is native to Indiana, but whereas T. recurvatum grows right in my neighborhood, sessile is not around here. These came from Southern Indiana, again courtesy of Mike Broz. Note the sepals on these sessile: held horizontally from the base of the petals. Also, the leaves (well, OK, "bracts") are broadly rounded and full at the base, lacking the pseudopetioles of recurvatum. T. sessile is native to a broad swath of the Midwest, from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania, again according to FoNA. Sessile is a small plant, compared to things like simile, luteum, and particularly cuneatum. It is even smaller than recurvatum, at least in my garden.

The genus Arisaema is in the Araceae, the Aroid Family. Two species of Arisaema are native to my area, Arisaema triphyllum and A. dracontium. These are not in bloom yet, but Arisaema engleri, native to China, is blooming in the woodland garden. I got three large tubers of this from the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden last year. Two came up and are in bloom this spring.

Arisaema engleri (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Arisaema engleri (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Arisaema engleri
From China

I'm very pleased to have these, and I hope they turn out to be hardy in my garden. These particular tubers came labeled as A. sazensoo, which is native to Japan and was in my garden for years before eventually dying off. I'm always looking for hardy Arisaema for my garden. A. heterophyllum is quite hardy here, and blooms in a semi-sunny spot; it is just now starting to come up.

The genus Erythronium, in the Liliaceae (Lily Family) is found around the world in the Northern Hemisphere. The flowers are variously know by common names like Dog-tooth Violet and Trout Lily. The most well-known in gardens are probably varieties and forms of the species native to Europe, Erythronium dens-canis.

The native Erythronium here in Indiana, E. americanum and E. albidum, do well enough in my garden. Exotic erythroniums do not do so well here. All that I have tried so far have gradually died off except for one species: Erythronium macroscapideum (also written "multiscapoideum").

Erythronium multiscapideum (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Erythronium multiscapideum (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Erythronium multiscapideum
From California

It has been raining here for days, but the heaviest rains have bypassed us here in Westfield and gone through Southern Indiana. Most of the tornados have also been in Southern Indiana, although one did some damage to farms outside Thorntown, about 15 miles northwest of here. I love Springtime, but the weather can get a bit trying sometimes. So far, I have only had to pick up dead twigs and small branches as a result of the winds, all pretty normal for an average winter here in central Indiana.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Flowers. II.


Two things are evident in bloom on the rock garden: Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica and Narcissus calcicola. Coming up but not in bloom, there are a couple species of Brodiaea, some Sempervivum, and the big Yucca filamentosa.

Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica
Number 1501

These Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica were received originally as small bulblets from Jane McGary, but now they are self-seedling nicely. They grow in the sandy, limey riverbottom soil of a raised bed. I've scattered the seed in other areas, but they have not spread much beyond the crest of this raised bed. These are 3 to 4 inches (8 - 10 cm) tall.

Narcissus calcicola (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Narcissus calcicola
Number 1911

The Narcissus calcicola are another treasure from Jane McGary. These have increased from just two bulbs. I assume they like the limey sand of this riverbottem soil, also in the raised rock garden bed. These are only 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) tall.


Fritillaria pallidiflora and F. thunbergii seem to be the only surviving fritillarias in the woodland garden. The F. thunbergii rarely blooms, but pallidiflora will in many years. Still, it is slowly dwindling away. I think this one is about 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) tall.

Fritillaria pallidiflora (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Fritillaria pallidiflora
Number 1077

I showed you a typical white trout lily, Erythronium albidum, last time. Now here is a strange one in the same patch of albidum, a yellow hybrid or else a yellow mutant. I'm not aware that E. americanum, the locally native yellow trout lily, hybridizes with albidum. So, is this a hybrid or a rare yellow mutation of albidum?

Erythronium albidum yellow form (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Erythronium albidum
Yellow form

Other woodlanders in bloom are Claytonia virginica, Dicentra cucullaria, and D. canadensis. As it happens, they are not blooming very much in my bit of woods this Spring. I've seen them along the Monon Trail here in Westfield, Indiana, along with the Erythronium americanum and E. albidum blooming in much greater abundance than I'm used to seeing here. I definitely don't recall seeing so many Erythronium in bloom along the Trail last spring.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Flowers. I.


We have Trillium starting to bloom in the woodland garden. The first to come up were some of the Trillium cuneatum (from North Carolina) and the T. sessile (from Southern Indiana).

Trillium cuneatum (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Trillium cuneatum
From North Carolina

One Trillium luteum (from Gatlinburg, Tennessee) is in bloom already, and others are following along. While these Southern plants survive here in Indiana, they have not seemed to ever get quite as large as they do on their home turf.

Trillium luteum (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Trillium luteum
From Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Also flowering are the native Erythronium, E. americanum, which is almost finished, and E. albidum. Most years, these do no flower abundantly. They are both tetraploid species, as I recall, and reproduce vegetatively quite readily. These were transplanted locally into my woodland.

Erythronium albidum (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Erythronium albidum
Native to Indiana

One of the first to flower each spring is what used to be called Anemonella thalictroides, the Rue Anemone. The botanical name now may be Thalictrum thalictroides (see: "Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers" by Kay Yatskievych, Indiana University Press, 2000.)

Anemonella thalictroides (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Anemonella thalictroides
Native to Indiana

There are other flowers in bloom this week, but I'll leave the rest for another day.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Retiring

Business Closing

Starting more or less right now, we're discontinuing mail order sales. The greenhouses and garden will still be here, and you can call for an appointment to come by (tel. 1-317-867-3344, for now at least). We have already stopped exporting plants or bulbs. We will phase out domestic mail order sales in the U.S.A. over the next couple of months. After thirty years at this, we are just plain tired of hunting for plants, cleaning them, and making packages. I'll still be glad for people to come past the greenhouse and buy a potted bulb or plant occasionally. You can find us on these maps ([ click here for regional map] and [ click here for local map.]). Be sure to phone a day ahead to be sure someone will be here when you arrive. We are in Westfield, Indiana, which is a suburb on the far north side of Indianapolis.

What Are We Going to Do?

We will keep the greenhouses going, but I intend to thin out the plants and bulbs that we grow. We will continue to grow a few daylilies, but we will have gotten rid of most of them by the end of this coming summer (2011). We stopped hybridizing daylilies at least four or five years ago.

Daylily sales probably reached their maximum in the early 1990s, perhaps around 1993. They have declined steadily since then, until they are no more than 10 to 20 percent of what they were in the peak years. This made growing large nursery beds of daylilies horribly expensive -- I never did like to weed, and even high school kids need to be paid minimum wages to work out in the sun, heat, and humidity.

I'm really sorry to see boutique daylilies losing their appeal, but I have to say that the days of really exciting innovations in daylily flower forms and colors seem to have passed. The catalogs I've seen recently are full of beautiful flowers, but they don't strike me as much different from those introduced five years ago. Am I missing something?

The Clivia will still be here as well, but I need to thin the plants out. We went through a period of planting every single Clivia seed we could get our hands on. Now there is scarcely room to walk through the greenhouse, and most of the plants are unexceptional.

The Clivia House also holds the Hippeastrum species bulbs. I want to improve my collection of Hippeastrum wild species, since they were my first love forty-some years ago. Their rarity and cost make them fairly inaccessible, so I don't expect rare Hippeastrum species to take up much more room in the greenhouse.

I intend to keep my collections of Nerine species as well as Haemanthus and Scadoxus. One area of hybridizing that I am still interested in is Haemanthus interspecific hybrids. Haemanthus seems to me to be a genus with more horticultural potential than has been realized. Only a few people are activley working at this, but one of those folks is Terry Hatch in New Zealand. If anyone can bring the horticultural value of Haemanthus to the fore, it will be Terry.

I have let my search for hardy forms and hybrids of tender bulb genera lag. We found Crinum variabile to be hardy here, and some hybrids of Crinum bulbispermum with other species, including lugardiae, macowanii, and variabile. But then I let this drop. I have not worked to find more hardy Fritillaria species in the last ten years; that search needs to be started again. We have backed away from trying to get hardy hybrids of South African Gladiolus species. We had some Gladiolus oppositiflorus salmoneus that survived for years in the garden, but they did dwindle gradually and I finally moved them into pots. Gladiolus saundersii is another possibly hardy candidate, and a hybrid between these two species ought to be spectacular and potentially hardy here.

I intend to continue working with the Trillium species of Eastern North America. Eventually I hope to get a collaborator who can do DNA sequencing, so we can do more to sort out the species in the Southeastern States in particular. They grow too slowly from seed for me to have any hopes of studying their interspecific fertility. The nature of the Trillium erectum-T. simile complex is particularly fascinating.

There are still plenty of things to be done. I hope to do more swapping of plants, seeds, and bulbs in the future, even if that means making an occasional package to be mailed. For the record, I'm looking for seeds or bulbs of the following:

  • Haemanthus canaliculatus
  • Haemanthus graniticus
  • Haemanthus pubescens arenicola
  • Haemanthus tristis
  • Hippeastrum bukasovii
  • Hippeastrum lapacense
  • Hippeastrum nelsonii
  • Hippeastrum neoleopoldii
And I'm sure there are others I would like to get, but they don't occur to me just now!

I will probably discontinue my CliviaAlert e-mail newsletter, but the BulbAlert may go on for the foreseeable future. BulbAlert will cover Clivia as needed and will only partially overlap this blog in its content. To contact us, besides the telephone number given at the beginning, you can also e-mail us at jshields at indy dot net.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- More Clivia in Bloom

Here are some special Clivia in bloom. These are seedlings blooming for the first time this season.

Patterned Clivia, II.

First is one that came from a batch of Solomone seeds just labelled as "Salmon." This one was planted in 2004, so it needed seven full years to bloom the first time. I think the wait was worth it!

Clivia miniata Solomone Picotee (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Clivia miniata, Solomone Picotee
No. 2614

The newly opened flowers apparently have the mainly white ground color with the orange fingernail tips. The more mature flowers have more orange in the ground color. I'm calling the new flower pattern picotee, at least for now. The mature flowers show what Solomone called "Watercolor Washed" and other people call "Ghost."

Here is a seedling from a pastel Solomone Watercolor patterned flower crossed with Conway's bright rich red Doris. The seed was planted in 2007, so this needed only four years to flower from seed.

Clivia miniata seedling of Watercolor x Doris (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Clivia miniata [Watercolor Pastel x Doris]
No. 2165.A

Notice how the white areas have been sharpened up in this cross. Someday, I hope to see this with redder red areas and clear, sharp white areas. If I get busy and do some crosses.

It seems to me that some of this patterning can be transmitted as a dominant genetic trait. That is highly encouraging.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Clivia in Bloom

This week is the peak of the Clivia bloom season this year. The greenhouse is full of clivia flowers, and pollen. We have loads of yellow seedlings blooming for the first or at most second year, but there are plenty of other, even more interesting, clivia in bloom as well.

Pink Clivia

We have some nominally pink plants from Solomone's Plant Horizons greenhouse in Watsonville, California. These are more a very light orange or apricot, at least to my eyes. However, we are just now starting to get blooms on some plants we made by crossing the Solomone Pinks with each other. Here is one of the first to flower, one from [Solomone Pink #2014 x Solomone Pink #2010].

Clivia ex Solomone Pink (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Clivia miniata ex Solomone Pinks, JES #2182.B

And here is another, this one from [Solomone Pink #2010 x Solomone Pink #2012]. Note that the numbers, e.g., #2010, 2012, etc. are my own accession numbers. These are individual clones and, so far as I know, no longer at Solomone's greenhouse.

Clivia ex Solomone Pink (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Clivia miniata ex Solomone Pinks, JES #2187.A

Near-White Clivia

Here is a cream or near-white flowered Clivia from pink breeding. This is from [Solomone Pink #2013 x Solomone Charm Pink #1992].

Clivia cream ex Solomone Pink (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Cream Clivia miniata ex Solomone Pinks, JES #2175.A

We have also occasionally gotten yellow flowers from pink x pink.

Patterned Clivia

Solomones call their patterned clivias "Watercolor Washed," which I refer to as simply "Watercolor" for short. Here is one that looks particularly interesting, in a close-up shot.

Clivia Watercolor Pink (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Clivia miniata Watercolor Pink, JES #2007

I hope to post some more clivia blooms next time.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Longwood Gardens

Clivia Show

The North American Clivia Society held its annual show and an international conference at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, last week. We drove over from home with friends, about 600 miles and about 12 hours of driving. We stayed at the conference hotel, just down the road from Longwood. No pictures, because my camera battery ran down after one shot.

Longwood Gardens is a former DuPont family estate, and the Longwood Foundation retains about 1000 acres for the gardens. It is only about 10 minutes drive from another famous old DuPont family estate, Winterthur Gardens and Museum, just outside of Wilmington, Delaware.

Longwood's main attraction for me is the huge conservatory. There are multiple rooms and connecting passages, all under glass, and some of the rooms are huge. There are masses of tropical plants and flowers. I was particularly impressed to see the Himalayan Blue Poppy, a Meconopsis species, in bloom in several spots. There were orchids everywhere, masses of Clivia in full bloom, banks of Cineraria in bloom, and some Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold' in bloom. This was the first time I'd ever seen Longwood, and I have to say that it's a spectacular conservatory.

Longwood's staff have been working on breeding Clivia for over 30 years. Former research director Dr. Robert Armstrong returned from his retirement in Hawaii to describe the program's beginnings for the NACS members. They have developed an outstanding yellow miniata, 'Longwood Debutante', and are now working on a line of crested flowered clivias. In Clivia, the NACS handbook calls these "keeled" while the American Hemerocallis Society has adopted the term "crested" for similar daylily flower structures. Both words describe the same thing, petals that have a raised flap or ridge along the midrib.

James Abel came from Pretoria, South Africa, to talk to the NACS group about the natural habitats of the six species of Clivia in their homes in South Africa. Researchers at Blomfontein University are trying to determine whether there are in fact six true species or only two, one of which is extrememly variable. That ought to make for some interesting arguments! For the record, the six species (if there are six!) are caulescens, gardenii, miniata, mirabilis, nobilis, and robusta.

We had a backstage tour of the research greenhouses. Because they regularly need huge numbers of hard-to-get flowers, they have their own tissue culture propagation labs. They also constantly run trials on new and unusual species and varieties of plants for possible display in the conservatory or in the outdoor flower beds. If you've never been to Longwood Gardens, you should visit the next time you are in the New York-Washington, DC, area.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring in the Greenhouse

Strelitzia reginae

My Bird of Paradise plant is in full bloom now.

Strelitzia reginae (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Strelitzia reginae

This plant was grown from open-pollinated seed from plants of 'Mandela's Gold' growing in the front garden of a friend in Pretoria, South Africa. Its sibling looks like it might bloom with the typical yellow flower of 'Mandela's Gold'. 'Mandela's Gold' is a yellow form of Strelitzia reginae, named for Mr. Nelson Mandela.

It is fascinating to learn that Strelitzia contain an animal pigment, bilirubin, previously not known to occur in any plants anywhere. The discovery was summarized in Science Daily a few months ago. I just ran across it today. Strelitzia is a genus in the family Strelitziaceae, in the order Zingiberales (the Gingers). Other families in Zingiberales include Musaceae, the Banana Family; Cannaceae, the Canna Family; and of course Zingiberaceae, the Ginger Family.

Scadoxus puniceus

This magnificent amaryllid is blooming in the greenhouse right now. It's actually about a month behind schedule, probably due to the very cold winter weather we had. Scadoxus puniceus has also been called Haemanthus magnificus and Haemanthus natalensis, but the currently accepted name for all these forms is simply Scadoxus puniceus.

Scadoxus puniceus (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Scadoxus puniceus

The genus Scadoxus is very closely related to Haemanthus, and all the Scadoxus species were once included in Haemanthus. Haemanthus has a true bulb while Scadoxus have tuberous rhizomes. Haemanthus leaves are heavy and tough as well as growing directly from the bulb, while Scadoxus leaves form a pseudo stem and have a much thinner texture than Haemanthus leaves. Recent DNA studies seem to have fully supported this distinction between Haemanthus and Scadoxus.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Winter Bloom

Lachenalia in the Greenhouse

At the moment, a group of hybrid Lachenalia are in bloom. The bulbs were sent to me by a friend in South Africa. They came from several nurseries, mainly in the Western Cape Province, so far as I know. None had any details of parentage; they were just numberd: #1, #2, #3, etc. The ones currently blooming are mostly yellows.

Lachenalis hybrid (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Lachenalis hybrid (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lachenalis hybrid (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Lachenalis hybrid (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lachenalia Hybrids from South Africa

Strelitzia reginae

I have some seedlings of Strelitzia reginae from open pollination of 'Mandela's Gold'. The seeds came from a friend's front garden in Pretoria, South Africa, in 2004. Three of the four plants are now showing flower shoots, their very first blooms. 'Mandela's Gold' has yellow bracts; one of the seedlings is going to have a colored inflorescence, but the other two might have the yellow forms. They should be in full bloom in another week or two.

Pollination Tools

The only way to be sure what you are getting when you produce your own seeds is to hand-pollinate the flowers individually. To do that properly, you need a few tools. The process breaks down into three phases:

  1. Collecting the pollen
  2. Storing the pollen
  3. Using the stored pollen for pollination

Pollination tools (c) copyright 2011 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Tools for collecting and storing pollen
Forceps, microcentrifuge tubes, and styrofoam tray for handling the centrifuge tubes.
Zip top plastic bag for storing the sealed tubes in the freezer.

I use a steel forceps 5 inches long with angled tips to pull the stamens out of the flower. Separate the anthers from the fleshy filaments and keep the anthers in the 1.5-mL microcentrifuge tubes, also known as Eppendorf tubes.

If you want to store the pollen only for a few days, up to about a week, you can dry it in air overnight, then close the cap to seal it, and store the sealed tubes containing the dried anthers in a refrigerator.

To store pollen longer than a few days, it must be dried thoroughly. I use a drying box for this, one that can be sealed air-tight. Put a dish of drying agent -- blue silica gel crystals or commercial Drierite® -- in the dry box and set the open microcentrifuge tubes with anthers into the box. Leave sealed in the dry box for at least 24 hours. When dried, close the caps on the tubes tightly and store the sealed tubes containing the dried pollen and anthers in a freezer.

I prefer fine tipped camel's hair artist brushes for applying the pollen. Be sure to get brushes with soft hairs; avoid the brushes with stiff bristles. The ones I use are, I believe, size 0 (zero). The smaller the flower and its parts, the finer the tip of the brush needs to be. Choose your brushes accordingly. Sterilize the brushes in denatured alcohol or rubbing alcohol after using. You do not want to transmit fungal, bacterial, or viral diseases from one plant to another.

Pollination tools (c) copyright 2011 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Artists Brushes for Applying Pollen
Size 0 soft brushes about 7 inches long overall

When pollinating, rigorous exclusion of extraneous pollen is absolutely required for genetics research and is a good idea for any breeding work. Open the flower bud before the anthers dehisce and remove the stamens with anthers. Then protect the stigma. I use small sheets of aluminum foil to cover the tip of the pistil.

Pollination tools (c) copyright 2011 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Protecting the Stigma

I use 1/8-inch diameter wooden dowel from a hobby shop, cut to lengths of about 3 inches. For flowers with stigmas wider than 1/8th inch, use a larger diameter dowel. Wrap the foil over the tip and roll it up. I use foil cut to 5/8 inch wide by 1-1/8 inch long; fold evenly over the tip of the dowel. Then roll the foil around the dowel. You should end up with a small aluminum cylinder closed at one end.

After applying the pollen, cover the stigma again with the small aluminum cap. Be sure to label the flower with a tag identifying at least the pollen parent. I always put both the seed parent (mother plant) as well as the pollen parent on the tag, and that tag stays with the ripe seed pod or berry after it is removed from the mother plant.

Why I Hate Gelatin Capsules

Gelatin capsules are the traditional containers for stored pollen. They have some disadvantages, however, and I don't use them because of these.

  • When thoroughly dried, they become brittle and shatter easily when held too tightly between thumb and forefinger.
  • In humid climates, like mine here in Indiana, the gelatin gets quite sticky, making accidents likely.
  • Finally, although inexpensive, gelatin capsules purchased in large batches might draw the attention of narcotics enforcement agencies. Microcentrifuge tubes are simply better.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Winter Heating

Greenhouse Heaters

The outdoor temperature is about -4°F (-20°C) right now (8:30 AM). This time of year, the main focus of concern in the greenhouses is heat. We have three different systems in use, for three different situations.

For the big greenhouse (ca. 2700 sq. ft., which we call Number 4), with all the clivias there is an environmental control computer that regulates heating and cooling and potentially other things as well. There are two identical large overhead gas heaters, capacity around 100,00 to 150,000 BTUs each. Either one could heat my house easily. In the big greenhouse, the controller starts the number 2 furnace whenever the inside temperature drops to the set point. If the one furnace alone is not sufficient, when the temperature drops 2 degrees below the set point, the controller turns on furnace number one as well. This whole greenhouse and some adjacent structures are connected to a large emergency generator that automatically starts when there is a power interruption of more than a few seconds. The clivia greenhouse is probably very well protected in cold weather.

