What's Your Favorite Plant You Own?

Michael Mace mikemace@att.net
Thu, 12 Aug 2010 12:21:36 PDT
I agree that it's hard to say what is my ONE favorite plant, since it
changes on a regular basis.  But I viewed the question as a nice
conversation-starter -- an invitation to spout off about a plant that I like
a lot and that deserves mention.  Good topic.

I won't talk about Moraea polystachya, because I've done that before.  But
there's another little bulb that has won me over through beauty and sheer

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Oxalis densa MV4991  


The "MV" means that this is yet another collection by the late Michael
Vassar, who did more than anyone else to bring South African Oxalis to the
attention of bulb-growers in the US.  It's a winter-growing bulb that
thrives in my mild climate here in San Jose.

Picture a tight, tiny tuft of a plant at most two inches (5 cm) across.  The
leaves are gray-green and covered in hairs.  They look like miniature hairy
palm fronds.  Nestled in the middle of this tuft are a series of white,
yellow-eyed flowers that open anytime the sun is on them.  The plant blooms
for a couple of months in mid-winter, when there aren't a lot of other bulbs
in bloom.  About the only negative thing I can say about it is that it
doesn't offset rapidly, so I don't have a lot of offsets I can share.  But
how often do you hear an Oxalis criticized for not creating offsets?

If this were a rock garden perennial, say a Draba or Saxifrage, it would get
frequent coverage in the AGS bulletin, regularly winning ribbons, with long
involved articles on the specialized cultivation it needs (north-facing rock
wall, granite gravel at the collar, monthly feeding with diluted fish
emulsion, a long cool root run, etc, etc).  Instead, here's what you have to
do to grow Oxalis densa:  Put it in a pot with reasonable drainage, water it
in winter, don't water it in summer.  It tolerates neglect, occasional
competition from weeds, light frost, and inconsistent watering.

Quite a package -- the beauty and cuteness of a choice alpine plant, without
the hassle.

Thanks, Mr. Vassar.

San Jose, CA (min temp 20F / -7C)

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