IBSA Bulb Symposium and Trip to South Africa

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Wed, 20 Sep 2006 22:57:23 PDT
I've had numerous private requests to write about our trip so am responding 
to those. There are a number of members of our list who also visited South 
Africa for either the IBSA symposium and the Clivia conference and they are 
invited to share their experiences too. I plan to write this in 4 parts: 
two on the IBSA Symposium, one on Middlepos, and last on the rest of our 
trip. I'm not sure how quickly I'll get this done.

The IBSA symposium was five days. We arrived Sunday afternoon and that 
first day was spent figuring out our accommodation and greeting old friends 
and making new ones. Some of us had already had a chance to do that on 
Saturday when we attended the monthly IBSA meeting in Cape Town. I've 
always been envious when I read the secretary's report of the monthly 
meeting when they have a program and a plant display when members bring in 
plants they are growing that are in bloom. At last we got to go to one of 
them. Rod Saunders showed slides of Middlepos in a good year to get those 
of us who were planning to go there as a group in the anticipation mode. 
I'm seen many of Rod's slide shows in the past and they are first rate and 
this was not an exception. There was a break for goodies and then Alan 
Horstmann talked about the plants on display. There were so many beautiful 
plants that members were growing and had brought to show. This was 
marvelous and I hope the IBSA South African members truly appreciate how 
lucky they are that Alan does this for them as he picks up plants and gives 
you lots of background information about them such as where they grow, how 
they are pollinated, and challenges they all have growing them. For 
instance this day he talked about Gladiolus caryophyllaceus which has 
become a weed in Western Australia, but southwestern Cape members have 
difficulty keeping in cultivation. Seed germinates, but plants dwindle. 
Even if they start seed collected from Australia this happens. So the 
person who brought the plant was commended and there was a discussion of 
what it might need that they weren't able to provide. There was also a 
plant that looked like Babiana rubrocyanea to me and Alan told us that it 
was really Babiana regia which is set to be sunk into Babiana stricta as 
Babiana stricta var. regia. We later saw this plant in the wild so I'll be 
adding pictures to the wiki eventually and you will see how similar they 
are. And he commented on the glorious form of Moraea tulbaghensis that was 
on display. See
to see this gold flower with lovely blue markings.

On Monday the talks started. There were two days of talks with two nightly 
programs that some of us attended as well. I'll just briefly tell you about 
the talks in no particular order. This time there were only two talks about 
specific genera, one on Geophytic Pelargoniums given with great flair by 
Robin Jangle who talked about Gethyllis at the last Symposium and the other 
on Moraeas given by our own Bob Werra who as he said in his talk is Mad 
about Moraeas. Bob gave us a nice hand written handout about the species he 
has grown separating them by whether they bloom for only a day or for a few 
days or are the "peacock" varieties with comments and giving his rating for 
beauty, ease, and whether they produce cormlets and seeds. There were a 
couple of talks that focused on breeding. Andy Hackland is breeding 
Ornithogalum, Robyn McKenzie is working on Eucomis, and John Pilbeam & 
Anthony Hamilton from the UK, Gladiolus. I just put some pictures on the 
wiki of Ornithogalum maculatum that we saw in Andy's greenhouses growing in 
mass and there are pictures of some of his hybrids on the Ornithogalum wiki 
page from our last trip too. (And while I was at it I added some 
Ornithogalum maculatum we saw in Namaqualand too. I have poor luck with 
Ornithogalums, but seeing this one in mass really makes you want it!) 

Aart van Voorst from the Netherlands who is a horticulturalist in his day 
job is trying to introduce polyploidy in Haemanthus breeding as a hobby. We 
were all impressed with his slide where he showed how he had made sure that 
no insect was going to pollinate the Haemanthus he was working on. For 
those of you unfamiliar with Haemanthus, he had his work cut out for him as 
each flowering stalk has a lot of flowers.