The equipment shed, an oversized garage, and its adjoining hoop house (Greenhouse Number 3) are each heated by a small standard home gas furnace controlled by a simple thermostat for each furnace. Since they also get their power in emergencies from the generator, they are also well protected. A similar small gas furnace and plain thermostat provide heat for the lean-to glass house, Greenhouse Number 1, attached to my home. My home and hence this lean-to glass house are not on any emergency generator, so in case of power outages we have to scramble. I keep a couple of small kerosene heaters around, but we do not like to use them.

The third system is for the small (ca. 250 sq. ft.) freestanding glass greenhouse which is not far from our home. This one, Number 2 in our terms, is heated by two vented natural gas heaters on millivolt controllers. They do not use any electricity from the main system. Rather, the millivolt electric potentials generated by the bimetallic thermostats control these heaters. They have manual pilot lights which have to be restarted by hand when they go out. I went out to greenhouse number 2 to check the pilot lights as soon as I got out of bed this morning. Both were running and the greenhouse temperature was an acceptable 39°F.

So there you have it. Originally -- 30 years ago -- we had no gas out here, so Greenhouse Number 1 was heated by a couple of large electric heaters. Those heaters are still around, and as natural gas prices have approached the cost of electricity for heating, they have been set to take over some of the heating load in Number 1.

Emergency Heat

If you have a greenhouse that contains valuable plants, you need to provide backups for your heating system. The least satisfactory backup heating system, in my opinion, is one or more small portable kerosene heaters. They are plainly fire hazards and, in poorly ventilated structures, dangerous carbon monoxide sources.

Using millivolt gas heaters is not an optimum solution, but is preferable to using kerosene heaters in emergencies. Be sure to use vented gas heaters and to provide adequate air inlets into any greenhouse heated by gas heaters. No matter what system you choose, if you live in a cold climate, you need to provide for emergency heat in case of power failures. Don't risk your valuable plants,

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Winter Bloom

Hippeastrum aulicum

Hippeastrum aulicum is native to brazil. It has been said to sometimes grow as an epiphyte. I have to grow mine in pots, where they do quite well in the greenhouse all year around. The flowers are brilliant red, usually with a vivid green star in the center. The petals and flower form are somewhat variable, in my experiance. If the plant has flowers that open widely, and the petals and especially sepals are relatively narrow, the plant is what some refer to as "stenopetalum." This is not a recognized botanical taxon of H. aulicum, but it is a recognizable type of flower in this somewhat variable species. Steno- comes from Greek and means narrow or close.

Hippeastrum aulicum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum aulicum

This one is not open as wide as some forms, but the sepals are almost as narrow as what we call stenopetalum. It was grown from seed from Mauro Peixoto. One of its siblings was more typical of stenopetalum, but I didn't get a photo of that one.

Aloe microstigma

My plant of Aloe microstigma came from the U.C. Berkeley Botanic Garden last spring. I was surprised to see it blooming this year. The species is native to the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa. The name microstigma does not refer to the flower structure but rather the the "small spots" on the leaves.

Aloe microstigma (c) copyright
Aloe microstigma

This species blooms in June in habitat (winter in the Southern Hemisphere). In my greenhouse, it is blooming in December (winter in the Northern Hemisphere), so just what we should expect.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hardy Bulbs


My post the other day of tender bulbs that are hardy here did not touch on one group that I am fond of: Corydalis.

Corydalis solida varieties do well here in open shade settings, as long as you don't let grass grow in among them. I tried naturalizing Corydalis solida and Fritillaria meleagris in grassy areas with only light shade. They were crowded out by the grass.

In the woodland garden, C. solida sets seed and volunteers come up in the gravel walks. In its place, it does just fine here. Most of my patches of solida are in areas that get at least a little irrigation in the driest parts of summer.

Corydalis lutea (properly now called Pseudofumaria lutea) has never managed to get established here, for some reason. It seems to die within a year each time I try it. C. ochroleuca (Pseudofumaria ochroleuca) lived and bloomed for several years but eventually died out.

Corydalis shanginii lived and bloomed for several years in full sun, but gradually disappeared. I suppost it was done in by the summer heat.

C. angustifolia 'Georgian White' not only survived, it blooms and increases. It also seeds around modestly, so I am very pleased with it. It is growing in a rough bed at the edge of the woodland garden. It gets some irrigation in summer, although I don't know whether it needs it or not. C. kuznetzovii lasted a long time, flowering every year, but did not seem to increase from one small clump.

Corydalis bracteata did well, survived, increased, and bloomed, in one small spot. Moved elsewhere, it simply disappears. It's a fine yellow Corydalis, but you have to guess at just the right place for it.

Numerous other species have survived here, even bloomed, for a few years. If they were less expensive I would recommend planting them again when they disappear. Since they tend to be had to find (Janis Ruksans is the only source I can think of for many), I've not replaced any of them. These included CC. caucasica, paczoskii, turczaninowii, wendelboi, and some others.

Corydalis kuznetzovii (c) 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Corydalis kuznetzovii from 2008

I have found that the blue flowered Corydalis species, including elata, flexuosa, and linstowiana, are impossible to grow here except that linstowiana (ex Dufu) in pots did survive and bloom in the cool greenhouse. The linstowiana pots spent the summer outdoors in the lath house under occasional misting. The other blue ones appear to be hopeless.

Depending on the weather, the Corydalis should be blooming here in central Indiana in about two or three months. The bulbous one should be planted when they are dormant, usually in summer. The fibrous-rooted species should be moved whenever you can get them, using great care, especially if they are in leaf.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Bulbs List Up and Running Again


The Bulbs-L list is settled in its new home at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. It's purpose is to encourage discussion and growing of all sorts of geophytes, and especially growing hardy bulbs in cooler climates. You can find out more about it and even join at http://mailman.science.uu.nl/mailman/listinfo/bulbs-l. You can direct questions to bulbs-l-request@science.uu.nl for help on how to use the list.

Hardy Bulbs

Let's see what bulbs are growing that are out of their usual comfort zone!

My list is about like this, to name some off the top of my head:

Crinum bulbispermum, selected clones
Crinum [bulbispermum x lugardiae] -- all survived
Crinum [bulbispermum x macowanii] -- a few survived for two winters
Crinum variabile -- all survived
Crinum [variabile x bulbispermum] -- all survived
Note: crinum bulbs need to be about 2 inches in diameter or larger to survive over winter outdoors in the ground in my garden.

Brodiaea californica -- in the rock garden
Brodiaea coronaria -- in the rock garden
Brodiaea pallida -- in the rock garden

Fritillaria -- many have survived a few years, none survive in the long term except:
Fritillaria acmopetala
Fritillaria camschatcensis
Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica -- flourish in the rock garden
Fritillaria pallidiflora
Fritillaria thunbergii

Gladiolus oppositiflorus salmoneus

Hymenocallis liriosme -- in a protected spot; being tested in the open field

Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuus -- for several years, then lost
Narcissus bulbocodium nivalis -- for several years, then lost
Narcissus calcicola -- doing well; blooms
Note: Other dwarf Narcissus tend to die here whether in the greenhouse in pots or in the garden in the ground

Nerine bowdenii -- only a few survived and none bloomed

Others may occur to me when Spring comes and they show up again.

The International Plant Protection Convention

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is preparing a draft standard that will probably severely limit the international movement of plant seeds. Almost everything not already established in a country may be considered a potential weed. Contact your favorite plant society or seed exchange for their position, and offer your suggestions and support.

See the draft standard at: https://www.ippc.int/index.php (click on the hot link to go straight to the document).

Joyce Fingerut [Government Liaison; Director, Seed Exchange; North American Rock Garden Society, http://www.nargs.org] is leading the International Horticultural Seed Exchange Advocacy (IHSEA) group that is lobbying the USDA in all matters affecting import and export of plants by hobbyists. She needs the support of the plant societies. The Small Lots of Seeds plant import permit system is a direct result of Joyce's earlier efforts in this area. She deserves our support.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Broadband Internet Connections

Plant Lists Move

The series of plant lists here-to-fore hosted by Surfnet in the Netherlands have moved to a server at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The lists I know of and their new URLs:

The master list is posted at: http://mailman.science.uu.nl/mailman/listinfo


Using cable internet has much to recommend it: For Comcast at least, our cable internet is less expensive ($59 per month with fixed IP). It is also faster, at about 20 MB/sec download and 4.4 MB/set upload. What's not to like?

Our experience with this provider has been very uneven. For months we have had to reboot the cable modem up to 5 times a day, to re-establish our internet connection. Only about 10 days ago did the connection suddenly become completely stable again.


DSL is digital internet service over your phone lines. It works over a simple twisted pair of wires, just like regular old-fashioned analog voice telephone service. The difference is that at the phone company's end of this twisted pair, the connection is to a computer. At our distance from the nearest server, our best download speed was 2.2 MB/sec and the usual is only around 1.7 MB/sec. Upload varies from 0.350 to less than 0.500 MB/sec. The cost is higher, at about $80 per month with fixed IP address. That amounts to $20 more per month for service that is roughly one-tenth as fast as cable.

On a cost vs. speed basis, DSL loses, hands down. The question we're trying to answer just now is the relative reliability of the two services. If the DSL shows the slightest sign of being unstable, it's out the window. If we decide to stick with the cable broadband service and it then becomes unstable again in a few months, I'm going to be really ticked off. What to do?

Fixed IP

Our IP number is our address on the internet, with a form similar to A fixed IP address stays the same day after day. Most private residential connections use a dynamic IP address, which changes everytime their connection to the internet is turned off and then on again. We keep our local internal network connected to the internet 24 hours a day. We need to be able to reach our server when travelling, so we need the fixed IP address. That adds something to the monthly cost, regardless off the type of connection.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Early Flowers and Cold Weather

Early Flowering Plants

There is an interesting piece in Science DAILY about the origins of flowering plants, "What 'Pine' Cones Reveal About the Evolution of Flowers."

It seems that working with gene expression, researchers found that the most likely start on the road to true flowers was when the male cones on some ancient gymnmosperm developed female parts as well.

Clivia in Bloom

Back in the big greenhouse, there are a few early blooms on some Clivia plants: a couple gardenii are in bloom, as well as robusta 'Maxima' and one or two interspecifics. No pictures as the shade system broke down in the fully shaded position, so everything is blooming a very pale pastel tint. Maybe we will get it repaired in the spring, and maybe not.

Clivia berries are ripening right on schedule. I'll get a few pictures of them one of these days and post here. One pink seedling has yellow berries. Actually, they are probably just yellow with very, very pale pink shadows left. I'll get the exact parentage when I take the picture.

How's the Weather?

In a word, "cold!" It has been unusually cold here for at least a month, or so it seems to me. The temperature was -3°F/-19°C this morning. Note the minus signs; and it isn't even January yet. The long range forecast for this winter called for milder but wetter conditions than usual. This was supposed to be due to the El Niño/La Niña cycle. We have had plenty of precipitation, but colder temperatures rather than milder. The gas bill for heating the greenhouses is going to be horrendous this month.

Haemanthus Hybrid

There has been some discussion in the Haemanthus Forum of the Scottish Rock Garden Club's web site of some canaliculate coccineus plants [canaliculate -- see Glossary]. Now, one member reports that Dee Snijman has identified them as coccineus-crispus hybrids in reply #159.

I have a few young seedlings of Haemanthus [coccineus x crispus] growing on here. It will be at least a couple more years before I see any blooms on them.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Arsenic in the Mix

Bugs that Live with Arsenic

NASA has hyped some work with bacteria (actually, proteobacteria, family Halomonadaceae, based on 16S rRNA) from the sludge in Mono Lake, California. The Microbes were grown on arsenic-containing medium with only a trace of phosphate present. The publication is in last week's SCIENCE EXPRESS online.

The problem is, they speculate that this bug uses Arsenate instead of Phosphate everywhere, even in its RNA and DNA. It is not clear to me that they rigorously demonstrated this experimentally. They still need to do a bit more chemistry on the RNA, DNA, and proteins from these bugs.

The skeptics are howling because the organic chemistry of arsenate suggests strongly that as soon as you put "arseno-RNA" or "arseno-DNA" into water, either would fall apart. If this "arseno-DNA" is stable in the bacteria, then there is some interesting chemistry waiting to be explained. This is novel enough that biochemists should remain skeptical until the details have been worked out. If a result is hard to believe, it is probably wrong.

See: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ in the Not Rocket Science blog for some of the early comments.

For more on this, including the paper itself, see:

When I first saw the news on this paper, over a week ago, I thought there really must be some mistake. Simple organic esters of arsenate are not stable in water. Arsenate must have been adsorbed on the particulates when they analyzed the arsenic-tolerant cells.

Having looked at the actual paper itself, I think there is a different question that needs to be addressed: How does incorporation into macromolecules change the chemistry of arsenate esters?

This paper does not answer any questions, in my mind. Rather it seems to validly raise a whole set of new questions about arsenate biochemistry.

  • Why does arsenate accumulate in these tolerant cells?
  • How does arsenate interact with AMP-ADP-ATP processes in these cells?
  • Where are the remaining phosphate groups in these arsenate-loaded cells?
  • Is the remaining phosphate essential where it is or is it randomly distributed?

The only way this paper relates to exobiology and life on other planets is in the wild fantasies of NASA's PR people.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Greenhouse in Winter

The Haemanthus House

My greenhouse number 2 is home to my Haemanthus bulbs, which share it with the Lachenalia and the succulents and cacti in winter. There is snow and arctic air right now on the outside of No. 2. The outside temperature this morning was +6°F (ca. -14 degrees C).

Greenhouse No. 2 (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Outside view with snow.
Greenhouse No. 2 in winter

Inside, the gas heaters kept the temperature around 50°F (10 deg C).

Greenhouse No. 2 (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Inside view with sun shining in.
Inside the greenhouse with the sun shining in our eyes

The bit of snow we've had has wiped most of the shading compound off the glass, letting in the pale winter sunshine. Sunshine is good, especially in winter!

Yeast Proteins Uncoordinated

It seems that a recent study of gene expression and protein synthesis in yeast has surprised scientists. The genes for the "housekeeping proteins" in the yeast turned out to be transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) on a random basis rather than in a coordinated manner.

Such random, disorganized behavior offends the sensibilities of the average scientist, and the researchers now suppose that the coordination must still be there, but probably at the post-transciptional stage. I can't help but wonder about that idea as well......

(Reported in The Scientist, from a paper published in "Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.")

Sources of Science On-line

Where can you get a daily newsfeed on what's new and breaking news in science? Here is a list of some possible sources I've run across:

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Arsenic and Aloe

Life with Arsenic

Arsenic is a chemical element related to phosphorus. Arsenic forms similar compounds to phosphorus, including arsenate, which is a direct analog of phosphate. It is, of course, very, very toxic.

Although I'm not sure of the genus and species for this new arsenic-incorporating microbe, I'm sure it is a member of the kingdom Archaea, the extremophiles. Various members of this group tolerate and grow at high temperatures that would kill bacteria, or in high salt solutions like Mono Lake, California, or at extreme pH values, or in mine tailings where toxic metals (like arsenic) are often found in abundance.

The new reports of microbes that have been grown on arsenate in place of phosphate are fascinating. We need to see where in the organism the arsenate is incorporated and how it works compared to phosphate.

For instance, how stable are the arsenate-ester bonds in arseno-RNA and arseno-DNA compared to the usual phosphate diester bonds? A trace of phosphate was apparently needed for these microbes to grow on their arsenate media. Where are those critical phosphates to be found? Does the arsenate analog of ATP form? How stable is it relative to ATP? How does the stability of an arsenate ester bond vary with salt concentration? With temperature?

It would be well to keep in mind, while reading the many sensational reports on this discovery, that these microbes have to be grown in the lab on artificial media to develop this high tolerance for arsenic. I suspect that, in an evolutionary sense, these bugs are no longer the same species that the researchers pulled from the muck in Mono Lake. A good source of comments and commentary on this topic might be Discover Magazine's 80beats on-line. I'm also looking forward to reading the actual scientific paper when my copy of "Science" magazine finally arrives.

Aloe microstigma

Late last winter I ordered a batch of Agave and Aloe plants from the U.C. Berkeley botanical garden, Paul Licht, director. One of them, Aloe microstigma, now has a bloom stalk up, and color starting to show in the lower-most flower buds. A quick poll of the Xeric World Forum showed that most respondants had their Aloe microstigma starting to bloom at the same time as mine.

This species is native to the Western Cape province of South Africa, which is a winter-rainfall area, as well as the Eastern Cape Province, which is a summer rainfall area. I presume that this plant can take some moisture year-round. I like the book, "Guide to the Aloes of South Africa" by Ben-Erik van Wyk and Gideon Smith (Briza Publications, Pretoria, Second Edition, 2003).

My plant came to me from Berkeley, which has a winter-rainfall climate. I suspect it is thoroughly habituated to a winter growing season, which would perhaps explain the late autumn flowering time.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hardiness of Haemanthus. 2.

Hardiness in Cultivation

Inquiries in the plant lists and forums yielded a few more interesting examples of cold hardiness in Haemanthus.

Mark and Tony, both in North Carolina, each reported that he had had Haemanthus montanus survive one or more winters outdoors in the garden. I think they are both in USDA cold zone 7b. Tony noted that he had tried many other species of Haemanthus, and no others had survived his winters.

In Berkeley, California, they have been growing a wide variety of Haemanthus species outdoors in the ground in the U.C. botanic garden, and there have been no loses over a period of several years. It can get rather frosty in Berkeley in winter, but the temperatures do not usually stay below freezing for very long, as far as I can recall. Still, this is worth noting.

Haemanthus in Bloom

Haemanthus pauculifolius is in bloom just now in the Haemanthus greenhouse. Only one pot has a bloom so far, but maybe the others will follow in a couple weeks.

Haemanthus paucullifolius (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus pauculifolius Nr. 1804

Haemanthus pauculifolius is a dwarf evergreen species found in the Transvaal Drakensberg Escarpment. It is closely related to H. albiflos and H. deformis. The one or two leaves have a soft covering of fine, short hairs on the upper (adaxial) side as well as a fringe of fine hairs on the leaf margins. The pot in which the above plant is growing is 5.5 inches (ca. 13.5 cm) on a side.

To compare H. albiflos to this species, see my Haemanthus page at: http://www.shieldsgardens.com/amaryllids/haemanthus.html. Note that the "paint brush" in pauculifolius is much narrower than that in albiflos.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hardiness of Haemanthus

Hardiness in Habitats

Inquiries in the plant lists and forums yielded a few interesting examples of cold hardiness in Haemanthus. Greg Pettit wrote the following:

"Haemanthus montanus grows on North-West rock faces of the Berg. The temperatures can get to minus 20 degrees C. They are exposed to harsh winds, frost and snowfalls. In the recent past they have been covered by snow for up to a week or two at a time, and they still come back in spring."

"Haemanthus humilis was covered by drifts of snow (about 30 years ago) that were reported to be 20 feet in depth in the Mooi river area of the Natal midlands and they survived so I would assume that those two species have a natural amount of cold genes built into their system."

Snijman ("The Genus Haemanthus," 1984) lists H. humilis hirsutus from elevations between 1200 and 2100 meters above sea level (4000 to 7000 feet elevation). The nights get frosty in winter at those heights of its natural range in the Transvaal highveld, the Drakensberg Escarpment, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

Hardiness in Gardens

In the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum, there was a report from PeterT of Haemanthus albiflos growing in pots in the UK, from London and Scotland, covered with ice and frozen solid, and surviving. Also, Bernie ("Auricular") pointed out that Lauw de Jager successfully grows Haemanthus coccineus outdoors in the ground in his nursery in southern France, where they have occasional temperatures below freezing. It could well be that Lauw's climate is milder than some of the native habitats of Haemanthus coccineus in South Africa.

I think gardeners in mild to moderate climates should try Haemanthus outdoors. Some may be hardier than we tend to expect. Haemanthus albiflos and its hybrids (e.g., H. [albiflos x coccineus]) are likely to be most tolerant of moisture. The most tolerant of outright frost is probably H. montanus. If you want my opinion on where to plant your Haemanthus outdoors, I would suggest you first try a raised rock garden in full sun. If that doesn't work, try a very well drained bed in a protected spot, near the foundation of a heated building. In the Northern Hemisphere, make that on the east or south side of the building. Then let us know what happens.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Nerine Third Season

Nerine Now Blooming

The "First Nerine Season" is in July and August, when things like NN. krigei, filifolia, and filamentosa bloom. The "Second Nerine Season" is in September, when the sarniensis hybrids bloom. And finally we now have the "Third Nerine Season," when bowdenii, humilis, and undulata are blooming.

Old reliable Nerine bowdenii is good to have. Once it starts to bloom, it usually repeats every following year at about the same time. This is one of the most cold-hardy species, but it isn't tough enough to survive here and be able to bloom outdoors in the ground in central Indiana, USA (GPS ca 40 N, 86.1 W).

Nerine bowdenii Koen's Hardy (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Nerine bowdenii, 'Koen's Hardy'

The flowers can vary from deep rosy pink to pale pink to pure white. The diameter across the face runs about 60 mm (about 2.4 inches) and the petals are 8 to 9 mm wide (about 3/8 inch). N. bowdenii is one of the more common species found in the mass market catalogs.

Nerine undulata is also available in the trade. One of the forms I have has light pink flowers only 26 - 30 mm across the face, with petals 3 mm wide.

