Bessera elegans cultivation info

Dennis Szeszko
Tue, 28 Aug 2007 11:03:05 PDT

Bessera elegans, as others have pointed out, has a wide distribution in
Mexico.   Thus, it is difficult to say with precision exactly what its
climatological preferences are.   I have seen this plant growing in
deciduous jungle habitat as well as warm oak forests, but they seem to
prefer habitats that have very pronounced rainy and dry seasons.

Here in Mexico, the hottest months of the year are the months BEFORE the
rains start roughly at the end of May or the beginning of June.  Thus, the
hottest (and driest) months in Mexico are March, April and May.  During
these months, the trees in deciduous jungles and oak forests in Mexico lose
their leaves and the ground gets baked by the sun.  (The onset of the rainy
season seems to be linked with altitude and lower altitudes have rainy
seasons that start up to 6-8 weeks after rains began at high altitudes.)

Bessera elegans and other Mexican geophytic species (including terrestrial
orchids) respond to precipitation signals to trigger their emergence.
Emergence is not dictated by temperature.  Temperatures in some of the areas
where Bessera elegans grows can possibly reach 40 degrees at night during
winter but I would guess that 55-65 degrees is a more reasonable estimate
during the growing season.  When they are dormant they can survive light
frosts but freezing is rarely encountered where they grow naturally in the
wild. Day temperatures during the growing season can be over 100 degrees but
80-90F is more probable.

I would suggest keeping your pots of Bessera elegans completely dry between
November-April and start drenching them at the beginning of May.  The bulbs
can survive growing in standing water for short periods of time during their
growing season and seem to like being very moist at this time.  During the
rainy season, the hillsides where these bulbs grow turn into veritable
swamps from the quantity of rain that falls.

As for a medium....I would suggest two parts fine sand, two parts humus and
one part rocks/pebbles to approximate their natural growing conditions.

Rather coincidentally, I posted a picture of Bessera elegans growing in the
wild to the Wiki yesterday.  I also posted some pictures of other Mexican
geophytes including Arisaema macrospathum, Dahlia coccinea, Tigridia
meleagris, Tigridia pavonia, Fuchsia fulgens, and Govenia superba in case
any of these interest you.  All of these were photographed in the wild with
the exception of the Tigridia pavonia flower varieties that I cultivate
ex-situ but that were grown from wild-collected seeds.

I hope this helps.


> I wonder if it's precipitation that triggers their
> emergence or do seasonal temperature changes hold more
> sway?  My one concern is that my winter lows are not
> low enough (rarely go below 65F outdoors under my roof
> eaves where I keep dormant potted bulbs), and as such,
> they might need cooler temps to season them properly
> for the following year's growth.
> I realise that although Bessera's native latitude is
> similar to mine here in Hawai`i, but I hear that they
> grow at much higher altitudes.  I am at about 300'
> above sea level.
> Any reflections on Bessera cultivation at tropical
> latitudes would be greatly appreciated, as well as
> temperature data from their habitat, if anyone has
> access to it.

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