There were talks on cultivation. Gordon Summerfield gave a brief talk on 
his discovery that the ph of his potting soil was very important as some 
species needed acid soil. Others grow in limey soil and this illustrated 
the need to know more about where the plants come from. Peter Knippels from 
the Netherlands who had written a book about how he grew South African 
bulbs indoors a  number of years ago now told us the techniques he was 
using for growing the bulbs outdoors in spite of his climate and finding he 
could do it. I might add he mulches heavily and grows a lot of summer 
rainfall species that are hardier than some of the winter rainfall ones. 
But it still shows that it is worth trying some things you think might not 
be possible. David Victor from our list talked about his experiences 
growing bulbs in the UK. He mostly grows in greenhouses and focused on 
Pelargoniums, but showed us some pictures of other things including some 
Irids he announced he had given away as he wants to concentrate on 
Amaryllids. I talked a little about how I grow South African bulbs in 
California and gave a slide show of bulbs blooming in my garden by month.

Liesel van der Walt gave a very interesting talk on bulbs for display in 
the garden. She works at Kirstenbosch and is in charge of making the garden 
look good for visitors year round. She sometimes uses containers that can 
be placed attractively in the ground or otherwise and also will plant more 
than one kind of plant in an area so that one will take over when the other 
is finished.

We learned about the indigenous bulbs that are used in traditional medicine 
and therefore in danger of being lost in the wild when Cameron McMaster 
presented a program from Tony Dold and then we learned from Ismail Ebrahim 
how they are keeping track of the status of bulbs and how many of them that 
were abundant at one time are sadly now red listed or threatened.

Luise Ehrich from Germany presented a paper of research she has done on 
trying to turn around some bulbs so they can be sold in Germany during the 
dark and gloomy months. The plants she was working with were Babiana 
hybrids, Freesia laxa, Sparaxis hybrids, Tritonia deusta, and Tritonia 
securigera. She would get them from South Africa when they were dormant and 
then put them into storage and use temperature to hold them and bring them 
into bloom for the market in September to January. This wasn't about adding 
them permanently to your garden, but just a nice pot plant to bring home 
and admire and throw out afterwards. What struck me about her talk was how 
little some of us who are eager to grow bulbs know about plant physiology.

John Manning gave a lecture on the pollination biology of South African 
Iridaceae. There are a huge number of genera in this family found in South 
Africa and a lot of them have quite a number of species as well. He talked 
about how some pollinators are attracted by the pollen and some by the 
nectar. The Irids are pollinated by long tongued flies, beetles, moths, 
butterflies, birds, and wasps. Some plants have only one kind of pollinator 
and others more than one. Looking at the flower you may be able to predict 
what will pollinate it. And when the species bloom may also be determined 
by what pollinates them as some pollinators will not be out until the 
temperatures are warmer.

Eric Harley gave a talk on how DNA analysis is influencing our knowledge of 
taxonomy and evolution. To Eric's credit he is able to present complex 
information that some of us may not understand clearly. But there still 
were comments from a number of delegates that they didn't totally 
understand. I felt like it was a good start. Maybe if his paper is 
published in the Bulletin a second reading will get me farther.

Finally Cameron McMaster showed pictures of his botanical tours of the 
Eastern Cape so we got to see Tony Avent and Ellen Hornig in pictures and 
see where they went on their adventures.

One night there was wine tasting and a dinner at a winery, one night there 
was a barbecue for all the meat lovers and the other two nights there were 
programs. Harold Koopwitz showed pictures and gave an amusing talk about 
his adventures plant collecting in Crete and Alan Horstmann presented a 
multimedia slide show another night. This show was a series of close ups of 
the inner markings of some gorgeous bulbs he grows. He showed different 
forms of the same species which is so valuable since we all assume that a 
species looks just like the picture in our book and in nature there is 
great variability.

In my next post I'll write about the days in the field, but I want to add 
some pictures to the wiki first.

Mary Sue

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