Nerine undulata (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Nerine undulata from commercial sources

Nerine humilis is blooming for the first time this year. It is from the Western Cape province of South Africa, in the winter-rainfall area. It is totally dormant in summer, and it sits in its pot under a bench in one of the greenhouse through the hottest weather.

Nerine humilis (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Nerine humilis

The flowers have a prominent red midrib line on pale pink petals about 5 mm wide (less than ¼ inch). The diameter across the face is 50 mm (2 inches).

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Changing Face of the Internet

Losing List Servers

There was another reminder from the Surfnet server in The Netherlands that they are discontinuing the Listserv service. Surfnet has hosted the Alpine-L, Arisaema-L, Bulbs-L, and Trillium-L plant lists for years. For those who don't already know, Listserv is a software suite that allows you to set up mailing lists. A member of a given list sends his message to the list server, e.g., to ALPINE-L@NIC.SURFNET.NL; then the list server sends that message on to every member of the Alpine-L list. It all works through conventional e-mail.

The Listserv software saves every message it processes in a searchable on-line archive. They comprise a formidable resource, even considering the large amount of trivial commenting that also gets saved. The ones on Surfnet have always been of special interest to plant lovers. Now, as of January first, 2011, they will leave Surfnet. Fortunately, Eric Gouda has found an alternative home for the lists he co-owns: They will be moving to a Mailman list server (at the University of Utrecht, I think).

I've been using e-mail for about 30 years. It is my main medium for communications. I'm not nearly as comfortable using Web-based forums. I have a Facebook account (as ShieldsGardens), but rarely look at Facebook, nor do I often post anything on my Facebook page. The things people post there are almost entirely trivial stuff and seem largely a waste of time. This may make me a dinosaur, or maybe just a snob....


The Web-based forums, in which the user has to actively seek out the web site, are becoming increasingly popular. The North American Rock Garden Society web site (for members only, at the present time) and the Scottish Rock Garden Club web site (open to all, registration required) are good examples of this format

The Yahoo Groups provide a mailing list option that is used by some plant groups. The Clivia Enthusists group is open to all. The I.B.S. Members group is solely for members of the International Bulb Society. There are other Yahoo groups for Hippeastrum species, for Haemanthus and Scadoxus lovers, for Crinums, etc.

Gold Standards

The gold standard for bulbophiles, for everyone strongly interested in geophytes, remains the Pacific Bulb Society's online list, which is hosted on IBiblio. It is open to all, but only dues-paid members of the Pacific Bulb Society are eligible for the seed and bulb distributions. Nothing else comes close to this list for anyone seriously interested in bulbs.

I think that e-mail will remain the best medium for serious communication. Certainly for private communication it excels. For getting your message delivered to your target, rather than relying on him/her to search out a particular web site, e-mail lists are the only way to go.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Mental Meanderings

Luddites on the Loose

I look for an upswing in the crackpots who want to displace evolution from the educational system in this country. I hope that working scientists will speak up to defend their disciplines. They should be better equipped than anyone else to do so. Just for the record, evolution is the core of modern biology, from DNA molecules on up. Without the theory of evolution, nothing in the living world makes sense.

The other field of science likely to come under even heavier attack is climate change. The evidence is also somewhat indirect, but the conclusions seem just as compelling. The planet is warming up unnaturally, and human civilization is causing it. The environment is after all the place we all live. It matters what happens to it, at least if the human race matters.

Flowers Blooming

The Sternbergia have finished outdoors, and the only flowers I see in the beds outdoors are one small, lonely clump of Crocus cartwrightianus.

In the greenhouses, a couple Clivia gardenii are showing anemically colored blooms. They are getting too much shade for autumn, but there is a broken cable in the shade system and it can't be moved for now.

Also starting to bloom in another greenhouse are the first Lachenalia. L. pusilla has been in bloom for a week or longer, while L. rubida is just now opening its flowers.

Science Visit

About ten days ago, I visited DePauw University for three days. The occasion was the annual student research poster session and a meeting of the Science Advisory Board. I'm an enthusiastic supported of their Summer Research Fellowship (S.R.F.) program, and I visited one group in that program one day in July.

DePauw University.  Reporduce by permission.
DePauw S.R.F. Field Trip

You can get a liberal arts education, major in a science, and go on from there to graduate school in a major research university, if you want to. DePauw is a good place to get the undergraduate degree. I recommend it!

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- The End of the World

What Will Stop the Human Race

Here's the happy thought for today:

Some folks think the answer is going to be simple: Phosphate. A shortage of phosphorous will eventually limit the number of human beings that inhabit the Earth at any given time. See the article in "The Scientist" for November 01, 2010.

Traditionally, phosphate was the cheapest of the three primary nutrients for plant fertilizers: of N - P - K, the middle number (P, phosphate) was always too high for any sensible interpretation of plant biochemistry or nutrition. It was cheap, so add more. More is Better! Well, in another few decades, the Human Race may have to start paying the piper for that particular past extravagance.

The cheapest way to get phosphate for fertilizer was to mine calcium phosphate rocks, grind them up to a fine powder, and treat them with sulfuric acid (H2SO4). Now, the easiest phosphate deposits are being used up. When they are gone, the economic cost and the physical and chemical barriers to utilizing the remaining sources will put the brakes on their use. Humans use a lot of phosphate for their bones, but every living cell has a critical content of phosphate -- mainly in RNA, according to the article in "The Scientist" -- that has to be there as well for there to be a living organism.

When phosphate becomes too expensive, food crops will eventually produce lower yields, and there will be less food for feeding humans and other animals. Then we will see the real limit on human populations: when we run out of the elements needed to make more of their bodies. Have a nice day.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Variations on Old Themes

Computers and Their Problems

The virus problems seem to be sorted out, but our internet connection has been intermittent. I hope that is sorted out now; Comcast technicians paid us several visits in the process.

Fertility of Hybrids

Over the years, I've gotten into the habit of assuming that most primary interspecific hybrids in Hippeastrum and Haemanthus are infertile. Fortunately I have started testing that assumption.

I crossed siblings of Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] last spring and got a couple of seed pods on one of the plants. Those seeds were planted, and I now have about 20 young seedlings growing in a community pot under fluorescent lights. So these seedlings are the F2 generation of Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii].

Last month, I crossed three blooming seedlings of Haemanthus [barkerae x coccineus] and [coccineus x barkerae] with each other. (See: August 27, 2010 and Sept 12, 2010.) I got a total of 5 seeds, which are now planted. Two had already sprouted by the time I got them planted. Among the other dozen or more siblings from these two crosses, a few more seeds formed from haphazard open pollination.

I also know that Scadoxus [katherinae x puniceus] are fertile, since I obtained F2 seeds of that cross from South Africa. "Scadoxus katherinae" is more properly called "Scadoxus multiflorus katherinae."

So far, I have not gotten seeds on Haemanthus [humilis hirsutus x coccineus], which cross I call 'Burgundy' (see: September 28, 2009). However, two of the plants are each making an offset. Maybe I will be able to distribute some of this cross someday!

The Season Flowers and Weather

Outdoors, very little is now in bloom. The Sternbergia lutea are flowering, but very sparsely. I think this is due to the drought conditions we have had since July. A few Colchicum are still in bloom as well. None of these flowers look particularly attractive this year. We also had fewer than usual blooms on the hardy Lycoris this year. Indeed, overall, it has been a disappointing bloom season for much of 2010. Dry weather and very windy conditions are the probable villains in this. The flowers we did get all seemed to look a bit tattered almost as soon as they had opened. The 2010 bloom season is winding down to a very weak finish indeed, here.

In the greenhouse, Nerine bowdenii is showing at least one scape already, and the Nerine sarniensis hybrids have bloomed some. It's still a bit early for the bowdenii to bloom, so there may be more coming. The final flowers of the winter will be Nerine undulata and the Lachenalia. After that, we will be looking toward Spring.

We were expecting a freeze overnight, but it looks as if we only got another light frost. That's alright with me; I'm sure we'll get plenty of freezes soon enough. The local (in the Midwest) long range forecast for the winter (the next three months) is for warmer than usual temperatures and more precipitation than usual. We certainly need to replenish ground water, and saving a bit on heating bills would be nice!

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Back Again

Virus Report

It looks like we are getting all the viruses out of the computer systems here. Frank (at Hoosier Computer Service) has been working hard on it, and it has been a tough learning curve. The last machine to get cleaned is my laptop, which is in the shop today.

My nephew-in-law, Bill R., told his business partner about the Stuxnet worms, and the partner, Greg, dug up the following link to a tool that is supposed to remove the Stuxnet worm from a computer.

The link: http://www.malwarecity.com/community/index.php?app=downloads&showfile=12


We just got back from a week-long trip by car to Colorado. The drive from Westfield to Colorado Springs took two days, driving 8 to 9 hours per day. On Interstate 70, it is almost a straight shot from Indianapolis to Denver, and for most of the trip you can just put the car on cruise control (but don't forget to steer!)

Kansas has the most rest areas on the interstate highway, and I think Missouri may have the best. I'm still a little fuzzy about just which state we were in when I was in the nicest rest area.

It is worth the drive to be reminded just how big this land is. I've seen it from the road many times, but not in several years. You can forget the immensity, and take it for granted in memory. It's harder to take for granted when you're standing out in the middle of it!

The Garden Business

We are backing down the garden business. We've been slowly eliminating daylilies for the past few years, and now I need to cut down on the clivias. We have too many to take care of at a time when the nursery business seems to be down to almost nothing.

Phytosanitary certificates are going up in price to somewhere over $100 per shipment. I don't expect anyone ordering a few bulbs to pay that fee, and I certainly can't absorb it myself. So, we will not ship anything outside the U.S.A. that requires a phyto certificate from now on.

I will gradually revise the web pages to reflect the new status of the business. The more educational web pages will be kept and hopefully improved and expanded over time.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Virus Stuxnet

The Evil Stuxnet

It looks as if the nasty virus that got me two weeks ago is the notorius Stuxnet. Just Goggle 'stuxnet worm' and you'll get more than you can digest about this virus.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- E-mail Address

Address Inactive

One of my a-mail addresses, the one used for responses to this blog, <jim@shieldsgardens.com>, is off-line and has been for over a week, due to the virus infection in that server. Use the Shields Gardens telephone number (1-866-449-3344) if you need to reach me at present.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Virus Attack

Computer Virus Attack

About two weeks ago, my computer system, centered on a Windows Small Business Server, was hit by a devastating computer virus. We still do not know the name of this virus, but it was extraordinarily nasty. Some of the things it did:

  • Disabled the Security Center
  • Hacked the Taskmanager program
  • Changed or added lines to the Register
  • Prevented the computer from booting in Protected Mode.
  • Hacked the format program so that it did not format a disk but said it did
This virus allowed infection by several other viruses as well, including Sality.A, Sality.AH, Sality.AU, and related viruses; Exploit.LNK.CVE-2010-2568, a ColLnk type virus; and Tarantos.S. Several antivirus programs failed to completely remove the virus(es) from the infected server, but we think they got it out of the various workstations -- I hope!

My server is still in the shop. To reformat its hard drive, the technician from Alpha Star Computer, Frank Holden, had to move the drive to another computer. I have been using e-mail sparingly, and have not even thought about the blog until the last day or two.

We recommend using a free antivirus program called Malwarebytes' Anti-malware from Malwarebytes Corporation, http://www.malwarebytes.org. Use this in manual scan mode to supplement your regular antivirus program.

Weather, Seasons, and Plants

We continue in a state of drought here in central Indiana. At least the heat has broken in the last couple of days, so we are having comfortably cool autumn-like days just now. We have moved most of the potted plants back into winter quarters -- the crinums into the heated shed and the others into greenhouses. We probably have until the middle of October to get the last pots inside for the winter.

The crinums are forced into a dormant state, or at least into a leafless condition, so they can be stored in the dark in a heated and insulated equipment building. The thermostat in the shed is set at 50°F. Some of the Hymenocallis may be stored there too.

The Zantedeschia, Nerine, Scadoxus,and the rest of the Hymenocallis go into greenhouses. Zantedeschia aethiopica forms will grow through the winter; other species of Zantedeschia will lose their leaves and stay dormant until late spring, but we keep them in the greenhouses, under benches, as well.

All the Nerine species except for bowdenii and sarniensis and their hybrids are stored dry under greenhouse benches until late spring. Even those that might be evergreen in habitat stay leafless and dormant in the greenhouse in winter.

The Nerine sarniensis hybrids are blooming now. Nerine bowdenii will bloom later this autumn, perhaps as late as December. Nerine undulata will probably bloom in January. Nerine humilis has never bloomed for me at all, but it is winter-growing in the greenhouse.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- More Haemanthus Blooming

Haemanthus [barkerae x coccineus]

I've mentioned this cross before, but now I have over a dozen bulbs in bloom for the first time.

Haemanthis [barkerae x coccineus] (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus [barkerae x coccineus] seedling bulbs blooming the first time.
Some of these are the reverse cross, [coccineus x barkerae].

I do see some variation from one bloom to the next. All are at least a bit bigger than the umbel on a barkerae and at least a bit smaller than the umbel on a coccineus. The colors look very close to coccineus to me, but perhaps with a slighty pink tint in places. In general, the conclusion still is that these primary hybrids are pretty much intermediate between the two parents.

Haemanthus crispus

This is a dwarf species from the Western Cape, where it grows in Namaqualand from the Olifants River in the south to Steinkopf in the north. It's 6-inch long leaves are narrow, canaliculate and markedly undulate. The brilliant scarlet inflorescence is small, sometimes growing only a couple inches high in my greenhouse.

Haemanthus crispus flowers (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus crispus, a dwarf species
Shown growing in 5½-in. (13 cm) square pots.

I find my plants reluctant to set seed, and I have two unrelated strains to cross-pollinate. They do not seem to offset, either.

Haemanthus lanceifolius

These plants were grown from seed planted in 2004, so they are about 6 years old now. The very first one to try to bloom is showing the tip of an inflorescence in the neck of the bulb. The bud is showing some orange coloration, but the painting in Dee Snijman's book shows flowers that are white or pinkish white. The species is native to South Africa in the Western Cape.

This seems to be an extremely rare species, having been found on only one farm in Namaqualand, not far from Vanrhynsdorp. My purpose in growing it is to produce seeds for distribution.

The specific epithet (That's botanical jargon for "species name") has been variously mis-spelled, according to Dee's book, as "lanceaefolius" and as "lancifolius." This just goes to show that botanists sometimes have trouble with Botanical Latin themselves. You and I now know to spell it "lanceifolius," so we are good with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Naturalizing Bulbs and Finding Plant Names

Naturalized Colchicum

Fine Gardening Magazine online has a nice piece on naturalizing spring bulbs in its web site.

In my perennial beds, the Colchicum cilicicum have all popped up overnight. In the grass, Colchicum byzantinum is up and in bloom. We also have a big patch of C. speciosum naturalized in the lawn, but they always come up a bit later than these two species.

Narcissus in the Lawn

We have two large swaths of Narcissus bulb planted in the grass as well, on either side of the property. We used a mixture of 'Carlton', 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation', and 'Premier' for these plantings. They make quite an impression on the neighbors in the spring when they are in bloom. The swaths are at least 6 feet wide and run 50 to 75 feet long.

By the Colchicum speciosum, I also planted out smaller patches of Narcissus like 'February Gold' and 'Jetfire' as well.

The disadvantage is, of course, that you can't cut the grass where these bulbs grow until their leaves all have yellowed off. Otherwise, you won't have any blooms the following year.

Taxonomic Lists On-line

Looking for places to check the botanical names you encounter? Want to see the genera in a family? There are several places you can try.

IPNI is an on-line index to plant names. It may not tell you which is the currently preferred name, but any botanical name that was ever legitimately published is likely to show up there.

TROPICOS is hosted at Missouri Botanic Garden (MOBOT).

Wikipedia is also a sometimes-authoritative source for almost everything, including plant genera. See its Lists of Plants page.

Kew Gardens has a World Checklist of Selected Plant Families that is likely to give you more information than you can digest, but it will all be there.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Bits and Pieces

International Rock Gardener

The Scottish Rock Garden Club has a new, free (at least for now), on-line newsletter, the "International Rock Gardener." I recommend it to the attention of all rock garden plant lovers. The place to find out about hardy bulbs is also in the rock garden community. The August issue has a piece on Fritillaria aurea.

Issues from January 2010 through August are available on-line. Enjoy!

Bjørn Lomborg: Climate Skeptic Waffles?

Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg made himself famous, or notorious, by writing a couple books claiming that climate change was an illusion. This has gotten him speaking engagements in front of all sorts of groups of people who don't want to have to deal with the costs of global warming. According to a piece in 80beats for August 31, he may be changing his position a bit. He's written another book, one that seems to be a complete reversal -- or is it?

I haven't read any of Mr. Lomborg's books yet, so I probably won't read the new one, either. I suspect that most scientists see Lomborg as a publicity-hungry scallywag who doesn't much care about the facts in the matter. I think he is probably just another opportunist.

Go to the web site and find out where the name, "80beats," came from.

Scandals with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also may be overblown. On the other hand, I would caution against taking the IPCC simply at face value without knowning how its members were selected. Politics is probably involved there as much as science is.

The world is clearly changing in the direction of warming. The foibles of the humans involved in understanding this phenomenon notwithstanding, it surely is happening.

Growing Nerine

It's time for many Nerine species and hybrids to bloom. Not only the fabulous but hard to grow sarniensis hybrids, but many easier species as well. I have three different ways of handling Nerine, depending on the species.

1. Bowdenii and undulata: Water year-round, but less when the leaves are off. Summer outdoors (lath house/dappled shade); Winter in the greenhouse. Feed (with 0-15-35 or similar zero-nitrogen fertilizer) only when leaves are green.

2. Sarniensis hybrids and humilis: Dry in summer; in winter water and occasionally feed (with 0-15-35). Humilis grows well for me but has never bloomed, so feel free to try other approaches with it.

3. Summer growing species, including angustifolia/angulata/appendiculata, filamentosa, filifolia, frithii, gracilis, hesseoides, krigei, platypetala, rehmannii (not all of which I currently have): Dry in winter; summer outdoors in full sun with plenty of water and occasional fertilizer (20-10-20 or similar balanced fertilizer). For huttoniae and laticoma, I restrict fertilizer to 0-15-35.

Note that krigei need chilling in winter to initiate next year's flowering. I let temperatures get down to 35°F/ ca. 2 or 3 C where krigei pots are stored in winter.

I use my standard gritty mix for growing all my Nerine bulbs. See Archives for February 16, 2007, for details.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Factors Regulating the Growth and the Flowering Cycles in Haemanthus

These conclusions were derived from discussion of triggers of new flowering and growth cycles in winter-growing Haemanthus of the Western Cape. The discussion was carried out in the Pacific Bulb Society discussion list on ibiblio.org in August, 2010.


  • Length of time since end of last growth cycle or perhaps since initiation of the previous flowering cycle
  • Temperatures
  • Water availability and day length


  • Water and temperature
  • Length of time since last cycle
  • Day length

In each case it appears that factor 1 is the most important, that factor(s) 2 may play some role, and that factor(s) 3 are probably irrelevant.

I take the first visibility of the new umbel in the neck of the bulb as the beginning of the flowering cycle. I am sure that the initiation of development of that new scape occurs much earlier.

Elongation of the peduncle appears to respond to lower temperatures, availability of water, and perhaps the presence of nutrients.

The temperature changes, ΔT, rather than the absolute temperatures, seem to be the factors that affect the plant cycles.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

Sunday, August 29, 2010, 12:30 PM EDT - The Story of The Butterfly Amaryllis

We thank Mariano Saviello of Buenos Aires, Argentina, for his pictures and historical notes on Hippeastrum papilio, the "Butterfly Amaryllis."

Hippeastrum papilio

Mariano Saviello

Hippeastrum papilio (Ravenna) Van Scheepen is an endangered epiphytic species that, paradoxically, is increasingly propagated among gardeners while its natural range is degraded and diminished. Papilio is native to tropical forests of the Atlantic Coast of southern Brazil and was first scientifically collected only in the late 1960s. In the next decades, plant breeders in Holland and the United States began to develop unique hybrids that express Papilio's resistance to Hippeastrum Mosaic Virus (HMV).

In 1967, H. papilio was discovered in a garden in Santa Catarina state, southern Brazil , by Dr. Carlos A. Gómez Rupple, an Argentine collector. The species was published as Amaryllis papilio by Argentine botanist Pedro Félix Ravenna (Pierfelice Ravenna) in 1970. In 1997, Van Scheepen separated New World amaryllids (Amaryllidaceae) from African true Amaryllis and assigned the genus name Hippeastrum to the American species. Papilio was considered extinct in its natural habitat until the 1990s, when an Escondido, California plant breeder, Fred Meyer, observed it growing in tall trees in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Hippeastrum papilio survives now as a population of 50 plants within a 4-square-mile patch of Atlantic Forest habitat, fragmented by roads and drains. These survivors are representatives of larger species and genus distribution. The forest's original 476,000 square miles was reduced to only 38,600 square miles, first by sugarcane and coffee plantations and later by urbanization. The original forest was about the size of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida combined. The remaining forest is smaller than Mississippi .

