Babianas and cold tolerance

Mary Sue Ittner
Tue, 22 Jan 2008 07:56:54 PST
Dear Brent, Joe, and all,

Thanks Joe for alerting us to the article in Nature and Brent for sharing 
the information about your experience with Babiana ringens. If I recall, 
when Babiana was the topic of the week in April the general consensus was 
that it was not hardy and attempts to grow it in colder climates had not 
been successful. Babiana ringens is a coastal species so you would expect 
that it would be less hardy than some of the species growing at higher 
elevations that would experience colder temperatures on a regular basis. 
Your story for me illustrates a couple of points. One is that where you 
plant is important as is the planting medium. Plants in the ground are much 
more likely to sustain cold temperatures than those in pots. Babianas tend 
to relocate deep in the ground where the corms would have some protection 
from the elements. And because many of the species produce multiple 
cormlets around the main corm, even if a plant was wiped out because of the 
cold, some of the cormlets could remain and in later years plants you 
thought you had lost could reappear. When we had an unusually cold December 
(I think it was 2000) many of my South African bulbs in a raised bed turned 
to mush. Some put out new leaves the very same year. Others I thought I had 
lost returned in subsequent years. The propensity to produce cormlets also 
protects species from predation. One assumes that the Baboons for which 
this species is named would miss some of the smaller cormlets. On African 
Hill at the UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley, California,  I understand the 
gophers in the past redistributed and relocated some of the Babiana 
cormlets. That and all those new cormlets create quite a display in spring 
as illustrated by Liz Waterman's photo on the wiki.…

Mary Sue

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