Eastern Cape Bulbs

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Fri, 14 Jan 2005 21:13:53 PST
Dear All,

I ordered two CDs from Cameron McMaster recently: Wild Bulbs of the Eastern 
Cape and Wild Flowers of the Amatola Mountains. I've really been enjoying 
looking at Cameron's pictures. There are also word documents included 
written by Cameron and Rhoda. Even though Cameron treated us to a couple of 
slide shows when we visited him and Rhoda a number of years ago when they 
were still living in the Eastern Cape, I don't think I really appreciated 
how many bulbs there are in that part of South Africa. Since I live in 
California I have focused more on the ones that I thought would be happiest 
in my conditions, those from areas with wet winters and dry summers. The 
majority of Cameron's pictures are habitat shots so it is almost like 
taking a trip to see them in the wild (one of my favorite past times.)

Just a few highlights....
John Bryan has often talked about how wonderful it is to see Agapanthus in 
the wild. This plant has probably been overused in California landscapes so 
that it doesn't seem very special. Cameron's pictures show many different 
color variations, even in the same species, and shows them in habitat in 
grasslands, sometimes with low mountains in the background. In a couple of 
pictures there is a mass of blue. I better appreciate John's vote for them 
as a favorite blue.

There is a wonderfully bizarre Tulbaghia, T. ludwigiana, I've never seen 
before. I'm not sure how in the world to describe it, but it is brown, 
green, purple, and orange. I wonder what it smells like. I love the calf 
sitting in the Ammocharis pasture. Apparently they must not be very tasty 
as the flowers look untouched. There is an absolutely stunning picture of 
Apodolirion macowanii with dew drops or rain drops; it glistens. He shows 
Boophone disticha in so many different stages. Some of those bulbs have to 
be very old as they are huge. There are many pictures of Brunsvigia 
gregaria in bloom. It must be pollinated by butterflies as quite a number 
of the pictures include different varieties of butterflies. In one close up 
of the flowers on one bloom stalk I counted six butterflies. Looking at 
those HUGE leaves I expect I'm going to have to wait a very long time if I 
expect my plants to bloom.

Another amazing picture is Cyrtanthus breviflorus seed pods that are 
covered with locust hoppers. There are quite a few picture of the bright 
orange Cyrtanthus named after them, C. macmasteri including many habitat 
shots. I just ordered some seed from them of C. smithae and I really hope 
for success in germinating it. The pictures show these wonderfully curled 
leaves and almost candy striped flowers.

There is a remarkable picture of a preying mantis climbing up a "ladder" 
of  yellow Kniphofia bruceae flowers and another of a field showing a mass 
of Kniphofia linearifolia in flower in January. I really love where I live 
and what I can grow, but wish I had the space and ample summer water to 
grow some of those Kniphofias. The Eastern Cape has so many gorgeous species.

I had never heard of Brachystelma before and the leaves and flowers 
certainly don't make you think bulb. B. cathcartensis is all hairy like a 
Calochortus. There is a picture of this huge bulb, tuber,? I'm not sure 
what it is. Does anyone grow Brachystelma in this group?

Oh dear, I haven't even gotten to Hyacinthaceae (14 genera), Orchidaceae 
(many pictures), Iridaceae or Hypoxidaceae and this is getting too long so 
I'll stop soon. I noted that the Gladiolus dalenii in his photos were 
blooming in December and another lot in February. Here in another 
hemisphere this year I had this species in bloom in December too. And it 
was good to see a number of pictures of Moraea elliotii so I could finally 
see how it compares to Moraea (Gynandriris setifolia).

There is another whole section just of the landscapes. I can see now why it 
was so distressing for Cameron and Rhoda for us to visit at the wrong time 
of the year when everything was brown and dry, just like California in late 
summer. The Eastern Cape in his pictures is very beautiful. What an 
ambitious project to photograph the wild bulbs in the Eastern Cape. This CD 
reflects the love Cameron has for this area. I highly recommend it. It 
would be nice to have a whole collection of CDs, one for each one of those 
areas in the world with climates that are conducive to large populations of 

Mary Sue

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