Hippeastrum papilio (c) 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  Reproduced by permission.
Hippeastrum papilio

Hippeastrum papilio (c) 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  Reproduced by permission.
Hippeastrum papilio

In Brazil, H. papilio blooms in October, the southern hemisphere spring, but in cultivation in the United States and Europe, Papilio may bloom at any time in late winter to early spring. The flowers will readily set seeds, but will not self-pollinate. The plant also multiplies by producing off-shoots of bulbs. Papilio is among the most vigorous of the Hippeastrum, with rapidly growing seedlings, making it an excellent parent for hybrids. However, some cross-pollination with existing hybrids sets seeds that grow vigorously at first, but abort after 28 days due to chromosome incompatibility.

Among the 80+ known Hippeastrum, many cultivated species can each be traced to only a few plants that were collected and propagated. Thus, commercial Hippeastrum producers risk loss to diseases, because only about 10% of Hippeastrum genomic diversity is present in existing cultivars. Papilio is an evergreen that does not display any symptoms of infection by Hippeastrum Mosaic Virus (HMV). Thus far, its hybrid offspring express a wide range of levels of resistance to mosaic virus.

Some bulbs of H. papilio are self fertile, and some are self sterile. Len Doran says that it was of hybrid origin and does breed true within the parameters of a species description. Some forms are green flowered with the dark red markings and others are white with red or very dark marking. In any case, it is a wonderful very easy plant to grow in pots or in the garden. It can even take some frost on the leaves in a bad winter.

Thank you, Mariano.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

Friday, August 27, 2010, 8:30 AM EDT - Haemanthus Blooming

Unique Haemanthus coccineus

This one has bloomed a couple of weeks ahead of all the other coccineus the last couple of years. This year, the heat when it tried to bloom seems to have affected the coloration of the bracts. I find this oddball bloom very attractive; I just wish it would do it every year!

Haemanthus coccineus bicolor form (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus coccineus with Bicolor Bracts

I think this bicolor pattern is a thermal effect. It was very hot when this scape started trying to emerge. It was stuck half-way out of the bulb for a couple of weeks at least, and I think this was, while the hidden parts of the bracts developed the normal scarlet coloration.

Haemanthus pubescens pubescens

These bulbs came out of Rod and Rachel Saunders' yard near Cape Town. This is the first time they have bloomed. Since this is a first bloom, I expect the inflorescence to become a bit bigger in future years. The bulbs were decent sized when I received them, but they suffered several years trying to adjust to the change of hemispheres, so it has taken over 5 years for them to flower here.

Haemanthus pubescens pubescens (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus pubescens pubescens, First Bloom

The blooms typically have 4 or 5 stout, fleshy bracts, sometimes as many as 7. The flowers are overshadowed by the longer bracts. Snijman (1984) recognized three subspecies: pubescens, leipoldtii, and arenicolus. The latter two are quite rare.

Haemanthus barkerae

Haemanthus barkerae is a member of a group of closely related species including crispus and tristis which have similar bulb structures and inflorescences. Snijman also groups namaquensis with these three species, but I have my doubts about this one. A good dose of DNA sequencing appears to be called for to sort these out. In any case, all four of these species are found only in Namaqualand and the western Karoo. Crispus has a small bright scarlet inflorescence on a very short stem; namaquensis has a large scarlet bloom that looks much like coccineus; tristus and barkerae both have light pink bracts and flowers. I still lack tristis, unfortunately; it's quite rare and possibly endangered.

Haemanthus barkerae (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus barkerae

H. barkerae has a limited range, but still varies in leaf shape from north to south in that restricted area. I'm surprised someone hasn't split the different populations into two or three separate species. Perhaps no one dares challenge the formidable Dr. Snijman!

Haemanthus [barkerae x coccineus]

This is a cross I made myself. The resulting inflorescence is pretty close to an average between the two parental species insofar as the size and shape are concerned. The leaves tend to be examples of hybrid vigor in some cases, with the form of the barkerae leaves but much larger. They also started blooming in only 4 or 5 years instead of the 7 to 10 years their parental species take from seed to flowering -- more hybrid vigor.

Haemanthus [barkerae x coccineus] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus [barkerae x coccineus]

In making this cross, I had hoped to get some of the pink color of the barkerae with the larger form of the coccineus inflorescence. So far, those hybrids that have bloomed all have form like over-sized barkerae and the scarlet color of coccineus. I judge the color pink to be recessive in the crispus group of species.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

Monday, August 23, 2010, 3:30 PM EDT - Plants Can't Keep Pace

It looks like the Earth is getting warmer. We all know that plants are sensitive to temperature, and here is a note on how they are reacting.

Carbon Sink Falters

There is an item in the American Scientist E-Newsletter for today summarizing an article in Nature News from a few days ago. It seems that green plants are not absorbing the CO2 from the atmosphere as effectively as they were just a few years ago.

The results of a new study were compared to results of a similar study done ten years ago. The researchers found that the period from 1982-1999 showed an increase in global plant productivity whereas the period 2000-2009, covered by the new study, did not show an equivalent increase in plant productivity.

Among the factors to which the decrease in productivity is attributed include more droughts in the Southern Hemisphere, where the decrease was observed. The Northern Hemisphere showed an increase in productivity, but not enough to offset the decrease in the Southern Hemisphere. The limiting factor for plant growth in the Northern Hemisphere tends to be temperature, while the limiting factor in the Southern Hemisphere is availability of water.

You will have to look for the original article in the current issue of the journal "Science" to get the details of how they determined this. I haven't seen it myself yet, but it appears they used satellite observations to measure the plant density over the entire land area of Earth. I think that decreases in metabolic efficiency of C3 plants will eventually reverse the increased productivity still being seen in the Northern Hemisphere. See blog for August 22 for discussion of C3 plants.

You need to be a subscriber to "American Scientist" magazine to sign up for the e-newsletter. You may need to be a subscriber to the journal "Nature" to access the Nature News website. You might also want to check out the Discover magazine daily e-mail blog, 80 Beats.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

Sunday, August 22, 2010, 12:30 PM EDT - Plants in a Warmer World

It looks like the Earth is getting warmer. We all know that plants are sensitive to temperature, so let's look at a few of the details of how plants respond to changing temperatures and why.

C3 Plants

The notation "C3" refers to the biochemical intermediates involved in CO2 fixation in green plants. They use an intermediate that produces three carbon atom long products when they bind CO2 chemically. Far and away, most of the plants in this world are using C3 metabolism. It is the oldest metabolic route to carbon fixation. It works better in cooler climates. When the plants are grown in warmer climates, they become much less efficient; and when it is too warm for them, they tend to burn off the carbon as fast as they fix it.

C4 and CAM Plants

These plants use C4 intermediates, compounds that are four carbon atoms long, in binding CO2. They tend to be more efficient than C3 plants, and they handle warmer temperatures better. They burn off much less of the fixed carbon that they produce. There are two general types of plants here, the Crassulaceae and some of the grasses. Those grasses are very important to humanity: they include corn ("maize" if you're outside the U.S.A.) and sugar cane.

For a broader discussion of C3 and C4 plants, see the Wikipedia.

Biochemical Reactions at Higher Temperatures

Chemical reactions generally go faster at higher temperatures than they do at lower temperatures. Chemists change the temperatures at which they run reactions, e.g., to get the process to finish faster (higher temperatures) or to suppress competing reactions (maybe at lower temperatures). The same things apply to the biochemical reactions that comprise physiological processes.

In biochemistry, one of the competing reactions that becomes dominant at higher temperatures is always the inactivation of the enzymes that catalyze the biochemical steps. You have a rising curve for the reaction speed and a descending curve superimposed on it for the inactivation. So every biochemical process has an optimum temperature at which it runs best.

What Might Happen

There are more C4 plants in the tropics and subtropical regions than in the cooler zones. As the Earth warms up, we may see the C4 plants increase their share of the biomass at higher latitudes. Plants that need cooler temperatures to thrive will have to migrate poleward or be displaced by plants that like the warmer temperatures. It stands to reason that many plant species now growing at the north and south extremes of the biozone are going to disappear completely. As the mountain warms, you can move up the mountain to a cooler region, until you reach the top. Then, if the warming continues, your goose is going to be cooked.

Why some organisms can live at higher or at lower temperatures is at heart a matter of competing reactions at different temperatures. Tolerated temperatures and optimum temperatures can be adjusted by evolution, but it generally takes a long time to accomplish. Things are changing pretty fast right now. A lot of plants and animals we see around us now may not be here in a century or two.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

Friday, August 20, 2010, 11:36 AM EDT - Potpourri

Plant and Bulb Sources

I maintain (occasionally) a list of sources of plants, bulbs, and seeds. This page is at: http://www.shieldsgardens.com/GLOVBulbs/SOURCES.html. I add new vendors as I hear of them, and I occasionally remove a listing when I get more than one complaint about the service they render.

If one or more of your favorite bulb, plant, or seed vendors is not included in this list, please contact me (links on the SOURCES web page) with the information to add them.

Weather and Climate

Have people stopped claiming that climate change either does not exist or is not caused by human activities? Or have I just stopped reading the rants of the crazy fringe? I have come to consider the ravings of the anti-climate change folks chiefly to be indicators of the profound weakness of the science education in our schools. Have we produced several consecutive generations of scientific ignoramuses? How unfit can you make people to live in a technological society where their very survival depends on science and technology, from energy production to agriculture to modern medicine? People who do not understand science and technology -- and by "understand" I don't mean just being able to use an iPad -- will make stupid and dangerous decisions at the ballot boxes.

The scientific community is finally making more forceful statements about the changes taking place in Earth's climate. My own rants are in the blog archives; see December 25, 2006 and February 16, 2007. There is no reasonable doubt that the global climate is changing, and it seems highly likely that the direction of change is due to human activity. Without human activity, we would probably be heading back into another Ice Age.


My only forms of exercise are a little gardening (working at the potting bench does not count as exercise) and walking. -- I'm fond of walking along the Monon Trail here in Westfield, Indiana, and in next-door Carmel. I may have mentioned it in the past: It is the former roadbed of the Monon Railroad. The Trail runs in an almost straight line from near downtown Indianapolis up to a bit north of 156th street in Westfield. The Hamilton county portion, Carmel and Westfield, is about 6.5 miles long so far, with Westfield planning to eventually extend it farther north. In Carmel, it's called the Monon Greenway.

Most of the users of the Monon Trail are friendly people. Many of them smile and and say, "Good morning!" or at least nod. There are a few music zombies with earbuds and glassy stares. They are the losers, of course, missing out on a light touch of human good will as they plow blindly ahead. At least their bodies are getting plenty of exercise even if their souls are temporarily in stasis.

I do have one gripe about some of my fellow trail-users: Those, mainly on bicycles, who overtake and pass without any warning. Trail etiquette used to be that bicyclists and skaters called out "On your left" before passing. That seems to be a lost form of courtesy in the last couple of years. I've even had a couple of riders brush my elbow in passing. Shame on them! Regular users of the Monon Trail are a kind of community, and our fellow users deserve our courtesy.

The Monon Trail is a microcosm of Nature, a narrow strip of almost natural trees, shrubs, and even a few flowers. Then there are the small creatures, from butterflies and birds to chipmunks and squirrels. It's a refreshing place to just be, even if you are not into exercise.

Crinum Blooming

There is still a bloom on one clump of the hardy Crinum variabile, and another scape is coming up. Planting this species with Crinum bulbispermum would extend the crinum flowering season in the garden from early June to early September.

Crinum variabile (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum variabile

Note that the new flowers open completely white, then develop a strong pink blush as they age. It makes for a very nice bicolor effect in the garden, and on a "macro" scale easily visible from a distance.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

Thursday, August 19, 2010, 9:30 AM EDT - Flowers and Herbicides


We use Lontrel® on our daylilies. It is very good at suppressing Canada Thistle. With the following caveats, I personally recommend it for use controlling weeds in perennials.

Lontrel® damages hostas if sprayed directly on the leaves. We were reminded of that last spring when we oversprayed beds with hostas in them; we sprayed the hostas right along with everything else. The leaves became highly distorted, and I suspect the plants may still show damage next year, if they survive.

Now I see the spray has also affected the Lycoris. Some plants growing in beds that were oversprayed have put up scapes that were twisted and distorted. I don't know if we used too strong a solution or if Lycoris are just among the susceptible perennial species that should not be sprayed directly with this herbicide.

Lycoris chinensis damages by herbicide (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris chinensis apparently damaged by herbicide

Most Lycoris did not show any damage, so it may be that those like the above just got way too much of the spray. I'm not sure, but we will definitely need to watch out for this next year.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

Saturday, August 14, 2010, 10:30 AM EDT - Late Summer Flowers. IV.

Garden Plants: Crinum

There is no new bloom to report this late in the season, but there is some nice rebloom that deserves to be mentioned. Crinum variabile plants outdoors in the ground are on their third and even fourth scapes for this summer. This species blooms with the fresh flowers almost pure white. Then, as the flower ages, it develops red coloration as the flowers droop. The result is a bicolored umbel with erect fresh new white flowers above older drooping red tinged flowers. This scape, below, is just opening its first flowers, so there is no red color showing yet.

Crinum variabile (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum variabile

It looks as if some sort of bug has been attacking the flowers and buds of the C. variabile. I didn't find the actual culprit itself.

Crinum [variabile x bulbispermum] are also reblooming. Thanks to the bulbispermum parent, these hybrids all have red-bronze coloration on the outside of the tepals on the newly opened flowers. They seem to be as hardy as the variabile parents are. They start blooming much earlier in the season than the variabile start to bloom and then rebloom once or twice. These pictures were taken on June 24th this summer, and they show two different plants. On rebloom, the scapes tend to carry 12 to 14 flower buds. These plants are fertile, and I sib crossed some of them to produce seeds. I don't know that the F2 will be any more interesting than these F1 plants, but perhaps a little less uniform in appearance.

Crinum [variabile x bulbispermum] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum [variabile x bulbispermum] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Crinum [variabile x bulbispermum]

I seem to have missed the very first blooms on my Crinum carlo-schmidtii seedlings, which are growing in pots. I blame this oversight on the miserably hot and humid weather we have been having the last several weeks. I'll have to keep a better watch next season.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Late Summer Flowers. III.

Garden Plants: Lycoris

The old familiar "Naked Lady" of the Midwest is Lycoris squamigera. I never get around to photographing squamigera for some reason. We take it for granted, but it isn't really all that common anymore outside the small country towns. It is a sterile triploid, now known to be a natural hybrid between L. longituba and L. sprengeri. Of the species listed here, it is one of the earlier to bloom every summer except for the dwarf orange species, sanguinea.

Just as hardy as squamigera is Lycoris chinensis, the tall, spidery yellow species. All these plants that I grow, except for squamigera, came from the Shanghai Botanic Garden in China. They exhibit a considerable degere of variability in flower form and color. I suspect this is due to natural or accidental hybridization in the botanic garden. The chinensis vary from lemon yellow to rich buttery golden yellow in color. The form varies from narrow, ruffled, spidery petals to broader, smooth petals similar to those of longituba. It makes a strong statement in the late summer garden.

Lycoris chinensis (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris chinensis

The large white trumpets of longituba are very elegant in the garden. They naturally vary from pure white to a very pale pink tint to a very pale yellow tint. The petals are generally smooth and flat.

Lycoris longituba (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris longituba

Lycoris sprengeri is smaller than chinensis and longituba. The flowers, however, have a remarkable coloration: The pink petals have an electric blue sheen at their tips!

Lycoris sprengeri (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris sprengeri

These Lycoris listed above all share a trait that lends their hardiness to them in cold climates like mine: Their leaves appear only in the spring. Otherwise hardy species like L. radiata radiata eventually waste away when grown here in the North, because their foliage always appears in the autumn. Our bitter winters then proceed to destroy it in the course of the winter. After a few years of this, the bulbs are so weakened that they disappear. Most of the Lycoris listings that we see in the mass market bulb catalogs, except for squamigera, are for similar species that leaf out in the fall and carry their leaves through the entire winter. Some of them may also have bulbs that cannot tolerate frozen ground as well. While the catalog Lycoris can do very well in the warm South, our hardy species do not grow well down there. They need the cold winter weather to signal their life cycles to proceed to dormancy and then on to leafing out in spring. Without exposure to cold temperatures, they stay stuck in their late summer post-bloom phase until they dwindle away.

Lycoris squamigera increases rapidly without human intervention, producing lots of offsets. I think the largest bulbs may also tend to split in two occasionally. Lycoris chinensis and L. longituba produce offsets much more slowly. My attempts to increase these two species by twin-scaling were pretty much unsuccessful, while twin-scaling of squamigera worked quite well. Only L. sprengeri increases at a pace close to that of squamigera. We are not able to offer any of them for sale, but you might try Bulbmeister and Telos Rare Bulbs.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Late Summer Flowers. II.

Potted Plants: Hymenocallis and Nerine

Hymenocallis azteciana is a dwarf Mexican species. It is quite rare in cultivation, and I have just the one plant. It appears to be self-sterile, so I can't produce seeds. Hopefully, I will at least eventually get a few offsets. Thad Howard described it in his book, "Bulbs for Warm Climates," thusly: from Jalasca in western Mexico; a medium size species with a small cup, slightly S-shaped floral tubes. Thad said it blooms in mid-summer; mine seems to bloom in late summer.

Hymenocallis azteciana (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis azteciana

Other mid- to small sized Mexican species that we have in the collection include acutifolia, durangoensis, eucharidifolia, glauca, graminicola, guerreroensis, harrisiana (ex hort), howardii, and phalangides. Over the years, I have lost lehmilleri, chiapasiana, and nayaritiana. We have a plant of imperialis, but this does not count as a small or mid-sized species! We have something that might be riparia or perhaps sonorensis, which bloomed at least a month ago. I don't trust the riparia/sonorensis bulbs I've received over the years, since they all seem to be the same thing to me. I should have taken a picture of them when they bloomed. One thing to remember about Mexican Hymenocallis, and other things like rain lilies: to identifiy the species, you may have to know exactly where in the wild the bulb was collected. Either that, or do a lot of DNA sequencing, which I'm not equipped for.

We have some Hymenocallis occidentalis outdoors in the ground, where it is pretty hardy, and H. liriosme which survives in the ground near one of the greenhouses. We lined some more liriosme seedlings out in a bed in the open this summer, to see how hardy they might be. Maybe I can report back on this next year.

Now here is an interesting little item: When is "Nerine forbesii" really Nerine laticoma? I'm not sure, myself. Graham Duncan doesn't consider the name Nerine forbesii to be valid, and he doesn't include Swaziland in the range of N. laticoma. Yet the first picture below is what I received as Nerine forbesii with a provenance of Swaziland.

Nerine forbesii (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Nerine forbesii

Nerine laticoma from a different source looks like the following. Incidentally, this is the first time the laticoma below has ever bloomed for me. I'm trying to pollinate the forbesii with pollen from this laticoma. I have tried in past years to pollinate flowers of forbesii with fresh pollen from N. krigei and with stored pollen of N. bowdenii, both to no avail.

Nerine laticoma (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Nerine laticoma

They could well be two different forms of the same species. Their foliage seems to be the same, glossy green, about ¾ inch wide, and very similar in shape and length. So far, neither seems to be making offsets.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Late Summer Flowers. I.

Potted Plants: Haemanthus and Scadoxus

In the Haemanthus, the end of summer is marked by the first plooms on the red flowered Western Cape species. This year, the first to bloom is a bulb of Haemanthus namaquensis that has never flowered before. It just flowered a few days ago and is already starting to go over. The hot, humid nights are probably somewhat to blame for the short bloom period. A different bulb of namaquensis bloomed for the first time last year but is not blooming this summer. The bright scarlet red inflorescence is only about 4 inches high and 2 inches wide.

Haemanthus namaquensis (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus namaquensis

Haemanthus barkerae is often the very first of the red-flowered Western Cape species to bloom for me. It is a variable species, but the flowers are mainly a pale pink. The leaves, when they get here, vary by colony of origin from linear to sword-shaped. The inflorescence is up to 7 inches tall but only about 1½ inches wide.

Haemanthus barkerae (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus barkerae

Haemanthus albiflos, as common in cultivation as namaquensis is rare, is also starting to bloom. This species is evergreen, with the old leaves dying as the new leaves finishing development.

Haemanthus albiflos (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus albiflos

Scadoxus membranaceus is blooming later, and most of the flowers were in July. These probably would do better if they were not forced to go dormant in winter. I repotted these in January and February, then started watering and feeding them immediately. Several bloomed this summer; this is the last flower remaining.

Scadoxus membranaceus (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Scadoxus membranaceus

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

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- Busy Summer


The summer is a busy time around here, but it also seems to be a time when I find little to write about. Isn't once enough to hear about pulling weeds? Even the camera seldom gets used. My intention to photograph more of the daylilies in our garden never became actual. Maybe next year....

The weather has been oppressive. Lots of 90-degree days, with high humidity and afternoon thunderstorms every couple of days. For Non-U.S. readers, 90°F is 32 C; central Indiana averages 18 or 19 days each summer when the temperatures reach or exceed 90°F. We've had about half that quota so far, but it seems like more, because the non-90° days have hit 86 to 88°F. I must be getting old, because I don't like to be out in those temperatures with high humidities.

