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 appeared in the December 2 blog (see above).
I would appreciate getting your suggestions, comments, and criticisms.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 below.
Part III will talk about the few hybrids known in this genus, and about care and culture in the greenhouse.
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Good gardening, from here in central Indiana
Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology