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- 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

- 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

- 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

- 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

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Last revised on: 24 December 2012
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