Closing Out the Daylilies

We wanted to close out the sales beds of daylilies this year, so we had a $5 sale. It did bring a lot of people in, especially new customers. Unfortunately, the bloom season is over for almost all the daylilies in our garden now, and we still have half of the plants left. So, next summer, we will have the final daylily close-out sale! What's left this time next year will go on the compost heap.

Fifteen years ago, there was a fad in daylilies, and we sold lots of them. Now, every neighborhood on the north side of Indianapolis has at least one house with a yard full of daylilies from our garden. No one needs to really buy them anymore -- just admire those at your neighbor's house when the neighbor is out in the garden. You'll very probably be given more plants than you can use!

Daylilies are high maintenance when grown in a nursery. Weeding is a constant chore, and needs to be started before high school and colleges are out for the summer. My garden crew are all high school and college students. If there are no students here, then not much weeding gets done. I look forward to their arrival in the garden every spring, and I'll miss them all when they start back to school again in a couple of weeks -- Richard, Nat, Steph, Anna, and Justin. I hope they'll be back again next year.

What Is Blooming?

The pink spherical umbels on Haemanthus humilis humilis are almost bloomed out. These provide a reliable spot of pink color on our deck in July, now that the bulbs have reached blooming size.

Haemanthus humilis humilis (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Haemanthus humilis humilis

The hardy Gladiolus x-gandavensis, a primrose-yellow hybrid of South African species that survives here in USDA zone 5, is in bloom. These came about ten years ago from The Great Plant Company (New Hartford, CT), which I have not heard from since. I originally had six corms, but three died. The remaining three corms have increased nicely. These glads will survive in a flower pot in the greenhouse as well as outdoors in the ground. I'm going to divide these this fall, after frost.

Gladiolus x-gandavensis (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Gladiolus x-gandavensis

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' with its panicles of small, fiery red flowers, is also hardy here and is just starting to bloom now. These came from Brent & Becky's Bulbs over ten years ago. A different clone, with larger flowers but much less hardy, came from a local garden shop about the same time. The larger-flowered clone died after only a couple winters. All 'Lucifer' are not alike.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- June Weeds and Other Flowers


Weeds actually dominate May and June in the garden. My helpers have been attacking the weeds since early May, and we still have plenty to go. The bane of my existence is Canada Thistle, but Bindweed, Mustard, and miscellaneous grasses contribute their shares as well. We try to spray for weeds, of course, but while that can help, we have to watch out for damage to our flowers. Having been a chemist most of my life, I am not opposed to spraying weed killers. I just want to use them in a reasonable way. I can say from personal observation that most people who spray to kill bugs or weeds do not use the proper precautions to keep the sprays off their skin and out of their lungs. Read the directions, take all the precautions, wear protective clothing and gloves, and wash the clothes and yourself thoroughyly after spraying.

We found out the hard way that Hosta are susceptible to Lontrel® weed killer. Take my advice, and keep Lontrel® off your hostas. It is my weed killer of choice for daylilies and most bulbs, but not for hosta. We usually spray it mixed with Fusilage II® to also control grasses, at least early in the season. By this time of the year, the grasses have mostly become immune to Fusilade.


The daylilies (Hemerocallis) are the next flowers to show up. Many of the extra early ("EE") varieties are already in bloom. These earliest daylilies are predominantly yellow or orange in color.

Hemerocallis Stella De Oro (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hemerocallis 'Stella De Oro'

Hemerocallis Parade Queen (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hemerocallis 'Parade Queen'

Hardy Crinums

A few years ago, Al Sisk sent me some bulbs he had acquired from homeowners around his part of Texas. We were going to test them for cold hardiness here in central Indiana. They were planted out in an open bed, where they got some mulching the first winter but not in later winters. Three bulbs survived and have prospered: Mrs. Jordan's Red, Mrs. Jordan's White, and Mrs. Morris's.

Crinum bulbispermum Mrs. Jordan's Red (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum bulbispermum, Mrs. Jordan's Red.

Crinum bulbispermum Mrs. Jordan's White (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum bulbispermum, Mrs. Jordan's White.

Parts of Flowers

A member of the Pacific Bulb Society on-line list pointed out this link to Wikipedia:

Picture of the Day for June 11, 2010

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- May Flowers


In the Siberica group of irises, a standout is Iris sanguinea. I have one particular variety that has made a huge clump over the years. Unlike many other irises, this one survives my neglect and still blooms every year in springtime.

Iris sanguinea Kamyama (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Iris sanguinea 'Kamyama'

Even earlier to bloom is Iris lactea, distinguished mainly by its flowers blooming down in the foliage. The tall bearded iris have all bloomed too, of course.


These bulbs in the Amaryllis Family are native to Southern Africa. I am very fond of Scadoxus puiniceus, which is very easy to grow in the greenhouse and lath house, and which blooms reliably in February before the leaves have developed. Scadoxus multiflorus katherinae, the pretty sister of the multiflorus multiflorus found in many bulb catalogs, is harder for me to bring to flower. When it blooms, it blooms in July here.

A plant acquaintance in South Africa has crossed these two species, and then crossed their offspring. Seeds from the offspring, the F2 generation, have started to bloom for me. Here is one of the first two to bloom, as it appeared in late May in my lath house. So far, the February bloom time and the July bloom time of the grandparents seem to have produced a median bloom time in these grandkids.

Scadoxus [puniceus x katherinae] F2 (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Scadoxus [puniceus x katherinae] F2


This is a genus of the Amaryllis Family that is native to Australia. I have had Proiphys amboinensis for years. It blooms in mid-summer, when it blooms, and is usually deciduous in the greenhouse in winter. A second species in this genus, Proiphys cunninghamii, came my way a few years ago; and now it is blooming.

Proiphys cunninghamii (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Proiphys cunninghamii
The flowers are about 1½ inch across.

Note that in the picture above, the center flower that you are staring straight into is a little unusual: it is a polytepal, having four petals and four sepals instead of the usual three of each.

I kept this one watered and growing in the warm greenhouse all last winter. Now both plants are in bloom, so it must have liked the treatment it received. I'm cross-pollinating the two blooming plants in hopes of getting a few seeds. This plant deserves to be better known.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hymenocallis

Another Contribution from Argentina

The white American spider lilies, Hymenocallis, are one of my favorite bulb groups. Found from the Southeastern USA and the Mississippi Valley through Central America, some of them make great landscape plants in mild climates while others are great pot plants that grow in summer and sleep through the winter. One species, Hymenocallis occidentalis (a.k.a. caroliniana) is even hardy outdoor in the ground here in central Indiana.

Here is a photo from Mariano Saviello of his plant of Hymenocallis sonorensis in bloom. Up here in the northern hemisphere, this species blooms at the end of summer. I guess May is pretty much the end of summer in Argentina.

Hymenocallis sonorensis (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  Reproduced by permission.
Hymenocallis sonoriensis grows along streams and valleys in Sonora, Mexico. An easy Hymenocallis to grow and bloom in mid autumn (Southern Hemisphere).

My own plants are just starting to grow, except for the lone clump of Hymenocallis liriosme growing at the south end of my greenhouse. It has already started to bloom.

Hymenocallis liriosme (c) Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hymenocallis liriosme
Growing outdoors in the ground, but very close to the greenhouse wall!

I'm going to test several plants from H. liriosme out in the open garden. Maybe, with lots of mulch, some of them will survive the winter here.

We have bracketed the Hymenocallis growing season right here, from the last flowers of the summer in Argentina to the first flowers of the summer in Indiana.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Absent Blog

Server Crash

Aside from being preoccupied with Spring, I've been mostly off-line for the last 10 days or so due to the crash of the hard drive on my local net server. This was just brought back on-line yesterday, so I guess I'm back again for a bit.

May Flowers

The Trillium are all long finished. A few seed berries are ripening on the Trillium, but otherwise there are just green stems and leaves. The Iris reticulata are also well past; but Iris missouriensis was in bloom recently. And now the Northern Blue Flag, Iris versicolor, is in bloom. Arisaema stewardsonii is blooming in the wet bed, and Arisaema sazensoo is in flower on newly planted tubers in the woodland garden.

Crinum minima, a dwarf species from South Africa, bloomed briefly today. It grows and flowers in a 1-gallon pot (about 7 inches wide by 7 inches deep). Crinum bulbispermum has been blooming in a very protected spot against the greenhouse.

In the lath house, I'm trying to coax the Amorphophallus into growth. A. titanum tubers are sprouting their second set of leaves already. A. konjac has shoots starting to push up, and A, bulbifer have their leaf shoots well started. Amorphophallus paeonifolium is the reluctant one of the bunch. None of these amorphophallus plants are large enough to bloom so far, which is a good thing. Probably ten years ago, I saw a small amorphophallus from Thailand blooming in a 1- or 2-gallon pot in a greenhouse at the University of Basel (Switzerland) Botanical Garden. It was smaller than the others can get, and quite attractive. I think it might have been A. bulbifer, but that was a long time ago, so who knows?

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Taxonomy

The Revolution in Families

They have been having a discussion, in the Pacific Bulb Society list, about the new classifications of the Angiosperms. Family names have been in a flux since the start of the use of DNA sequences in reconstructing phylogenetic relationships. This goes back around 15 years, as I recall. Oddly enough, the last pre-DNA revision, in the 1980s, anticipated many of the changes that the DNA sequences forced plant scientists to make in the classification of flowering plants. The people causing the ruckus have reported their conclusions in Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III, 2009.

You may have noticed that, whereas almost every monocot flower other than iris and orchids was in the family Liliaceae in the old days, most of them are now not even in the same order (Liliales), let alone in the family Liliaceae itself. Most of our favorites (well, my favorites anyway) are now in the order Asparagales, including both orchids (Orchidaceae) and irises (Iridiaceae).

This includes the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis family) and its close relatives Agapanthaceae (Agapanthus family) and Alliaceae (onion family). In fact, these three families are now combined into a single larger family, currently called simply Amaryllidaceae. I'm gratified that the name Amaryllidaceae is retained, but a bit sad for the alliums at losing their "Alliaceae."

Other families affected include Trilliaceae, the Trillium family, which is now included in Melanthiaceae. Of course, 30 years ago, it was in Liliaceae.

Hemerocallis, the daylilies, for a while enjoyed its own family, Hemerocallidaceae; now it is submerged into the family XANTHORRHOEACEAE as subfamily Hemerocallidoideae. Along with it are Asphodeloideae and Xanthorrhoeoideae.

Hyacinthaceae seems to have been submerged deeply into Asparagaceae, the Asparagus family. Agavaceae seems to be in there with it. I worry that the new family concept of Asparagaceae is becoming the same catch-all that the old concept of Liliaceae was.

Wrong Names

A related lament concerns the reluctance of the gardening world, or at least of those folks in the media who create verbage and catalogs, to recognize that nomenclature has changed over the past 100-150 years. As noted in the Pacific Bulb Society list, catalogs still list "Cyclamen neapolitanum," a name that has been obsolete and superceeded by Cyclamen hederifolium for the last 50 or 75 years.

Then there is my favorite wrong name, "Amaryllis" (i.e., as in Dutch Hybrid Amaryllis) used for bulbs in the genus Hippeastrum. Botanically, Amaryllis is a small genus in South Africa containing one well-known species, Amaryllis belladonna, and perhaps one or two obscure and very rare other species. It grows very well in South Africa and in Southern California. A few people grow it in other Mediterranean climates as well, but it is relatively unknown outside those places.

On the other hand, Hippeastrum, as we all know here, is a genus native to South America. The wild species of Hippeastrum were turned into the modern "Dutch Hybrid Amaryllis" over the past century or two, mainly I suppose by the Dutch. They are definitely spectacular, but folks, they sure aren't "Amaryllis"!!!!

Common Names

Common names, such as Naked Lady, Autumn Crocus, Daffodil, Spring Beauty, Jack in the Pulpit, Trout Lily, and countless more, are likely to be misleading once you get out of the narrow geographic location where you learned the common name in the first place. Different countries, and especially, different continents, often mean quite different flowers but use familiar names to label them.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- The Hippeastrum Database

What Is It

One reader of this blog (that must make at least six now!) inquired about the Hippeastrum Database, which I have been referring to without ever explaining what it was. Sorry about that! I'll remedy that omission right here and now.

The Hippeastrum Database is a table of the recognized species of Hippeastrum. It also contains some references to the original descriptions of the species in the scientific literature. Finally, there are some supplementary care and culture notes for a few of the species.

These materials were assembled by several individuals over some years, and I put them together in one big file. The complete database is available only in Microsoft Access 2000 file format. That format can be imported into later versions of Access, but not into earlier versions. A less complete form is available as a Microsoft Excel 2000 workbook, as well.

Be warned that I have not proofed these tables since I put them together. No one has called me on any blatant errors so far, but I'm sure there are some in there. Let me know if you find any, please: [Report errors in database].

Where to Find it

One set of files is in the Yahoo Hippeastrumspeciesgroup, http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Hippeastrumspeciesgroup/. You may have to get a Yahoo user ID and join the group to get to it.

Another set of the files is in the Yahoo IBSMembers group, http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/IBSMEMBERS/, which is open only to dues-paid members of the International Bulb Society.

In both cases, the actual database files are in the Files section of the respective groups.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Back to Trillium Country

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I spent a week in the Smokies looking at Trillium again, as I did a year ago. As it seemed here in Indiana, Spring appeared to come all at once in the Smokies, rather than stretching out for 6 to 8 weeks as it usually does. They were less than a week ahead of us down there. The Trillium were probably at peak bloom, in the lower altitudes, the week I was there (April 13-19). Some of the Trillium simile flowers were starting to go over by the time we left to drive back to Indiana.

This year, I concentrated on Trillium simile and T. erectum, mainly outside the National Park. We visited a colony of simile near the holotype locality, which is simply Tryon, North Carolina. We also visited Nantahala Gorge, N.C., where there are probably more T. simile than anywhere else.

Trillium simile (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Trillium simile
© copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.

We went in search of true T. erectum album, not mixed with simile. This took us on narrow, rough gravel mountain roads past Max Patch mountain and other places east and northeast of the National Park. We saw a few T. erectum album, but not the stands one sees inside the National Park.

Trillium erectum album (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Trillium erectum album
© copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.

Trillium simile is clearly closely related to T. erectum album. Just how closely is anybody's guess until we convince someone to do some detailed DNA sequence comparisons between the two species. There is still an obvious cline between typical T. simile in the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area at about 1200 ft. elevation, and T. erectum album above 3000 ft. elevation on up to 5000 ft at Newfound Gap.

There were plenty of Trillium luteum in bloom around Gatlinburg, but we ignored those this time. We paid more attention to the T. cuneatum south and east of the National Park. We spotted one with exceptionally wide petals along Bald River Falls road. The plant is still there.

Trilli8um cuneatum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Trillium cuneatum with wide petals. Compare the dime!
© copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.

There are wide variations in the color of the petals of T. cuneatum, from the dark red of this one above to shades of bronze to even an occasional yellow one. These are often growing within three or four feet of one another.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum Species. V.

Hippeastrum puniceum (Lamarck) Voss

"Reported in tropical America, from Mexico and West Indies to Bolivia and Brazil. The specimen shown came from Puerto Rico (see picture of the habitat). Flowers in spring." -- Mariano Saviello

Hippeastrum puniceum (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum puniceum in habitat in Puerto Rico.
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

The Hippeastrum database has these notes: Found in tropical America. Evergreen but dormant in winter. Synonyms equestre, spathaceum, occidentale, pyrrochroum, roezli, dubia, Amaryllis belladonna, haywardii, alberti, amaru.

Hippeastrum petiolatum Pax in Engl.

"Reported in the provinces of Corrientes and Misiones (departments of Cainguas, Capital and El Dorado). It was once reported in the province of Tucumán, until it was discovered that the species seen was the red form of H. aglaiae. Traub described two different species: H. flammingerum for the species found in Santa Ana, province of Misiones; and H. petiolatum for the species found in the province of Corrientes (Monte Justo, department of Santo Tomé). It is know nowadays as H. striatum var. petiolatum, as it is believed to be a variation of the brazilian species H. striatum. It is a triploid self sterile species which reproduces only by little bulbils that grow around the mother bulb. As this species grows in tropical places near rivers from north-east Argentina and Brazil (there are some reports in Uruguay, as well), in the rainy season these bulbils are driven by surface water flows and travel to sites remote from the original bulb, which ensures not only the spread but also the distribution of this species." -- Mariano Saviello

The Hippeastrum database has the following information: Found in Argentina and Brazil. Has ploidy up to 2n = 55. Synonyms include argilagae, flammigerum, gertianum. Dormant 3 months in winter.

Hippeastrum puniceum var. alberti

"One of the double flower Hippeastrum. Baker (1888) suggested that this form should be placed under H. reginae, but H. reginae does not have the orange flowers that this species has, and the plant characters indicate that this form is allied to H. puniceum. The tepaltube is obscured on account of the double form. Is cultivated in US, mainly in Florida where it has been used in the production of double hybrids commercial Hippeastrum." -- Mariano Saviello

Hippeastrum puniceum alberti (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum puniceum alberti
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

Hippeastrum puniceum alberti (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum puniceum alberti
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

I'm indebted to Mariano Saviello for these pictures and his comments on the various species and for his permission to use them in this blog. This concludes the species from Mariano. I'll continue with other species that I have or know a little about.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum Species. IV.

Hippeastrum angustifolium Pax in Engler

"Reported in the provinces of Corrientes and Misiones (departments of Apóstoles, Candelaria, Capital, Concepción and L. N. Alem) Blooming period: September-November (Southern hemisphere)." -- Mariano Saviello

The Hippeastrum database notes that this species is found in swamps in Argentina. It is winter deciduous. It must have wet environment, and requires freezing temperatures to initiate flowering in mature plants. Contradicting this another note states that it grows in sugar cane fields; blooms in wet season. Does NOT require frost to flower! Bulbs must however be very large to bloom.

Hippeastrum canterai Arech.

Reported in the departments of Riviera, region of Tanqueras. In low humid lands, by lakes and on shores near Cuchilla Negra.

Hippeastrum canterai (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum canterai
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

The Hippeastrum database notes that it is found in Uruguay and is a winter deciduous species.

Hippeastrum ferreyrae (Traub) Gereau & Brako

"Reported in the department of Loreto (Perú), on the Isla Santa Maria, near Yurimangas, Huallaga Valley, alt. 150-200 meters in the forest. It differs from H. reginae in the longer tepaltube and in having spathe valves shorter than the pedicels; and from H. belladona in the longer pedicels and the absence of para perigone. (cellphone pictures, sorry!)" -- Mariano Saviello

Hippeastrum ferreyae (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum ferreyae
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

Hippeastrum ferreyae (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum ferreyae
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

The Hippeastrum database says this is from Peru and is evergreen. It is related to puniceum and to equestre (a.k.a. belladonna).

I'm indebted to Mariano Saviello for these pictures and his comments on the various species and for his permission to use them in this blog. There are still a few more to come from Mariano.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum Species. III.

H. ambiguum Herbert ex Hook.

"Said by many to be a synonym of H. vittatum var. tweedianum, H. ambigumm (syn. H. elegans var. ambiguum or H. solandriflorum var. conspicua) was reported in Lima (Perú) and Ecuador (Cuenca, where the specimen from the picture was collected). Bloom period: late spring." -- Mariano Caviello

Hippeastrum ambiguum (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum ambiguum
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

Hippeastrum ambiguum (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum ambiguum
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

The Hippeastrum database has the following notes: Dormant 3 months in winter, but evergreen. Keep moist while dormant. Found in Bolivia; Peru; Rio Cuenca, Ecuador.

H. guarapuavicum (Ravenna) Van Scheepen

"Syn. H. vittatum var. guarapuavicum: Reported in the departments of Candelaria and Capital (province of Misiones, Argentina) and Brazil. Bloom period: September (Southern hemisphere). I think it is the same species that Mauro has in his website as H. vittatum." -- Mariano Saviello

The Hippeastrum database notes only that it is found in Brazil and Argentina.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum Species. II.

Hippeastrum iguazuanum (Ravenna) T.R. Dudley & M. Williams

"Reported in the departments of Guaraní, Iguazú, Obera, San Ignacio, San Pedro (province of Misiones, Argentina). Bloom period: September-October (Southern hemisphere)." -- Mariano Saviello

The Hippeastrum Database notes the following: Native to Brazil. Winter deciduous, flowers in Spring.

Hippeastrum teyucuarense (Ravenna) Van Scheepen

"Reported in the department of San Ignacio (province of Misiones, Argentina). Bloom period: September (Southern hemisphere). H. teyucuarense has a vivid orange brick veined flowers and is extremely rare in cultivation. It used to grow in a single hill called "Rock of Teyucuaré"(picture below), although is reported another location, as well, but local people used to dig it and take it home as a garden flower. As a result you see it in gardens forming clumps and all is heavily virused. It sets no seed and it seems the offsetting form is the only one around. There is something to take into account and it is leaf shape. It is very irregular that the same species has two forms of foliage. This said because relation to H. iguazuanum (but not the same species) or any other, although the flowers show relation (they belong to the same Section) the foliage is different: one has flat strap like leaves and the other (H. iguazuanum) has a distinct shape, channeled and with the edges folded backwards." -- Mariano Saviello

The Hippeastrum database has the following: Related to iguazuanum, rubropictum, and curitibanum.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum Species. I.

