IBSA Symposium 2003/Vist to South Africa TOW

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Sun, 28 Sep 2003 11:43:45 PDT
Dear All,

I am sorry to have such a long title for this week's topic of the week but 
I hoped it would be inconclusive and would give all of you who attended the 
IBSA Symposium and traveled to South Africa in August-September an 
opportunity to share with the members of this list.

I will start out by talking about the Symposium and as the week progresses 
post about the rest of our trip and about some of the things I learned from 
talking to people while in South Africa. Sometimes this will be a follow-up 
to something discussed on this list either because it was a question never 
answered or just because I was soliciting opinions on the subject from 
people who lived in South Africa. Sometimes it would be something new. I 
hope people will ask questions if something is not clear and will correct 
any mistakes. It was a very intense time, especially in the beginning, so I 
could very easily have gotten something wrong. And my hands were cold so 
some of my notes are a little challenging to decipher. Please some of the 
rest of you contribute as well so I'm not the only one who is posting.

IBSA for those who do not know is the Indigenous Bulb Association of South 
Africa, a group with monthly meetings in South Africa that is interested in 
South African bulbs. I have been a member for a number of years since this 
is an interest of mine as well and even though I can't go to the meetings I 
value the Bulletin produced once a year and currently edited by Rachel 
Saunders, the monthly bulb chat previously written by Andries de Villiers 
and now written by Alan Horstmann, and the seed exchange.

The IBSA committee decided to have a Bulb Symposium a number of years ago 
following another Bulb Symposium held in South Africa that was too 
expensive for most of their members to attend. That Symposium also had only 
a few talks about South African bulbs so the plan for this one was to focus 
on their country and its bulbs and to organize a meeting that many of their 
members would both be able to and want to attend. The plan was for two days 
of talks followed by three days of field trips. As this event was scheduled 
three years ahead of time the one thing that could not be predicted was the 
weather. As it turns out the weather made it very difficult for the organizers.

There were over 90 people in attendance. Of the international delegates 
there was one person from New Zealand, three from Australia, one from the 
Czech Republic, one from the Netherlands, five from the UK, one from 
France, and eight of us from the United States. Everyone else was from 
various parts of South Africa. The International delegates had our meals 
together (except for the field lunches) and some of the South African 
delegates joined us for some of the meals. It was very cold the first two 
days when we were in the meetings and it was raining outside with snow on 
the mountains. There wasn't any heating in our meeting rooms or our 
rondavels so no one was in a hurry to rush back to their rooms and we had 
many wonderful conversations with our eating companions. Instead of asking, 
"What do you do?" the question was, "What do you grow?" Soon the noise 
level in the room escalated as people were engaged.

The first talk Monday was given by Gordon Summerfield. Gordon was the 
previous chairman of IBSA for at least 7 years. When Gordon retired, he 
decided to devote himself to growing bulbs. He has a very large collection 
and when he is not playing golf or out exploring in the veld he can 
probably be found observing, pollinating, cleaning seed, etc. He is 
definitely passionate about his bulbs. I talked to Gordon one night at 
dinner and visited him and his collection twice and will share a little of 
his philosophy and what I learned from him in a later email if there is 
interest in this. His talk was "Creating the right environment and 
conditions for growing bulbous plants." It was a great way to start.

He was followed by Peter Knippels who has written the book Growing Bulbs 
Indoors. Reading that book you'd never guess that Peter is a very young man 
since it sounds like he has years of experience. Since Peter is from the 
Netherlands and can't grow a lot of his bulbs outside he grows bulbs in his 
attic near a window under lights. In his talk he showed us pictures and 
described how he does it. Then he went on to giving his talk, "'New' SA 
bulbous plants in the dutch bulb industry". Some of the popular South 
African bulbs he talked about were Freesia, Zantedeschia, Gladiolus, 
Eucomis, and Ixia. In the past there was a lot of forcing of bulbs and not 
so much anymore. He mentioned there were 45 Zantedeschia growers. Virus is 
a problem with this genus, but new varieties are coming on. Eucomis is 
popular because is can be grown in the ground, harvested by machine, and 
there are new varieties appearing.

