Bomarea (Leontochir) ovallei

Jane McGary
Fri, 09 Nov 2012 09:36:31 PST
Paul Licht wrote:
>For the record, we have one [Leontochir] which bloomed at the UC 
>Botanical Garden (a 2008
>accession) that bloomed in March 2010 which we hope to propagate. I
>found it a bit underwhelming because I'm accustomed to the much more
>striking Bomarea.

Paul, please wait a few years. A mature Leontochir (or, if you prefer 
the new view, Bomarea ovallei) is one of the most spectacular 
flowering plants I have seen. The individual crimson florets are 
almost 5 cm across, and the inflorescence is very large and of heavy 
substance. The massive, leafy stems can be more than a meter long.

The usual habitat of this plant is in very rocky, steeply sloping 
terrain. I have seen it growing in large talus falls and also in 
crevices on canyon sides. The root system is presumably much like 
that of many Alstroemeria species and adapted to mobile situations 
where the flowering stems can emerge here and there. Although the 
climate is arid, probably there is moisture down where the roots are: 
I saw an Adiantum (maidenhair fern) species growing in the same 
crevices with this plant. If I could grow it here, which is unlikely 
given the winter temperatures, I would plant it deep and not let the 
soil under it get absolutely dry in summer. Note that the rock in its 
native habitat actually provides moisture even in years entirely 
without precipitation, because the frequent fogs condense on the 
rocks and the moisture can seep down through the interstices. Much of 
the vegetation along the Atacama coast survives only because it has 
adapted in one way or another to getting moisture from fog. In fact, 
in the book cited below, they recommend misting the foliage 
frequently. They also say some organic matter in the soil is 
necessary; I suppose in nature this would arise from dead foliage 
sifting down through the rocks.

As for propagation, here (in translation) is what Riedemann et al., 
Flora nativa de valor ornamental: Zona Norte, has to say: "It is 
propagated by seed sown in stratified conditions[i.e., exposed to 
diurnal temperature variation] in the nursery, in a mix of one part 
compost [i.e., organic material] and two parts sand. When germination 
begins, the seed [i.e., seed coat] emerges from the soil, but you 
should not cover or remove it, however you should protect it from 
birds. It is best to keep it in the nursery in a pot where it does 
not have to be transplanted." I don't know if this is helpful other 
than the suggestion about temperature variation, which in the case of 
these authors (living in Valparaiso) would be entirely similar to 
what occurs in Berkeley. In growing Alstroemeria species from seed, 
however, I have always found that storing the seed dry at room 
temperature until fall produces better results than immediate 
planting or storing the seed under refrigeration. As for growing it 
in a pot, I think they mean in its younger years; it would surely do 
best given an unrestricted root run after that.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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