Hippeastrum parodii in Habitat

Mariano Saviello is a microbiologist in Argentina who is very interested in Hippeastrum. He is kindly sharing with us pictures and information about some of the species he has seen in cultivation and in nature.

Mariano writes about H. parodii:

"The existence of H. parodii was proved in the provinces of Salta, Tucumán and Catamarca as a wild plant, and in Tucumán, Catamarca, and Córdoba in ornamental culture. There would be reported two different ecotypes in the wild: a boreal H. parodii in the North of Tucumán and in the South of Salta (700-800 masl) which flowers before its leaves grow, or when they have not developed completely, and a southern H. parodii (1000-2600 masl), which flowers when the leaves are well developed. In both cases the color varies from a greenish white to a creamy white (also pure white is accepted). Taking this into account, many people also think that one of these forms could be the H. euryphylla described by Piero Ravenna; as it is not acceptable that a same unicoloured species has so many variations in its main color (green, creamy, white and yellow). H. euryphylla can be distinguished from the other Argentinian species from the Macropodastrum sub-genus (white flowers with long tubes), by the light yellow-creme flowers, and the very short style arms.

"In late 2009 it was also reported in Bolivia , but I am pretty sure these might be new populations of the almost extinguished H. viridiflorum more than a Bolivian population of H. parodii. The pictures sent were taken in the province of Tucumán." -- Mariano Saviello, Buenos Aires

Hippeastrum parodii (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum parodii
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

Hippeastrum parodii (c) copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum parodii
© copyright 2010 by Mariano Saviello. All rights reserved.

My database of Hippeastrum species has the following information: It is a vigorous species with 6 to 10 flowers in the umbel. It's habitat climate is hot, dry desert. It is dormant for 5 to 6 months in winter. Note that it is in subgenus Macropodastrum, as Mariano mentions above.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


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- Hippeastrum Pictures

Blooming Hippeastrum

Hippeastrum aglaiae is native to Argentina. It occurs in nature in two forms, a pink flowered form and this cream form. This is one of several plants grown from seed that are starting to bloom right now. The parents were two plants collected in the wild by Len Doran, his Clone A and his Clone C.

Hippeastrum aglaiae (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum aglaiae

Hippeastrum papilio is in bloom, too. H. papilio is native to Brazil, and this bulb came from Charles Gorenstein in about 1997.

Hippeastrum papilio
Hippeastrum papilio

For comparison, here is one last seedling of Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] in bloom:

Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii]
Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii]

If you compare this flower to the others of Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii], you will see the striking similarity between the siblings. This illustrates the relative uniformity in the offspring when two distinct species are crossed. You can expect much greater variability in the progeny when two hybrids are crossed.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Repotting Amaryllis

Time to Divide Hippeastrum

That's what I'm doing, repotting Hippeastrum. Those that have not made much new growth and have not flowered so far this spring are my targets.

I have three pots of Hippeastrum papilio. One, my #270, is from a bulb I got from I.B.S. or at least from Charlie Gorenstein, in May 1997. To say that I have neglected it is an understatement! It is blooming right now, probably for the very first time in my greenhouse, and its pot contains all of three or four offsets. That is not much to show for 13 years in my care. It is going to look spectacular, so I will repot it after it has finished flowering and its seeds have ripened. I'll also post a picture here once it has fully opened.

The other two pots are my #1147, which came from the IBS Seed Exchange in 1998. Its parentage: [Lee Poulsen's papilio X Boyce Tankersley's papilio]. There seems to be a total of 10 or so bulbs now, and I think all are from separate seeds in that small batch. One of these is about to bloom right now, the largest bulb, and it is probably the one that was the seed or pod parent of my [papilio x mandonii] hybrids.

I plan to cross papilio #270 and papilio #1147 and grow on the seedlings. I think I have ignored papilio far too long! Brent and Becky have them for under $20 per bulb. Tell them I sent you! (That's a joke; I haven't seen Brent in years, and whoever answers their phone would not have a clue who I was.)

Today I repotted the non-flowering pot, seven bulbs, into individual 1-gallon or 1/2-gallon pots. They were just too crowded, and I hope to get them to bloom more this way.

I also repotted my Hippeastrum argentinum, from the Doran Collection. It has never bloomed for me so far, and the one medium sized bulb had split into about five smaller bulbs. I repotted each of them into their own separate pots. Whereas papilio is evergreen and needs little dormancy to flower, argentinum needs 6 to 8 months of dry rest. It is native to a hot, dry region in Argentina. I have probably not been giving it the correct treatment for dormancy.

Hippeastrum aulicum should not bloom this time of year anyway, so this is as good a time as any to repot it. I have one pot of the regular form of aulicum, originally from Dash in Australia, that has stopped blooming in recent years. I'm sure it needs to be repotted, and I will separate and pot up the offsets at the same time.

My Hippeastrum [aglaiae Clone A x aglaiae Clone C] seedlings have reached bloom size now, and some are already in flower. The two parents have not bloomed in recent years, so they definitely need to be repotted. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

I think I should cross my Hippeastrum brasilianum with papilio, too. Both are almost evergreen, and brasilianum is fragrant. Who knows what we'll get? (Well, I'm pretty sure Alan Meerow knows exactly what we'll get, but I haven't seen pictures of his diploid Hippeastrum breeding results, so they'll still be new to me.)

If you have an old Dutch amaryllis sitting around not blooming, try repotting it in fresh potting mix. Clean away all the old dead roots to give the new healthy roots room to grow. Pot any loose offsets up in their own pots; leave smaller offsets attached to the mother bulb until they are about half the mother's diameter. Remember to start feeding each bulb after it starts growing again, and feed it regularly thereafter (see my discussion of fertilizer, Feb. 2010.)

Your bulbs in pots really need to be repotted occasionally. I don't repot mine often enough, mostly because I have too many to keep up with them all the time. I actually enjoy repotting, and I'm missing out on a lot of potential bloom by not keeping up with the repotting.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Is Here

Clivia Weekend

It's been a busy two weeks since I posted here the last time, and we had a busy weekend on the 13th and 14th. About 16 people came for the Clivia open House and the Midwest Clivia Club meeting. This in spite of continuous rain all day Saturday.

On Sunday a few of us drove over to Kevin Akins' greenhouse in Plain City, Ohio. Kevin's plants were also in full bloom. It was a neat weekend. I took some pictures of some of Kevn's nicest plants in bloom, which I'll share with you here one of these days soon.

Spring Flowers

My most spectacular spring flower is in the greenhouse -- Hippeastrum brasilianum. It is a white trumpet and fragrant. My form has frilly edges and a maroon band along the midrib on the outside of the sepals. Actually, undulate is the better term for the margins of the tepals.

Hippeastrum brasilianum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum brasilianum

Outdoors, the spring flowers are a bit more modest: Trillium nivale and Galanthus nivalis, the former just starting, the latter about finished. Trillium nivale is a dwarf plant, only 3 or 4 inches tall, native to Indiana and adjacent states.

The T. nivale in my garden are from Illinois, and these for some reason do better here than the ones Gene Bush sent me from southern Indiana.

Trilliuim nivale (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Trillium nivale

Some people recognize the Indiana populations of Trillium nivale as a slightly different ecotype from other populations. The Indiana populations may require more limestone in their environment than some other T. nivale. I don't know what the reason is, but the Indiana nivale barely hang on here, while the Illinois nivale thrive in my little woodland garden.

There are volunteer Crocus coming up and blooming in various places around the garden.

Crocus volunteers (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crocus Volunteers

Can anyone tell me what they might be? Is Crocus tommasinianus a reasonable guess?

Bulbocodium vernum, probably now classified under Colchicum, so Colchicum vernum, is blooming. I think my clump has been gradually dwindling in numbers, so I had better shop around for some more bulbs this summer. This is fairly hardy here, and makes a nice early spring show of pink. Since it's small and close to the ground, plant them close to where you will be walking by.

Bulbocodium vernum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Bulbocodium vernum or Colchicum vernum

The dwarf Reticulata irises are also blooming now.

Iris reticulata varieties (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Iris reticulata cultivars in bloom.

It looks like I need to re-do my metal labels in this bed. That is a chore for sub-optimal weather conditions, since most of the work can be done inside the house, next to a nice cup of hot tea (Rooibos, preferably) and some music on the hi fi (anyone besides me remember the Kingston Trio?)

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Clivia Bloom Continues

Clivia Flowers

One of my favorite Clivia plants is starting to bloom: Conway's 'Tessa'. As far as I'm concerned, I consider 'Tessa' the archetypal peach clivia.

Clivia Conway's Tessa (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia Conway's 'Tessa' with flowers just starting to open

'Tessa' is thought to be in the "European Peach" genetic group. I suppose this gene arose in the Belgian clivia greenhouses. It is very similar to Solomone's large peach called 'Apricot', which is also starting to bloom. The flowers of 'Apricot' at this early stage in blooming appear to be larger than 'Tessa' flowers, nearly the same shade of pink-peach, and perhaps a bit more tulip-shaped. I should have a picture in a couple more days.

The "Star" Red in the greenhouse this year is a seedling from Keith Hammett's cross 82065.

Clivia Hammett 82065 (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Keith Hammett's seed produced this rich red flower.

Conway's 'Sara' is blooming, and the flowers seem to be a light rose pink color with hints of yellow. This plant is still recovering from the trauma of arriving here in mid-winter several years ago, and this is its first attempt at blooming. I'll try to document the colors as best I can.

Here is a Solomone Pink that is impressive in its pinkness. I don't see a lot of pink in most pink clivias.

Clivia Solomone Pink #2013 (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia Solomone Pink #2013

Chubb 'Pretty Pink' is blooming. This one is very pale, not much different from my ['Sunrise Sunset' x 'Tessa'] #2539.A. The colors are so delicate that it is hard to say whether they are peach or pink.

Clivia Chubb Pretty Pink (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia 'Chubb Pretty Pink' in its first bloom here in Westfield

The sun has been shining that last two days, so I have not tried to use the color charts. We are due for a week of showers and clouds, perfect weather for applying color charts! Still, I doubt that even under the best of conditions, I would be able to analyze the complex blend of many colors that is evident in this example of Chubb's 'Pretty Pink'.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- More Clivia Blooms

Color Chart Comment

Annalee wrote as follows: "Thanks for posting these color charts on PBS [Pacific Bulb Society]. In my experience, going back to the first RHS about 50 years ago and the colors on many other references, one of the main reasons that the charts don't "work" is that the colors on the tepals of most flowers are blends--and also that the blends do not always reside in a single layer of the flower surface, but may be in 2 or 3 layers, both water soluble and not water-soluble, with different refraction values. A simple example is bearded iris which may be visually blue but photographing purple. In the Oncocyclus (aril hybrids included) the signal spot which is visually black -- turns out to be a deep red, either when dissolved in various alcohol/ acetone/water/ oil mixes or looked at through the signal spot on the falls when pointed directly at the sun.

However, these colors for clivia do seem to allow for specifing blends of colos to a degree not possible before. Neat! Thanks."

So kudos to the guys in the Cape Clivia Club, South Africa, who put this color chart together!

How Tough Are Clivia?

Garry wrote that his offset of Conway's 'Sara' has beens struggling just to survive. My response: I have found that the Conway plants are the weakest in my collection, while the Solomone are probably the strongest. I think it is because Dave Conway selected plants solely for their interesting flowers and then propagated them vegetatively. Joe Solomone propagated by seeds rather than vegetatively and selected plants first on their ability to survive and only later for flower colors.

Victorian Peach plants (another seed strain) seem to be intermediate in their vigor. They mostly offset freely, but are more susceptible than Solomone plants to fungi and rots.

I think that there are lessons for us here.

More Clivia Blooming

More Clivia flowers are opening every day. This is a wonderful time of year in the Clivia greenhouse.

Clivia ['Abigail' x 'Doris'] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia ['Abigail' x 'Doris']
First flowers to open

I had hoped for a deep, rich red color. I fear the climate in Indiana is not conducive to development of strong red colors in Clivia.

Clivia Chubb Peach (c) copyright 2010 by Shields gArdens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia 'Chubb Peach'

The Chubb Peach plants are a selected line grown from seed.

Clivia miniata Ita's Spider (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia "Ita's Pastel Spider"

This came from a yard in an older residential neighborhood in Los Angeles. The homeowner's name was Ita. The narrow petals and sepals earn it the name "spider." The light salmon orange color warrants the description "pastel."

Clivia Solomone Pink (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardesn Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia [Solomone Pinks #2014 x #2010]
Seedling No. 2182.A

The two parents of this seedling were both light pink with very little yellow underneath. This is a nice medium peach color, clearer and lighter than the color of "Ita's Pastel Spider."

There should be lots more pictures of Clivia flowers coming in the next couple of weeks. I also have a couple more new Hippeastrum in bud, so they are coming along too. My trusty old Nikon D70 died on me, so I bought a new Nikon D90 camera body over the weekend. Today's images were all taken yesterday with the old lenses on the new D90 body.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Color Charts Anyone?


We've had snow longer this winter than I can recall before. I'm thoroughly sick of it! It's costing a fortune to heat the greenhoiuses in this cold weather -- every day it has been 10 to 15 degrees colder than normal for this time of year.

Color Charts

The Cape Clivia Club of Cape Town, South Africa, developed the first color chart specifically designed for flowers in the genus Clivia in 2003.

CCC Color Chart I, image (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Cape Clivia Club's First Color Chart

This chart was quite simple (but not simple to develop!) and marked a first step in the Clivia community trying to define colors to a standard. It was tailored to colors found in Clivia flowers, because existing color charts proved to be unsatisfactory when applied to Clivia.

The newest color chart I have is Color Chart II from the Cape Clivia Club in Cape Town. I think it is going to be very useful. It is still available from certain Clivia clubs around the world.

CCC Color Chart II, this image (c) coyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Cape Clivia Club's Color Chart II

The classic horticultural color chart is that from the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK. I have the Third Edition, that cost me around $150 on special, 10 or 15 years ago. There is now a fourth version of it, more expensive. It can be obtained from the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK.

The RHS Colour Chart Third Edition is comprised of four swatches containing about 50 cards each.

RHS Color Chart 3, image (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Each card contains four variations on a particular color.

RHS Color Chart 3, image (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

That gives you about 800 tints, shades, and blends of colors to choose from. It is still a real challenge to precisely define the colors in a flower, even with the best horticultural color charts available.

In the USA, you can get the Cape Clivia Club Color Chart II from the North American Clivia Society. Australians should check with the Aussie clivia society. Elsewhere in the world, contact the Cape Clivia Club in Cape Town.

I tried to photograph a few Clivia flowers with an apporpriate card from CCC Color Chart II.

Clivia Belgian Red with Color Chart (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Note that the different reds in the card were not well differentiated by the digital image. The human eye does a better job of that.

Clivia Victorian Peach with Color Chart (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

It works better with these peach blends, but I think one would have to take the individual petal off the flower to use the color chart most effectively. I didn't do that when I took these pictures because I'm not ready to start destroying blooms this early in the season!

The directions with the RHS color chart tell us to use "north light," which translates roughly to "get out of the direct sun and into some shade" to read the colors accurately.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


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- Clivia Hybrids

Breeding with Peaches

Five years ago, I pollinated David Conway's 'Sunrise Sunset' with pollen from his very fine peach 'Tessa'. The attached photo shows the first flower on the first seedling to bloom from that cross, ['Sunrise Sunset' x 'Tessa']. It's going to be a very nice peach, or so it looks to me. All the seedlings in that cross will have the number 2539. This particular plant is distinguished by adding the suffix "A" to the number. After more flowers open, I'll post another picture.

Clivia [Sunrise Sunset x Tessa] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia ['Sunrise Sunset' x 'Tessa'] #2539.A

The Parents

Clivia 'Sunrise Sunset' is a nice yellow with orange edging and spotting of the petals wherever physically damaged. Conway's 'Tessa' is probably know to all: an outstanding peach Clivia. All the seedlings in the aforementioned cross were green (i.e., unpigmented leaf bases) when small. I suspect that when one crosses a peach or pink with another peach or pink, or even yellow as in this case, and the seedlings are plain green (no red pigment in the leaf bases), the offspring will flower in shades of peach. That's my guess from one flower blooming on one cross. How's that for generalizing?

Clivia 'Sunrise Sunset' (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia 'Sunrise Sunset'

Clivia 'Tessa' (c) by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia 'Tessa' with an unusual 5X5 multitepal blossom

Other crosses made with peaches in the past few years, as yet unbloomed, include the following:

#2397 ['Victorian Peach' #2194.D x 'Tessa'], all the seedlings had plain green leaves. From 2008.

#2396 ['Victorian Peach' #2194.A x 'Tessa'], all the seedlings had plain green leaves. From 2008.

#2402 ['Victorian Peach' #2194.K x 'Victorian Peach' #2194.D], all the seedlings had plain green leaves. From 2008.

It is not a wild extrapolation to expect all the plants from the three cross immediately above to produce peach flowers.

Red Parents

#2401 [Solomone Red #2293 x Kevin Akins Red #2292], all the seedlings had red pigmented bases on the leaves. From 2008.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


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- Arisaema in February

Starting Seeds

This is the time to start Arisaema from seeds. The Arisaema Enthusiasts Group (AEG) is about to have its annual seed distribution. To participate, sign up for Arisaema-L and send your donation of $10 to $20 to AEG.

Arisaema seed are mostly warm germinators. Take the seed you have and soak it in water for a few days. Change the water daily. Then sow the seeds on the surface of your potting mix and cover with a half-inch (10-15 mm.) layer of sand or grit. I use "Granigrit" crushed granite chick starter grit for this covering layer. I then set the pot in a tub of water and let the potting mix soak up water till the surface is moist. Finally, the pot is placed in a saucer or tray and set under fluorescent lights. Water from below and don't let the seeds dry out. Germination may take from a week or two to a few months.

Once germination starts, keep the seedlings watered and growing as long as you can. Start to add soluble fertilizer to your waterings when most of the seeds seem to have germinated. I use N-P-K 20-10-20 at 100 ppm nitrogen. See my discussion of feeding plants on February 17, 2010 for details.

Hastening Maturity

It is quite feasible to speed the growth cycle of Arisaema. After 3 to 4 months of growth, let the pot go dry. Once it is dry and the leaves have yellowed off, place the pot, still dry, in the refrigerator (40°F, ca. 4°C) for three months. Then take it out, repot if necessary, and place the pot in a warm, well-lighted place and start watering and feeding again. This effectively crams two years of growth and development into one year, so it should cut the time from planting seed to first flowering in half.

The summer phase of growth can be outdoors. The plants need high or broken shade and plenty of moisture. Just don't let the pot sit in standing water. In cold weather, the growth phase can be in a heated greenhouse if you have one. Otherwise, a warm, sunny window will do just fine. I put my pots in the basement under fluorescent lights (about 6 inches above the leaves, on a timer set for 16 hrs per day). If they bloom under the lights, move them someplace where you can enjoy the flowers every day.

Hardy Arisaema

Arisaema triphyllum is native to much of the eastern United States. Arisaema dracontium is as well, and both are native here in Indiana where I live. Other species will grow and survive here as well.

My favorite is probably the showy A. sikokianum, which survived and bloomed in my woodland garden for several years. It disappeared a couple years ago, so I am replacing it this spring. At the moment, the new tubers are resting in the fridge until the ground warms up somewhat.

Arisaema sikokianum (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Arisaema sikokianum in the woodland garden

I've also had relatively good luck with A. ringens, although it too disappeared a year or so ago. I think we had a very bad winter for Arisaema around here. There is a nice fat tuber of A. ringens also waiting in the fridge for spring to come.

Very hardy and still going strong, in almost full sun, is Arisaema heterophyllum. It is not as showy as sikokianum or ringens, but it hangs on and makes its presence felt at the sunny edge of the patch of woods.

Others that survived and bloomed for more than one season include A. kishidae, A. sazensoo, A. thunbergii, and A. urushima

Arisaema kishidae (c) Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Arisaema kishidae in the woodland garden

Tender Arisaema in Pots

I grow Arisaema yunnanense aridum in pots, since I'm not sure it can survive our winters outdoors. I use the exact technigue described above for hastening growth to grow yunnanense permanently in pots. Last summer, outdoors in the lath house, I hand-pollinated yunnanense and harvested a nice batch of seeds. Some are germinating right now under lights in the basement. The rest I donated to the AEG seed exchange.

Yunnanense is not a showy plant at all, even less so than heterophyllum. I keep it around as a curiosity. On the other hand, I'm going to attempt to grow A. fargesii as a pot plant, since it has survived the winters outdoors but never increased in size and definitely is not going to bloom for me here as an outdoor plant. A. fargesii should have a very nice bloom, when it blooms. I have a 10-inch azalea pot with 3 tubers of fargesii in full leaf under the lights in the basement right now. I repotted and started them up again just before Christmas, and I'll try to keep them growing for another month before I allow them to go dormant again and put them back in the fridge. I should have blooms in another year if things go well.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Clivia Crosses

Types of Crosses

We made two principal types of Clivia crosses last year: 1) Using peach parents; and 2) Using red parents. "Peach" encompasses pink and pastel, as well as real peaches like 'Victoria Peach'. "Red" is anything red, light red, red-orange, or even occasionally deep orange. So far, we have seen light to medium reds and red-oranges, but no real red colors on Clivia flowers here in our greenhouse. In Indiana, and in the Northeastern USA in general, there is simply not enough sunshine in winter to bring the real red coloration to the plants growing here.

