Gethyllis--TOW--From Gordon Summerfield

Mary Sue Ittner
Sun, 18 Jul 2004 13:31:34 PDT
Dear All,

I have been disappointed there have not been more responses about 
Gethyllis. For one thing I'd really like to know more. I wrote Gordon 
Summerfield with Bob Werra's question about pollination and Jay Yourch's 
about general growth although I suspect this would not be a genus that 
would be happy in areas with wet summers since most of them are from winter 
rainfall areas and many of them from winter rainfall areas with low 
rainfall amounts (sounds like a natural for Southern California.) And I 
asked what to do with my Gethyllis that I got from him that are growing at 
the wrong time of the year. I was also curious whether Bob Werra's 
experience with leaves appearing in winter was typical.

Gordon has kindly replied and here is what he said:
"With regards to the Gethyllis, only start to withhold water when you notice
natural die back of the leaves as they start to turn yellow.   There is no
need to place them in a sunnier position - with one or two exceptions, due
largely to space retrictions, mine are grown under cover and receive no
direct sunlight and they thrive.   Light airy conditions are more important
and keep them moist throughout their leaf stage.  Do not under any
circumstances apply water at the flowering stage - unless of course there is
simultaneous leaf growth.

I disagree with Bob that Gethyllis are not spectacular.   The variation in
the plant and leaf structure are unique as is the spear (missile if you
like) protrusions of the flowers, following an atmospheric pressure gradient
change (either low or high) in the heat of summer and the finger like pods
of fruit, either on their own or with the foliage in Autumn.   Absolutely
unique, fascinating and to my mind quite stunning!!!   On the question of
pollination - As the flowers only last an average of 4 to 5 days, I hand
pollinate from the second day.   This delay (2nd day) might not be enough
time to allow the pollen to ripen, but at least one will not miss-out.   I
make my own cotton buds dipped in glycerine (squeezed out with my fingers)
and transfer the pollen of one flower to the single stigma of another flower
and vice-versa.   Some flowers do not produce a stigma!   Why I do not know
and whether the pollen of such a flower is fertile (ie to use on anther
flower with a stigma) I also do not know.   The stigma also differs quite
markedly within the species, most, such as G.verticillata, G.linearis,
G.barkerae. G.lanuginosa and G.villosa, it appears to the side of the
anthers bearing the pollen and somewhat longer and invariably yellow in
colour whereas with G.britteniana, G.ciliaris, G.tatifolia and G.afra it
protrudes from the middle of the anthers and is white.   Rubbing the flowers
together will I am afraid be a bit "hit and miss"

In the Southern hemisphere the leaves start to appear from April and with
few exceptions continue in leaf through to the end of September, flowers
starting as early as late September right through to February, early March
(depending on the species and variants within the species) and the fruits
then showing from end March early April through to July.   Apodolirion on
the other hand (the summer rainfall Gethyllis) die back in our winter months
but flower and fruit at a very similar time as Gethyllis.   I have only
manged to locate one Apodolirion - A.macowanii, I think, which has
fortunately provided about a dozen seeds!   To answer your question yes the
leaves of Gethyllis start to appear in Autumn once the bulb receives
moisture and will continue in leaf through winter and into early spring.

For growing Gethyllis successfully, good light is I believe very
important, however, temperature is of less importance.

G.britteniana for example grows around Sutherland where the low tempertaures
this winter have varied between -10c to -l5c but also thrives along the West
Coast where the minimum temperatures will rarely fall below 0c.   The summer
temperatures in both areas can however, quite easily reach between 35c to
40c plus."

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