Cameron McMaster then talked about Eastern Cape Bulbs and showed pictures. 
These bulbs are from a summer rainfall area with occasional water in 
winter. Rainfall and altitude varies. Many are endemic to those areas. He 
showed us pictures of Brunsvigia, Haemanthus, Cyrtanthus, Nerine, Dierama, 
Gladiolus, Watsonia, Moraea, Hesperantha, Hypoxis, Eucomis, Lachenalia, 
Albuca, Massonia, Ledbouria and something else I can't make out in my 
notes. Interestingly some of those species are found in winter rainfall 
areas too which proves you really need to know your species to grow it 
properly. Just a few comments from my notes:
Haemanthus montanus flowers before leaves are produced, is found in areas 
with poor drainage.
Haemanthus humilis is a cliff grower. The sticky seeds stick to the cliffs.
Hesperantha huttonii forms mats, grows in the shade.
Massonia jasminiflora is very highly scented.
Hypoxis germination is slow, may take 1-5 years.
Cyrtanthus that need fire to bloom--Try drying off plant and using smoke 
filter water or bury your pot and make a fire on top

Rod Saunders then showed us a slide show, A season of bulbs. These included 
pictures of bulbs that only bloom after fires. Rod had great pictures so 
this was a treat.

In the afternoon Dee Snijman gave a talk on Amazing Amaryllids, Specialised 
but high risk lifestyles. I was very excited to hear her talk. She is very 
soft spoken and speaks carefully and precisely. I took pages of notes. Lauw 
de Jager has warned me to be concise and I have already broken that so this 
is another talk that I could summarize in another email if there is interest.

After her talk, John Rourke told the story of the amazing find of Clivia 
mirabilis in the Western Cape. It was found in screes and cliffs below a 
rock plateau near Nieuwoudtville in a semi-desert area in an area with only 
400 mm of rainfall, relentless sun. It has leathery leaves and curved 
pendulous orange flowers with green tips, red pedicels, and red ovaries. It 
takes up almost every drop of water during the wet season and is almost 
like a succulent. He speculated the pollinators were attracted to the red 
pedicels and ovaries. These Clivias offer hope for breeding Clivias that 
can be grown in the sun. The seeds ripen very rapidly. I was pleased to 
hear that the plants are protected in a reserve, but there has been an 
attempt to get seed to growers so plant collectors will be less tempted to 
dig them from the wild. (The plant habitat makes this a bit difficult 
however.) And the seed is growing so perhaps one day this newly discovered 
genus will be better known.

The final talk of the day was Conservation of the Renosterveld by Tilla 
Raimondo. The renosterveld is one of those terms I have read a lot, but 
never really tried to master.
In the past, 46% of the Cape Floral province was composed of renosterveld. 
Now there is only 7% left in the West Coast and 14% left elsewhere. The 
threats to it are too much grazing and irregular or too frequent fires. 
Since these areas are shrub lands with nutrient rich soils (shale, granite) 
they are popular for grazing. Rainfall in these areas is between 250-650 
mm. Less rain is found in the succulent Karoo vegetation types and more in 
fynbos. Besides shrubs in these areas there are also annuals and seasonal 
geophytes. So from a bulb lovers stand point losing these habitats is 
worrisome. Fire may be necessary for the bulbs, but too often fires 
encourage alien grasses. How often fire is needed hasn't really been 
researched enough. We were encouraged that they are trying to find the 
areas that are left and reach the farmers who own them to teach them about 
how valuable these areas are. Bob and I and Lauw de Jager and Patty 
Colville later had an opportunity to explore an area of renosterveld where 
we were delighted with the bulbs in flower. We were very lucky that Rhoda 
and Cameron McMaster arranged this trip for us to Bos Klof and came with us 
as well.

Later we were to see a wonderful area of renosterveld called the Drayton 
railroad siding. This area off the N2 and near a railroad was one of the 
treasures of our trip. I counted at least 30 different geophytes in bloom 
the first day we visited it and some things were in mass bloom like 
Gladiolus liliaceus in many different variations and color forms. There 
were also some wonderful Oxalis here, masses of Spiloxene capensis, many 
Moraeas, Watsonias, Babianas. There is not space to list them all. The 
super star for me of the plot was Aristea biflora. Once again I am wishing 
I had better luck germinating these. This area is being looked after by a 
man who comes and weeds. All around it are either agricultural fields and 
shrubs with only a few geophytes present. This is the famous last known 
spot for Moraea insolens. It has been burned in the recent past, but could 
have been burned at the wrong time after Moraea insolens was in growth. At 
any rate we didn't see it and others haven't in a number of years either. 
Hopefully one of these days I'll get pictures of some of these on the wiki, 
especially that Aristea.

I had planned to talk about the talks in day two and the field trips, but 
this is already too long and as I said before I have been admonished by 
Lauw to keep my remarks brief.

So the rest will have to wait for another email unless someone else in 
attendance beats me to it.

Mary Sue

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