Moraea polystachya/Moraea venenata

Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 08 Oct 2003 21:16:17 PDT
Dear All,

It is that time of year for Moraea polystachya to bloom in my garden. Like 
Paul Tyerman I have had mixed success with this plant in my garden. When it 
blooms, it blooms for such a long time and is so pretty that it is a 
favorite of  mine. But for years with me it has been hit or miss whether it 
would bloom. I tried watering more in summer, planting it in different 
spots, but never found the magic bullet. Then Dirk Wallace gave me seed he 
labeled Moraea venenata. It germinated in less than a month in September 
and bloomed the second year in the fall and it has bloomed every year since 
(not every corm, but enough to satisfy me). And I really love it. It looks 
just like Moraea polystachya however and my attempts to key it out still 
made me think that was what it was. Dirk told me he had it from a good 
source and we both agreed it was a wonderful plant so I decided it didn't 
matter for enjoying the plant but in my mind it remained M. venenata ?

This year when it is blooming again (I have it in a pot) Moraea polystachya 
is also blooming in the raised beds I redid last year. So I decided to 
gather some confidence and tackle the key and the descriptions of the two 
plants in the Moraea book. I believe both plants are Moraea polystachya. 
The plant that is supposed to be Moraea venenata is too tall, the outer 
tepals are too short (the flowers are supposed to be bigger than Moraea 
polystachya and the plant shorter).
Also the seed pods are not long enough. At least this is true of my plants. 
If any of you growing this in Australia as M. venenata have plants in seed 
please check out your pods. M. venenata is supposed to have pods that are 
cylindric and 16-20 mm long and are included in the spathe until nearly 
ripe. M . polystachya seeds are 11-16 mm. long and are well exserted from 
the spathe. My plants of the suspect plant that have been blooming only 
since late September, already have a visible seed pod. To anyone I have 
given seed or corms of this plant as Moraea venenata if you are reading 
please change your label.

Finally, in the most recent BX my friend Bob Werra offered seed of Moraea 
polystachya which he says does very well for him. I've had a couple of 
unusual circumstances preventing my growing corms of his even though he has 
given some to me. I have seven now from his seed so one of these days I 
hope to have blooms. Bob says that his does not start blooming in the fall, 
but instead blooms in winter. That would mean it they behaved the same for 
me that I could have one group of plants bloom for many months and as they 
were ending their cycle a new cycle on the plants from his seed would start.

But I am wondering if the time of bloom could be variable each year. Last 
year the Moraea polystachya in the bed I redid bloomed Jan-Mar. This year 
the same plant has started to bloom in Oct. So maybe when it blooms is a 
function of environmental conditions and not the plant itself. The plant I 
grew as Moraea venenata has started blooming reliably each year in the fall 
but I have always grown it in a pot. Last year it started blooming in 
October and the last blooms were in January. This is a very long time 
considering some Moraeas are in bloom for less than a week in my garden.

Does anyone in South Africa grow the real Moraea venenata?

Mary Sue
Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers

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