Xerophyta retinervis

Leo A. Martin leo@possi.org
Fri, 07 Sep 2007 09:43:57 PDT
Hello All,

I thought this might be of general interest so I'm copying the list.

> Hi Leo,
> I think this message is meant for you. It came to the PBS list from a
> nonmember so was delivered to the administrators.
> Mary Sue
> Hi Leo,
> I recently chanced upon some messages you posted in 2004 on the Pacific
> Bulb Society forum when I was searching the internet for any info. on
> Xerophyta retinervis germination/cultivation.  You later on (in 2005)
> posted a very interesting follow-up to your own initial enquiries on these
> unusual plants about how you successfully germinated these plants.
> Cultural information on this species is pretty sporadic if non-existant so
> you're probably a bit of a pioneer with trialing them. I was just
> wondering, now 2 years on from you germinating them, how you got on with
> growing them, if you were successful? How fast they grow & any cultural
> hints i.e. soil, watering preference etc.
> Rachael Saunders from Silverhill Seeds (where I've recently purchased some
> seeds from) indicates that they're difficult to grow.
> I'm used to growing Grasstrees (which Black stick lilys look like mini
> versions of), proteas & cacti. I would anticipate that since they
> originate from similar growing habitats as proteas/xanthorrhoes ie.
> poor, stoney soil that they would require similar cultivation
> requirements.
> Did they prove to be a challenge?, any information would be
> appreciated!
> Marc de'Battista. Littlehampton, West Sussex in
> the UK.

Hello Marc,

To refresh our memory-- I sowed X. r. seed on top of sand in a 6-ounce
polystyrene coffee cup. I punched holes in the cup's bottom, and set it in
a deep plastic container with the water level just below the sand surface.
The sand surface was glistening wet. I covered the cup with a plastic
baggie and set it in bright shade in my house under a skylight. They
sprouted quickly. I kept the water level in the container high.

The X. r. seedlings I sprouted grew to a few millimeters tall, then just
stopped growing. The remained alive for over two years with almost no
growth, and then I forgot to water them, and the seedlings all died.

I haven't been to Africa yet, but I did see other species of Xerophyta in
Madagascar. All the species I saw grew on rock massifs, which correspond
to what I believe are called koppies in South Africa. On such rocks,
weathering leads to cracks and ridges where onionskin flaking occurs.
Organic matter like leaves, and dust, fill in the irregularities, forming
mats about a centimeter thick. Mosses form on these mats, and various
plants sprout in these organic mats, sending their roots quite some
distance horizontally, but never more than a centimeter or two deep. The
mats enlarge over time. In the summer rainy season, the mats are probably
always moist to wet. In the winter (when I was in Madagascar) the mats are
quite dry. Associated plants were Aloe species like A. conifera,
vandaceous orchids, and a large, upright Cynanchum (a leafless stem
succulent millkweed.) Nearby grew Drosera madagascariensis. In the more
substantial soil pockets were palmst of genus Dypsis.

I don't know what I should have done next with my Xerophyta retinervis.
But perhaps more sun would be in order; these mats also frequently have
lots of bacteria, so perhaps they want plenty of fertilizer in
cultivation. In any event, I still have seed, so I'm going to try again.

Leo Martin
Phoenix Arizona USA

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