Fertility of Crosses

We started planting the seeds from our Spring 2009 Clivia crosses in December. We are approaching the two-month mark after planting, so it's time to take a look at the initial germination results. I'm looking for two separate things: 1) The percentage of germination at this point in time; and 2) The red pigmentation or lack of it in the leaf base and the epicotyl and hypocotyl of the germinated seeds.

Cross #2536: [Solomone Watercolor Pink #2005 x 'Victorian Peach' #2194.K]. This is a "peach cross," or at least I had hoped so. Of 36 seeds planted 14 December 2009, none (0%) have germinated. 'Victorian Peach' #2194.K is a very pale peach color.

Cross #2550: [Conway's 'Mary Helen' x Solomone Pink #2011]. This is a "peach cross," or at least pastel, I hope; I'm not so sure what will come out of it. There have been 7 germinations (44%) in the 16 seeds planted 31 Dec. 2009. One seedling has a green stem; the other 6 have pigmented shoots (hypocotyl + epicotyl).

Cross #2538: [Solomone Pink #2011 x 'Cameron Peach' #2201]. Of the 36 seeds planted around 16 Dec. 2009, only 3 (8%) have germinated so far. All 3 seedlings have the red pigmentation.

Cross #2545: ['Victorian Peach' #2194.D x 'Victorian Peach' #2194.E]. Clearly I expect to get peach clivias from this cross. Out of 33 seeds planted on 26 Dec. 2009, only 7 (21%) have germinated so far. All have green (i.e., unpigmented) stems. Both parents are what I classify as "dark peach."

Cross #2544: ['Cameron Peach #2201 x Solomone Pink #2010]. There have been 19 germinations (53%) among the 36 seeds planted on 27 Dec. 2009. Of these, 1 is green while the other 18 have pigmented stems.

Not numbered: ['Victorian Peach' #2194.I x 'Cameron Peach' #2201] produced no seeds at all.

Cross #2548: [Pen Henry Red #1414.B x #1664.B=(Miné x Bing Wiese Green Throat)]. Red flowered plants are expected. Out of 36 seeds planted on 24 December 2009, 18 (50%) have germinated to date. All 18 seedlings have the red pigmentation.

Cross #2523: [Conway's 'Elizabeth' x Solomone Red]. So far, 16 seeds (44%) have germinated of the 36 planted on 15 Nov. 2009. All are pigmented. 'Elizabeth' is a medium red or red-orange, on a larger than average flower.

Past Years' Seedlings

One plant of ['Sunrise Sunset' x 'Tessa'] is in bud. It looks like it will be peach colored. All the seedlings from this cross had green stems. 'Sunrise Sunset' is a good yellow color with scattered Type 2 Yellow-like orange edges to the petals.

Two plants of ['Abigail' x 'Doris'] are in scape. Blooming plants of the same parents were seen at Maris Andersen's in Santa Barbara years ago, and they had the brightest red color I had seen on a Clivia up to that time.

Preliminary Conclusions from 2009

First, it is now obvious to me that I made far too few crosses among my more interesting Clivia last February and March. One cross that yielded plenty of healthy-looking seeds has produced no germinations so far. I'll have to examine the fertilities of the two parental clones involved very carefully this year, if either of them flowers.

Second, there is some infertility between different clones both within lines (i.e., within Conway plants, within Solomone plants) as well as between lines. 'Cameron Peach' (or at least the clone I have, my #2201) may be a better mother than father. Unfortunately, while I have stored pollen of 'Cameron Peach' from last year, the plant itself is apparently not going to bloom this year. Regardless, I want to test its pollen on other plants that may bloom this spring.

Third, even 3 months may not be long enough to see all the possible germination of clivia seeds. Patience, patience, patience. Easier said than done.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Feeding Plants

Fertilizers and Bulbs

I'm sure I have covered this previously in this blog, but I failed to index it then and I can't find it now. So, for the record, I am going to discuss my approach to feeding my bulbs.

For all practical purposes, plants can only absorb inorganic compounds from their environments. Adding organic composts will require that these materials be completely digested by microorganisms in the soil before the nutrients in them become available to the plants. In growing plants in pots, it is hard to keep a good balance of beneficial soil microorganisms growing. Rather, you are more likely to be encouraging growth of disease-causing microorgnaisms by adding organic composts to plants in pots.

There are two overall groups of required nutrients for plants, the so-called macronutrients and the micronutrients. Both are equally important; only the quantities needed are different.


The three components of most commercial fertilizers are macronutrients: nitrogen (symbol N); phosphorus (symbol P), almost always as phosphate; and potassium (symbol K) sometimes erroneously referred to as "potash." In fertilizers the contents of these three nutrients are expressed as the N - P - K values. A value of 20-10-15 would indicate the fertilizer contained 20% by weight of elemental nitrogen in any of several forms. It would contain 10% of phosphorus, expressed as P2O5 and therefore somewhat less of the element P than indicated. It would contain 15% potassium, expressed as K2O, so again slightly less K than the label shows. I've no idea why, in the 21st century, the US government uses such archaic labeling.

Other macronutrients needed by plants in substantial amounts include calcium (symbol Ca), commonly found in limestone as calcium carbonate (CaCO3), a highly insoluble and therefore very gentle alkaline substance used for neutralizing acidic soils. Sulfur (symbol S) is the final macronutrient. It is found in nature as elemental sulfur, but is usually supplied to plants as sulfate (SO4). Sulfate is the form in which plants absorb and metabolize sulfur.


Micronutrients are just as essential to plants as the macronutrients, but are needed in much smaller amounts. They are the elements boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and zinc (Zn). Because they are needed in such small amounts, they are also referred to as the "trace elements."

Forms of Nitrogen

Nitrogen in fertilizers is found in two chemical forms: as ammonia (NH3) and derivatives of ammonia; and as nitrate (NO3). The best form for plants is nitrate, since plants can absorb and metabolize nitrate directly. Ammonium compounds are much less easily absorbed by plants. In fact, ammonium compounds are most readily metabolized by bacteria and fungi in the soil.

Continuous Liquid Feeding

I recommend feeding your plants with a dilute solution of soluble plant food every time you water them. We use 100 p.p.m. of nitrogen from a soluble plant food, 20-10-20 with micronutrients. To get about 100 p.p.m., add about 1/3 of a level teaspoonful of the crystals per U.S. gallon of water. If you speak Metric, we want 100 mg. of nitrogen per liter of water; since the N is 20%, that is 500 mg (0.5 gram) of solid fertilizer crystals per liter.

Bulbs analyze for 16% nitrogen, a little less than that for potassium, and less still for phosphorus. There is usually no reason to increase the ratio of any one of them versus the other two. I suggest using a completely soluble fertilizer, with as much of the N as nitrate as possible, and N-P-K of about 20-5-15.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum

Hippeastrum Starting to Bloom

Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] #1455.A

The hybrid [papilio x mandonii] came from one of my bulbs of papilio in bloom in March, 2002. I had stored pollen from mandonii when it had blooms some months before, and used that to pollinate the papilio. The seeds took two months to ripen; then I floated them on water till they were nice seedlings with a leaf at least an inch long. They were planted in a community pot. After a few years, they were repotted into individual 1-gal. pots. All the seedlings from that batch have my serial number 1455. Several of them have bloomed or are getting ready to bloom. That makes 8 years from pollination to first flowers.

Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] #1455.B

One of my papilio bulbs has a scape starting.

Hippeastrum petiolatum are also in bloom. These grow quickly; and once they start to bloom, this strain at least produces two scape every year.

Hippeastrum p[etiolatum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum petiolatum

These flowers are 70 mm, less than three inches, across. There are 4 or 5 flowers per umbel, at least this time. Both bulbs have a second scape starting as the first scapes are in full bloom.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Winter Pastime

Birds at the Feeders

With so much snow on the ground, and since Smokey, our last outdoors cat, passed away last summer, we decided it was time to put up some bird feeders again after at least a twenty-year absence. We put up a finch feeder, a small general seed feeder, and one for suet. The suet lasted about two weeks, the finch feeder holds enough for several days, but the general feeder could be refilled several times a day if we felt like it.

The most obvious visitors are the Starlings, immigrants from Europe. They come in gangs and the bully the other birds and each other as well. I'd just as soon see them go hungry, but that's only my personal sentiment towardsStarlings. I'm sure they would disagree with that. Still, if they were rare, we would be admiting their intricately speckeled black coat of feathers. As it is, we resent them rather than admire them.

A few English Sparrows also show up, which are not sparrows actually. I think they are better described as "house finches." They don't constitute a threat to the other birds, as far as I have noticed.

The native birds include an abundance of Goldfinches in their drab winter uniforms. The so-called "Purple Finch" is also common, but the color on its head and chest (in the males anyway) is orange, not purple. We also have numerous Juncos visiting the feeders. We also have visits from several types of native sparrows, none of which I can identify so far. There was a time, maybe sixty years ago, when I could identify all the common native bird species here in Indiana.

Two Cardinals, a male and a female, also hang around our place and come to the feeder from time to time.

One lone Bluejay occasionally shows up around the feeder, but it is shy and generally is pushed away by the starlings. Bluejays are in the crow family, which has been hit very hard in North America by the West Nile Virus. When I was a kid, Bluejays were common and tended to be the bullies that Starlings are today. Things have changed.

An occasional Chickadee also flits by, but they seem to be extremely shy and next stay at the feeder when we are around.

I've tried to take pictures of some of these birds at the feeders, but my expensive little Canon point-and-shoot digital never gets the focus on the birds themselves. My expensive Nikon D-70 SLR is having age problems, and I may need to get a new camera body to replace it. At least the Nikon's lenses should work with the next Nikon camera body I buy as a replacement.

If this snowy winter weather persists much longer, I'm going to have to dig out some of my old bird books and see who some of our feathered visitors really are.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Clivia in Bud

First, the Weather!

We probably got 6 to 7 inches of snow yesterday and last night, but it's very hard to be sure. The winds have blown many open areas almost clear, down to only 1 or 2 inches deep. Around buildings and beyond groups of trees, the drifts are nearly a foot deep.

We always get drifts across the drive just in front of the garage door. I hope our driveway will be plowed by tonight, because I like to go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings.

They tell us that another snowstorm is coming Monday evening. Oh, joy!

Clivia Getting Ready to Bloom

One Clivia robusta from Kranskop in South Africa is in bloom. I think this is slightly late for robusta to be blooming; but then I have two Clivia caulescens that are just finishing flowering, and this very early for caulescens to be in bloom.

In the Clivia House on Thursday, I saw that there are buds appearing on some of the other Clivia plants. Many of the 'Victorian Peach' plants have buds starting to show down in the necks of the plants.

Several yellow clivia are also in bud. These are older, larger plants. There is a first-ever bud showing on one of the Pen Henry White seedlings. I'm eagerly awaiting that flower!

Then there is the oldest Clivia I have, my Belgian #303.A, from somewhere around 1990. No. 303.A has buds showing down in the hearts of two fans. The number 303's are larger and redder than the most recent Belgian hybrids I have seen.

Hippeastrum, too

Finally, two pots of Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] are in bloom! I need to take pictures of those, since this is the first time they have flowered. There are buds on the H. petiolatum as well. Let's see what else blooms this spring.

A bigger surprise hasa been that my old Hippeastrum aulicum stenopetalum has set seeds. I've had one plant (numerous bulbs) of H. aulicum stenopetalum for about 30 years. I got it from the late Dr. Tom Whitaker, who got it from the front yard of a lady somewhere in Brazil. It blooms for me from time to time, depending probably on whether I give it any particular care or not. Before I got it, Tom had grown it in his own front yard in La Jolla, Calif., for many years.

It bloomed in the big greenhouse in December, and I took note of the bloom but otherwise left it alone. In 30 years, it has never set any seed, no matter how assiduously I pollinated it. This year, both flowers in the umbel set seed pods. I assume they are "x self," but it is possible that a plant of H. mandonii bloomed at about the same time. In any case, I definitely did not pollinate it myself. Let me stress that it has never, ever, set a seed before while in my possession, whether hand-pollinated or not. Rather curious.

Hippeastrum aulicum stenopetalum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum aulicum stenopetalum

Both seed pods had healthy-looking seed in them, and I planted most of the seeds yesterday. I want to see 1) whether they germinate or not; and 2) eventually, if they someday bloom, whether they are true to their maternal genes or are they hybrids. Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Midwest Clivia Group

Clivia Get-together

I have set the date for the meeting of the Midwest Clivia Group for March 13-14th, 2010. It will again be at my place. We will plan to have a cold buffet lunch at 12 noon on Saturday, followed by visits in the greenhouses.

In hope that we will get the plants to bloom by then, this morning I turned up the thermostats in the Clivia greenhouse from 45 F nights/50 F days to 60 F nights/ 65 F days.

If you are coming, please bring along any plants you want to show us, and anything you want to trade. Let's make it a swap meet as well as looking at flowers and talking with friends.

Sunday is also available for greenhouse visits. Other Clivia Enthusiasts in the area include Rashid Qureshi in St Louis, Missouri (5 hrs west of here by car) and Kevin Akin outside Columbus, Ohio (2 hrs east by car). Both have greenhouses full of clivias.

If you intend to come in time for lunch on Saturday, March 13th, please R.S.V.P. to me: <jim@shieldsgardens.com>

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Can You Grow Bulbs in Clay?


Here in central Indiana, we have lots of clay soil. I have tried to naturalize Galanthus in the lawn. Mowing is what eventually eliminated them, but I think not the clay soil. When planted in beds -- i.e., anywhere without grass -- they do well. I grow GG. nivalis, elwesii, and a few woronowii. They do just fine, away from grass and lawnmowers.

Note however that many species of Galanthus are simply not hardy in our climate, regardless of the soil. I've stopped experimenting with Galanthus and Cyclamen, since they are difficult to come by, and I got tired of killing them. Still, GG. elwesii and nivalis do really great here.

Lycoris, Cochicum, Sternbergia

So do Lycoris in addition to squamigera: chinensis, caldwellii, longituba, and sprengeri.

Hardy Cochicum like byzantinum, cilicicum, speciosum, and a few others are terrific here, even in the grass (if you don't mow till their leaves yellow off). My neighbors love the pink flowers in our lawn in later summer! They never complain about the "hay field" effect the unmowed patches of lawn give into early July.

Others that may seem unlikely but that do well include Galtonia, Sternbergia, most Eurasian Gladiolus, and a few hardier Crinum in protected spots (but full sun). You can't have too many Sternbergia! They bloom after the Colchicum have finished flowering.

The Lasagna Method

That said, it is not a good idea to just stick everything into plain clay soil. Add gypsum. Add sand. Add lots of composted leaves, or just pile your leaves on top of the beds when you rake them in autumn.

I make beds on top of the clay, starting with a very thick layer of rotted leaves; then put on a 2 to 4 inch layer of some decent topsoil; and finally cover with 2 inches of plain brown sand. Plant in the sand/topsoil layer (they get mixed when you try to plant anything). The roots will go down to the rotted leaves layer all on their own. I call it the "Lasagna Method."

No spading, but a bit of hauling and spreading. Outstanding drainage! But the clay is close enough that the roots can go down into it, if they need to, to find water in dry weather.

I didn't invent the lasagna method; I got the idea from one of these on-line plant groups. Try it; you'll love it.

Can You Grow Bulbs in Clay?

So, can you grow bulbs in clay? In many case the answer is yes, but you really don't have to. Use the "Lasagna Method" instead.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Repotting in Winter

Scadoxus puniceus

The Scadoxus puniceus are getting ready to bloom. One spike is all the way up, and most of the rest of bloom size have scapes starting to push up out of the bulbs. Before the flowers start to fade, this year's flush of leaves will be up. That means that this is the last possible moment for repotting this species. Seven years ago, the last time some of these were repotted, the larger bulbs were 8 to 11 cm. in circumference. Now, one I measured is 21.5 cm. around; and it is probably slightly under average size. Seven years ago, most were not yet blooming -- several bloomed the first time in February 2005. (Diameter for 11-cm circumference is about 3.5 cm, or 1.40 inches.)

A bloom-size puniceus with all its roots easily fills a 2-gallon (actually 8.3 Liters) container. They might grow even bigger, but I refuse to put any of them into larger pots than the 2-gallon size. If I hand pollinated these things when they are in bloom in February, we'd flood the world with Scadoxus puniceus seeds. Given the minimal conditions, even in the cold Northern Hemisphere, these are formidable greenhouse plants. They bloom when little else is flowering. They are sizeable. They propagate easily but slowly from seed. They seem to ahve taken 7 years from seed to flower for me. You could probably keep the seedlings growing continuously for their first two years of life in a greenhouse or under lights, and that ought to shorten the time to first flowering.

The ideal time to repot any plant that goes through a dormant phase is just as growth is starting up again at the end of dormancy. When the plant is going into its spurt of new growth, it is very resistant to stresses such as unpotting and replanting. That is when the hormones are all primed to push growth. Sometimes the plants seem to barely notice that they were disturbed.

Facebook Threat

Frank, my IT guy, informed me today that there are viruses in Facebook that will override any anti-virus protection software you can get. It's best if you do NOT ever download any pictures, programs, or anything else from Facebook. Be Warned!

On that happy thought, I bid you, one and all,

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Avoiding Chores

Not Entering Inventory Data

My favorite organizer, after my daughter, is Steph. She works here part-time in the summer in the gardens and greenhouses. Steph is a jewel! She likes to clean, so the garden office is usually clean and neat when she is working. Having a few days free over the Christmas break from college (Purdue University), she inventoried Greenhouse 4 for me, sorting all those pots by name and number and writing it all down.

Now Steph is back at Purdue, and I should be putting all that data into a spreadsheet. Maybe next week......, because I'm not sure I really want to know how many pots of Clivia and of Hippeastrum I have back there.

Not Writing My Investigator Annual Report

This is for my Trillium Speciation research project at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The main focus of my project is the relationship between two species, Trillium erectum album and T. simile. I spent a week there in April gathering a little data. (The weather was alternating between pouring rain and plain old snow; nasty for outdoors work.) Now I have to write up my year-end report to keep the National Park Service research permit alive.

I'm not as far behind on this. I actually put the raw data into a spreadsheet last summer, so the arithmetic is already done. But I do need to think about the data, and summarize my thoughts in the report. Maybe tomorrow....

The Glossary of Plant Biology

I have declared it to be out of beta testing status now, and renumbered it to Version 1.0.0, and I will continue to add terms to it as I run across them. I suppose I may never decide that the Glossary is finished; after all, new technical terms are being invented almost daily in science. Actually, the current version number is now 1.0.1, for the moment.

At least now the urgency to build the glossary has receded, and I can think about other things in between occasionally adding a new word or two to it. If you have a term from plant science that isn't in the Glossary and you think it should be, drop me an e-mail with the word and why you want it included or what you think it means. You can find it at: Glossary of Plant Biology.

Haemanthus avasmontanus Rediscovered?

Tim Harvey mentioned in the Pacific Bulb Society list that someone in Windhoek, Namibia, had recently found living plants of the extremely rare Haemanthus avasmontanus. I guess the rediscovered colony must be in Namibia.

According to Dee Snijman in her book, The Genus Haemanthus (National Botanic Gardens of South africa, 1984), the species was known from only a couple of specimens, collected in the Auasberge, southeast of Windhoek, in central Namibia. The flowers are white, the spathe valves (bracts surrounding the umbel) are brownish white. It is presumed to be related to Haemanthus montanus, but the present-day range of H. montanus is eastern South Africa, including the Eastern Cape Province, portions of the Free State, and into Mpumalanga (the old Transvaal region). Snijman says that avasmontanus is the closest relative of montanus.

An alternative spelling of the specific name is avasimontanus, but Snijman does not use this version. Sadly, Dee's book has been out of print for some time now.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Making a Transition from Semantics to Evolution

Epigeal and Hypogeal - Evolutionary Implications of Germination Patterns

Exploring vocabulary runs the risk of getting us back into biology. That is the case in the examination of the meaning of the pairs of terms epigeal/hypogeal and skotomorphogenic/photomorphogenic applied to germination. Why are there two such modes of germination? What are their relative advantages and disadvantages to the plant species?

The parent of an epigeal seedling - in this context, one whose cotyledon(s) are above ground, green, and capable of photosynthesis - invests less in making that seed than the parent of a hypogeal seedling. In this context, that means one that has cotyledons or an endosperm loaded with stored energy reserves in the form of fat, protein, or carbohydrate, all provided by the parent plant at fruiting.

In a suitable environment, the parent of epigeal seeds can make more seeds for a given cost in energy than if it were making hypogeal seeds. Here, "epigeal seed" just means a seed that germinates in an epigeal pattern. The more seeds produced, the better the survival and dispersal potentials. This ought, prima facie, to be the better evolutionary strategy.

Why would a species then make seeds that need lots more endosperm or other forms of stored energy? To give the offspring a better chance at survival. They can be born into a harsh environment and carry reserves with them to better their chances of surviving in spite of the environment.

