Tigridia--Topic of the Week

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Mon, 22 Sep 2003 07:54:35 PDT
Dear All,

Since Judy's question has stimulated the discussion of Tigridia and people 
have already answered it with their experiences we shall expand the 
discussion to include an introduction. It was requested as a topic of the 
week and I had asked for an introduction before I left for South Africa and 
planned to have it be a topic on my return. Thank you Alberto for sending 
the following very interesting introduction for this genus:

Tigridia is a member of the tribe Tigrideae of the Iridaceae. There are 
approximately 35 species in the genus (including four species previously 
placed in the genus Rigidella) most of which occur in Mexico and Guatemala 
but also a few little known species in Chile and Peru.

Availability: a few species of Mexican Tigridias are available either as 
seed or bulbs. The most widely available is Tigridia pavonia, usually as 
bulbs in mixed color forms from the Dutch trade. Tigridia pavonia was 
already known and grown by the Aztecs perhaps a thousand years ago. Its 
native name was "cacomitl", almost the same common present day name in 
Mexico, "cacomite".  A few species are only known from the type collection 
and had never been collected or found again.
Of the South American species, Tigridia philippiana is available as seed.

Morphology: the rootstock is a tunicated bulb, found from 3 to 15 cm deep 
in the wild. It is often mentioned that Tigridia has "corms" in many books. 
Bulbs are never found to offset in the wild except in T. orthantha (ex 
Rigidella orthantha). Leaves pleated in a broad fan. Inflorescence is a 
condensed raceme, flowers are erect in some species and in others nodding. 
Flowers start appearing the night previous to flowering, they open early in 
the morning in sunny days and later on cloudy days. In some species flowers 
open for a few hours and in others last until sunset; then they wilt. The 
flower has three outer tepals and three smaller ones in two series. Both 
series are normally very different. The most colourful flowers are those of 
Tigridia pavonia, in red, white, rose, pink, orange. This species has the 
largest flowers in the genus. In the other species of Tigridia the flowers 
are smaller and duller in color but the markings and different colorings of 
the flowers can be very showy.

Growth cycle: Tigridias from Mexico and Guatemala are always dry winter 
dormant in the wild. Since they grow in a mountainous country some have 
precise requirements. Some species, mostly those alpine, grow in inundated 
places that dry out once the rainy season is over. Rains start in May and 
may extend to August and later. Regarding habit there are two types: one 
the "normal" type, in which the fan of leaves emerge first and is well 
developed when the flower scape appears from its centre.  Seed is produced 
at the end of the growth cycle. In the second group a flower scape is 
produced at the beginning of the cycle and the fan of leaves appear 
afterwards. Seed is mature and ready in the middle of the growth season.

Tigridia philippiana from hot northern Chile is a autumn/winter /spring 
grower with a dry summer dormancy. It grows in full sun in well drained 
soils under frost free conditions. T. lutea is said to behave likewise. I 
have grown the Peruvian T. albicans and this behaved as a winter dormant plant.

Cultivation: if their temperature requirements are met, Tigridias are long 
lived plants. They must be very dry when dormant. Fresh seed sown in well 
drained soils germinate readily, a contractile root burying the plantlets 
to the suitable depth. Some species grow in the edge of oak-pine forests. 
Therefore  half day sun would be advisable. Flowering size in the bulbs is 
obtained from the third year on.  As bulbs grow fatter offsets appear in 
cultivation in all species. Below are a few examples of habitat details in 
Mexican Tigridias

Alpine: seleriana, hallbergii, molseediana, alpestris,
Semiarid: bicolor, meleagris, violacea, dugesii, vanhouttei,
Semitropical to semialpine: pavonia
Semitropical : mexicana ssp pasiflora, multiflora, huajuapanensis, ehrenbergii
Wet meadows: chiapensis


 From Mary Sue,

Diana, can you describe the ones you grow and presumably sell? What others 
do people grow? I know Mike Mace used to grow these in San Jose, but don't 
know Mike if you are having time to  respond.

I hope Rob and Paul will write about their experiences in Australia. Do you 
protect yours from rain in winter?

I am interested in the winter growing species thinking I might have more 
luck with one that grows when it is wet here in California than ones that 
need to be kept dry in winter. I had ordered some seed of that one from the 
ABA, but don't know if it was removed by the US Agriculture because none of 
those seeds ever arrived. Does anyone in the US grow it?

I refer you to the Tigridia wiki page to see some of the interesting 
markings on some of the species and some of the nice forms of Tigridia pavonia:

I was surprised to see my Tigridia blooming a day  after I said it wasn't 
blooming well in a pot!! It must have heard me. So I have added a very nice 
picture Bob took of it to the wiki when it bloomed earlier this summer.

Mary Sue

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