Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 07 Jan 2004 12:25:26 PST
Dear All,

I got the following private response to my post on Monday:

"What is an Androcymbium and where is your picture of it?"

Androcymbium is a short-stemmed or stemless geophyte (corm) in the 
Colchicaceae family. Species are found in the Mediterranean and in Africa, 
mostly southern Africa and often in arid areas there.

They can be described as suitable for plant collectors or curiosity pieces. 
The flowers of the African ones which are the only ones I have seen are 
tiny with "cupped tepal limbs", but they often have broad and sometimes 
colorful floral bracts that look like petals that enclose the flowers. 
Common names are cup-and-saucer, men-in-a-boat. Some of these bracts can be 
white or red and therefore are much more interesting than the flowers. 
Seeing them in the wild I found ones I thought were quite cute, but then I 
like those short plants like Massonia and Polyxena.

I made a wiki page for Androcymbium:…
and added a couple we saw in the wild and then three versions of my plants 
that show the nice shiny leaves and the flowers. Bill had labeled the seeds 
as Androcymbium ciliolatum which is apparently now considered to be A. 
capense. But using the key in the Color Encyclopedia I think they are A. 
latifolium which is a synonym for A. pulchrum which is how they were listed 
in the Nieuwoudtville field guide. The stamens are much longer than the 
tepal blades and the bracts are not white as in the other species.

Unfortunately my plants only have red coloring on one of the bracts unlike 
the nice red bracts we saw in the Nieuwoudtville reserve. They also appear 
to have 6 flowers instead of 2 or 3 as described in the Color Encyclopedia, 
but the ones pictured in the reserve and I am sure of them look like they 
have a lot of flowers. It is possible that my plants are a Namaqualand 
species that is not included in the Color Encyclopedia key. If so, I hope 
Rachel or Julian will straighten me out so I can name it properly. It seems 
to fit the key for A. latifolium. I'd also like to know the history of the 
name changes if anyone knows.

Since the Mediterranean species are supposed to resemble Colchicum more 
closely I hope Jim Shields will upload a picture of the one he has blooming 
to the wiki for comparison, or at least put a picture on his web page with 
a link so we can see what it looks like.

Mary Sue

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