"Evolution cannot be reversed" is a common saying in biology. Environments change, competing species appear or disappear over time, climate changes. Some modern plants may be trapped in less favorable physiological patterns because an ancestor was forced to adopt this pattern to survive. The ancestor, in adopting the pattern, lost the potential to return to using a different pattern. Some plants using hypogeal germination might be better off if they could revert to epigeal germination, but have lost the genetic capability to do so; and vice versa.

Some plants may be in the process of adapting their inherited mode of germination to newer changed circumstances; and some plant species may be able to facultatively adapt their mode of germination, depending upon local circumstances. I don't know, but I do wonder...

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Creating a Glossary. 2.

Adventures with Epigeal and Hypogeal

In essence, epigeal and hypogeal are just arcane words for "above ground" and "below ground," respectively. I am only concerned here with their application to plant biology.

These terms are defined for dicots as follows: Epigeal - describes the germination process where the germinating seed raises the cotyledons above the ground where they function as true leaves. Hypogeal - describes the germination process where the cotyledons remain below ground and do not function as leaves.

All well and good. However, one is easily distracted from the biology by the use of terms referring to where rather than how.

Physiologically, this means the epigeal cotyledons power the growing seedlings by photosynthesizing. The hypogeal cotyledons support the growing seedlings by providing nutrition from stored reserved, in the way that the endosperm does; or else the hypogeal cotyledons may contribute little or nothing to the growth of the seedling, if there is some other source of stored reserve. I would expect seeds having little endosperm to germinate in an epigeal pattern. Seeds with generous reserves in the endosperm or cotyledons would not be constrained to rapidly produce a green leaf, so have the option through evolution of first building a sturdy protected plant underground.

It gets a bit murky when we try to apply these terms to monocots. Many monocot plant families have a cotyledon that never emerges from the seed, following the pattern defined for dicots as "hypogeal germination."

Some monocots produce a green shoot very soon after germination, during the first growth season. Edward McRae in his book "Lilies" defines epigeal germination in lilies (genus Lilium) in this way.

McRae defines "hypogeal germination" as that where the seed produces an underground bulb during the first season of growth but no leaf. Only after a period of dormancy, therefore in the second season of growth, does the plant produce a green leaf above ground.

McRae was writing for the average gardener. Lily experts further recognize immediate epigeal, delayed epigeal, immediate hypogeal, and delayed hypogeal germinations in different Lilium species and cultivars.

We can see the rough parallels between the dicot uses of the terms and the application of the terms to lilies. The absence of cotyledons in these lilies can cause pedants a great deal of trouble in using either of them to describe what lily seedlings do. Applying them to other monocots becomes equally problematic. Of such dilemmas are the trials of glossarists apparently made!

Incidentally, in trying to find out what these terms mean, I was told that they apply to ant foraging habits as well: Epigeal foraging in ants is above ground, hypogeal foraging is underground. I never knew that before!

I think we should ban the use of both epigeal and hypogeal from discussions of any and all monocots. Find other terms for describing germination processes in monocots. The Liliists (is that a word?) would probably revolt, if we tried.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Creating a Glossary

The Glossary of Plant Biology

The Glossary of Plant Biology is on my web site at: http://www.shieldsgardens.com/info/Glossary.html if you are curious about what I've been doing for the past few days.

It has been great fun! Since I intend it to be an adjunct to this blog, with easy access via links to definitions of technical terms I may use, I can point out the weaknesses in some of the technical concepts we use. I did finally include a vague definition of "species," against my better judgement. A rigorous definition of species has proven elusive to biologists over the last century or so.

I started life collecting bugs. My notion of "dorsal" is the zoological definition of the word: the surface of the animal away from the ground. I discovered, much to my surprise, that this definition just does not work in botany, so it's a good idea NOT to use the terms "dorsal" and "ventral" in relation to plants. At least not around me, please.

I am also discovering that there are some great on-line sources for definitions. For technical terms, I recommend Wordnetweb at Princeton University. Based at a great university, this is my source of preference among those I have seen so far in developing my Glossary. Highly recommended.

Wikipedia is also very comprehensive and very good -- so far as I can tell. I have read that the Wikipedia group are losing volunteer monitors to tend various sections, and vandals are hacking pages in some cases. I suppose we should use Wikipedia with great care and not for anything where accuracy is critical.

Dave's Garden web site has a couple lists of definitions. There are lots and lots of words defined! Most definitions seem pretty good to me, but I only looked at a few. So far as I know, anyone can post a definition there, and no one vets them critically -- again, so far as I know. Probably somewhat less rigorous than most Wikipedia entries, at a guess.

As a working biologist for about 70 years (if you count the bugs I caught as a little kid on the farm), I found I had a pretty good feel for most of the words I thought of to include in the Glossary. This is logical: I think of words that I have already used or have read in books and articles. So I ought to be able to put together a usable definition if not necessarily one that a specialist in the field would write. I want my definitions to be useful to persons who do not have an advanced degree in biology. Understandable is more important than rigor in my Glossary.

I'm still working away on it. Meantime, if you poke around through it out of curiosity, let me know if you spot any glaring errors. I'm not going to get up-tight about nuances, but I don't want to mis-state the general meanings of terms. Let me know: <jim@shieldsgardens.com>.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Miscellany

Local Weather Report

So far we have missed the bullet on the big winter storm in the central USA. They had predicted freezing rain for last night and this morning, but it came down just as rain. The freeze edge moved just to the north and east of us, so some other poor unfortunates are getting "our" ice storm. That's OK with me, given the alternative.

Glossary of Plant Biology

I have been somewhat bored the past few days, being reluctant to go out in the rain and snow and cold wind. So to entertain myself, and because I need an easy reference to which to link my comments when I use technical terms, I set to work. So far I have somewhere over 90 terms defined, almost all the definitions coming off the top of my head. So it is meant to help the non-scientist reader get a quick idea of what a technical term means, but not to serve as a textbook for serious students.

You can find it, the Glossary of Plant Biology, at this link: http://www.shieldsgardens.com/info/Glossary.html but I will normally provide a direct link into the Glossary whenever I use a term defined in it. For example, try meiosis. If this does not work in your browser, please let me know.

I will eventually start to borrow proper definitions from other sources, but for now it has been fun just to see how many technical terms I could come up with and generate reasonable definitions for.

If you spot errors, by all means contact me and point them out to me. Use my blog e-mail, <blog@shieldsgardens.com>

The Matter of "Species"

I purposely omitted a definition for "species" from the Glossary. In practical terms, a "species" is whatever a biologist says it is. Another way of saying that a biologist knows a species when he sees one.

The problem arises when someone tries to put into a few words a definition of "species" that holds up for all cases of what most biologists have called "species" in the past. One man's species is someone else's group of several species. Does there have to be gene flow through all populations of a species for there to be just one species?

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Peach Clivia. 2.

Pink in Relation to Peach

Following up on my discussion of peach clivias, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that pink clivias are just peaches with the underlying yellow pigmentation suppressed.

Clones and Strains

I cannot claim complete coverage here, because I am sure there are many pink clivias in South Africa that I have never seen, and probably some in Southern California as well. The pinks I am most familiar with are those from Solomone. They have pinks, Watercolor Washed Pinks, and Charm Pinks. All have very light pigmentation in the petals and sepals, but none I have seen are absolutely devoid of all yellow color. They may need to be classified as pale peaches.

Solomone Pink No. 2010 (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Solomone Pink No. 2011 (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Solomone Pink No. 2010 (left) and Solomone Pink No. 2011 (right)

Solomone Watrercolor Pink No. 2004 (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Solomone Watrercolor Pink No. 2005 (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Solomone Watercolor Pink No. 2004 (left) and Solomone Watercolor Pink No. 2005 (right)

Whether these Solomone "pinks" are pink or are peach seems to depend very much on the lighting in determining whether you or I can see very much yellow underneath the pink. How much patterning shows up in the Watercolor lines seems to depend on the year and therefore on the growing conditions. I see less contrasting pattern on the plants here in Indian than I thought I saw on them in the Solomone greenhouse near Watsonville, California. In any case, they are remarkable flowers and worth some work breeding new generations of their like.

Besides the Solomone pinks, there is the South African 'Wittig Pink'. A true-breeding pink strain has been developed from it by Sean Chubb as 'Pretty Pink'. I've never seen a 'Wittig Pink' but I do have a couple of Sean's 'Pretty Pink' plants. They are still too small to bloom by at least a couple years, so I will have to wait patiently to see where these plants are headed. It seems likely that the 'Wittig Pink' is in the same genetic class as the 'Appleblossom' strain, which latter is characterized by light rose to pink coloration in a pattern so that only edges or tips of the tepals are colored. Some plants of this strain lack the yellow ground color.

With my three plants of Sean's 'Pretty Pink' and a couple seedlings from the 'Appleblossom' group, I will eventually be able to undertake my own breeding experiments in this classification.

Are there any "true" pinks in the clivias? For that matter, what is a "true" pink? I think we need to define a pink flower as one that has no yellow pigments visible under the dilute red anthocyanin pigments in the surface layer of cells. I have not yet seen a real pink clivia so far. When I do see one, I think it will have come from breeding in the 'Appleblossom' strain. Keep watching for the 'Appleblossom' clivias.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Peach Clivia. 1 Modified.

Update of Yesterday's Blog

I have added a link to a page on peach clivias in the Shields Gardens' Info section to yesterday's discussion: http://www.shieldsgardens.com/info/PeachClivia.html.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Peach Clivia. 1.

Clones and Cultivars

Keith Hammett and associates demonstrated a few years ago that peach clivia flowers have both yellow carotenoid pigments and much lower levels of the red anthocyanin pigments. The characteristic appearance of a peach flowered clivia is due to the presence of both the yellow pigment and the red pigment. There is no separate and distinct "peach" pigment, at least not in Clivia.

The classic peach clivias were David Conway's 'Tessa' and 'Ellexa'. The precise origins of Dave Conway's cultivars are obscure. He found many as unusual stand-outs in the stock of other nurserymen in Southern California. He raised many from seed, often using his mixed pollen method, where he simply combined pollen from all the plants he wanted to breed with, and then applied that mix to every flower on every plant. We may never know where any particular Conway cultivar came from.

Conway's 'Tessa' (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Conway's 'Tessa' is a medium sized to small plant with mostly erect leaves. The color of the flowers seems to be a deeper shade of yellow-peach. 'Ellexa' is a larger plant, with taller scape and longer leaves. The leaves arch over so that the tips may hang below the horizontal. 'Ellexa' has flowers of a somewhat lighter shade than those of 'Tessa'.
Conway's 'Tessa'
Image of 'Tessa' copyright by Shields
Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.

In Southern California, the most widely distributed strains of peach clivias were the 'Victorian Peach' line developed at the former Sunlet Nursery near San Diego. These plants were probably developed using some of Conway's peaches as well as other available breeding material. A true breeding line or lines eventually resulted. The results varied, with there being a very pale peach strain, as well as a dark peach atrain, and a group of intermediate shade plants. With the closing of Sunlet Nursery, I think quite a bit of the Victorian Peach stock was obtained by Victor Murillo.

Victorian Peach 2194.D (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
'Victorian Peach' Dark Strain
Image copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.
All rights reserved.

A famous South African peach line produced the 'Cameron Peach' strain and the 'Tipperary Peach' strain. These two lines of plants had a common origin at one nursery, and were arbitrarily split into two groups when that nursery was dissolved. They are apparently not widely available outside South Africa.

Cameron Peach (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
'Cameron Peach'
Image copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.
All rights reserved.

It is generally thought in Clivia circles that all the above peach plants originated from isolated sports in the Belgian hybrid strain. Whether they are all genetically the same peach or not remains to be clarified by Clivia breeders around the world. For some additional discussion, see Shields Gardens' Info section on Peach Clivia.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Red Clivia. 2.

Clones and Cultivars

Clivia Conway's 'Doris' (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. The classic red clivia was Conway's 'Doris', and many of us bought it. Just as good a red, perhaps a better one, is Conway's 'Abigail'.
Conway's 'Doris'

Clivia Solomone Red nr 2430 (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.Other reds that we have had include the regular Solomone Red strain, and Solomone's selected "Reddest" strain.
Solomone Red Clivia

We look for reds wherever we can find them. A nice red turned up in a batch of pastels received from Kevin Akins; I call that one "Kevin's Red."

Pen Henry Red Clivia (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Years ago, Pen Henry sent me a batch of seeds from her breeding program. A few of those resulted in plants that are now blooming size, labeled "Pen Henry Reds." I am sure Pen's red is a complex interspecific hybrid, since the berries are yellow with only a little pink coloration. I think her reds derive from her 'Tropical Splendor' strain of interspecific hybrids. I'll talk about berry colors some other time.
Pen Henry Red Clivia

Clivia 'Jean Delphine'  (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Other Conway plants with notable red coloration in the flowers include 'Sabrina Delphine', 'Fleur de Lis', and 'Jean Delphine'. In my greenhouse, some of these have not done well: 'Abigail', 'Doris', 'Fleur de Lis', 'Jean Delphine', 'Sabrina Delphine', and the Solomone "Reddest." I suspect that the Solomone red lines have a lot of 'Doris' genes in their backgrounds. I have one plant of my cross ['Sabrina Delphine' x 'Doris'] that has suvived to just about bloom size. I am eagerly waiting to see what its flowers look like.
Clivia 'Jean Delphine'

Many red clivia have tulip shaped flowers. This seems to be genetically linked with the genes for intense red color. On the other hand, some of the South African reds and the Belgian reds tend to have more open, flaring flower form. Some of my [Miné X Bing Wiese Green Throat] from South Africa have good flower form, decent red color, a white ground color and throat, and a rich green heart. At least sometimes.

The Best Reds in California

While Conway's 'Doris' and his 'Abigail' bloom quite a nice red color in southern California, there are redder reds on clivias there. Plants from the cross ['Abigail' x 'Doris'] made by Maris Andersons in Santa Barbara have excellent deep red flowers in a nice umbel. Jim Comstock has produced a few of the very reddest reds I have ever seen. I do not know the names of any of the Comstock red clones, and Comstock's breeding materials are not available to anyone so far as I have ever heard.

I repeated the ['Abigail' x 'Doris'] cross myself here in Indiana, and we have about 6 surviving plants from that batch. At least two of them are actually large enough to flower this year, if they happen to feel like it.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Red Clivia. 1.

Breeding for Reds

Light has a very strong influence on color development in Clivia flowers, and in other flowers as well. We perhaps need to explain to newcomers and remind our experienced colleagues that anthocyanin color expression is controlled by incident light. If the genes allow anthocyanin pigments, will the light induce their expression?

You can buy a rich red flowered Clivia in Southern California and grow it in Indiana, and see with your own eyes (my own eyes in this case) that here in the cloudy, nearly-sunless Midwestern winters, your red clivia blooms red-orange or even just plain old orange. It's enough to disillusion a strong believer!

There are good biochemical reasons for this, which need not concern the non-biochemists among us. Just remember that in Northern latitudes and in regions with significantly reduced direct sunlight in winter and spring, red colors do not develop fully in most Clivia plants.

A noble breeding goal for someone growing Clivia in the Northeastern USA , eastern Canada, or northern Europe would be to select for deep red color in your Clivias where you are and breed with them. If I were 20 or 30 years younger, I'd work hard on this myself.

I might mention that some of the newer Belgian hybrids bloom more pastel than red-orange here in Indiana. You might still want to incorporate some Belgians into your breeding program, so that you can get to first flowering in under 36 months. I have one [Belgian x Belgian] that went from planting the seed to first flowers in ca. 30 months here in Indiana. If you add in ca. 10 months from pollination to seed harvest, you can go from pollination to first flower in about 40 months, or just over 3 years, even here in northern climates like Indiana's.

If I had a growing greenhouse separate from my blooming greenhouse, I could keep the temperatures warm all winter and supplement the lighting with high intensity metal halide lights to hasten growth even more. Of course, that would be more expensive.

I'll let you know if any of my various past attempts to breed for better reds ever yield any plants that actually have red flowers here in Indiana.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Winter Weather.


We did not get the snow that much of the Midwest got last week, nor the heavy rains that others got. We did get about ½ inch of snow in the Indianapolis area, and as the first snow of the season, it caused havoc on the streets at the first morning rush hour. We and ours did not participate in the havoc, fortunately.

It has also been a bit cold around here. The lowest temperature I've recorded from my maximum-minimum thermometers so far this season has been +9°F (or about -13°C). It's likely to get colder here than that before the next two months are finished.

Today is mild, about 35°F so far, with the sun shining. I worked in shirtsleeves back in the big greenhouse for a while before lunch, but tonight or tomorrow we may get rain or freezing rain. It's still winter, after all!

First Snow of the Winter (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Light Snow and a Dark December Morning

After the first light snow of the season, things do not have the romantic look of a Midwest winter with heavy snow on the ground and the tree branches. It just looks dingy with a measly half inch of snow on the ground. (My spell checker informed me that it was not spelled "measely." So why have I always pronounced it with three syllables?)

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Flowers for the Holidays. 2.

Clivia for Christmas

Most Clivia will not be blooming until late February or early March. The Belgian hybrids we grow come from ID'Flor in Lochristi, Belgium; and some of them, but not all, bloom early in the season. We have a few in bloom right now.

Clivia miniata Belgian hybrid ID'Flor (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia miniata, Belgian Strain

I'm not in Europe to check, but I suspect that there a plenty of Clivia plants in bud or in bloom in florists' shops and supermarkets there right now. Most Europeans who buy blooming clivias treat them as annuals and discard them when the flowers fade. They really should treat them as perennials. I can't believe that people over there have not been specifically breeding clivias to bloom in time for the holidays. I'm surprised no one in the U.S.A. has tried this. But then it's the sad fact that most Americans, even flower lovers, don't realize the beauty of Clivia plants.

Clivia miniata Belgian hybrid ID'Flor (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Clivia miniata Belgian hybrid ID'Flor (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Various other Belgian hybrids from ID'Flor, not necessarily blooming right now.

The newest Belgian hybrids are medium sized, bred to be compact enough for a windowsill or a small table. The leaves are medium width, neither so narrow as the wild types nor so broad as the fancy Japanese and Chinese hybrids. Belgian plants from 15 years ago were larger and the leaves were narrower. The flowers were all the same color, a bright red-orange. The Belgian growers now breed for pastels, yellows, and peaches.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


- Christmas Flowers for the Holidays

Christmas Flowers

As far away as Europe, the Christmas season brings "Amaryllis" (Hippeastrum hybrids) and Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) into the stores and homes. Regardless of what eslse is blooming, these seem to be the most popular flowers for the holidays.


The traditional flowering houseplants for the Christmas holiday season are poinsettias, Euphorbia pulcherrima, native shrubs of Mexico in the family Euphorbiaceae. Whereas you once had your choice of red or red, you can now choose from colors from red to pink to white to even blue or green (these last thanks to food dyes). Although perennial in mild climates, these are best treated as throw-away annuals in colder zones. Remember, the "petals" are leaves or bracts that develop striking colors to attract pollinators to the small, almost insignificant flowers in the center of the cluster of colorful bracts.

Poinsettia (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Poinsettia (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Poinsettia (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. Poinsettia (c) copyright 2009 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Poinsettias Seen at Kroger and at Habigs

The colors seemed rather conservative so far, with no garish blues and only a subdued orange color seen.


You should be able to find potted Dutch Amaryllis bulbs in garden centers now. If you force them, you should be able to have them blooming by Christmas. These "Amaryllis" are actually hybrids in the genus Hippeastrum in the family Amaryllidaceae. Although most of their wild South American ancestors are adapted to seasonal growth during a rainy season, these modern hybrids can be manipulated to bloom at various times of the year. Although we often call them "Dutch Amaryllis," they are as likely to come from South Africa or from India as from The Netherlands.

I haven't seen any Hippeastrum in bloom so far this season, but these bulbs in bud at Habig's Garden Shop in Westfield will probably be in full flower in another couple of weeks.

Hippeastrum 'Cape Hatteras' (c) Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.This one grows commonly in gardens around Cape Hatteras. I like the bold colors and the simplicity of the flower.
Hippeastrum hybridum "Cape Hatteras"

Don't throw these bulbs away after they finish blooming! Set them in a warm, sunny place and keep them watered. Feed lightly with a soluble bulb flood. We recommend Peters or Jack's Professional Peat Lite (20-10-20 with micronutrients). In September or October, before frosts start, move the plants to a protected but cool area, decrease watering, and let them rest. After a month or so of resting, repot the bulbs and start watering again. Move to a warm, brightly lit area, and watch for the new bud to appear. The cycle is starting all over again, and you can keep this going for as many years as you care to.


The giant Florist's Cyclamen are a far cry from their wild ancestors! The commercial plants are derived from Cyclamen persicum, native to Iran and surrounding areas. The flowers on the florists' hybrids are huge compared to those of the wild species. The florists' plants come in plain or frilled forms and in colors from red to pink to white, including some picoteed types (if I recall correctly).

These are also perennials, and should go through the summer indoors, when you should keep them dry and warm. Repot in autumn when you see the first new growth starting. The tubers will probably not divide, but they should just get bigger and bigger with the passing years. Feed the same thing as we recommend for amaryllis and other bulbs.

Other Florists Plants

Paperwhite Narcissus (c) Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.Paperwhite Narcissus, Hydrangea, Kalanchoe, Christmas cactus, and more things are on offer at various places. More later.....

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana



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