Worsleya woes

Lee Poulsen wpoulsen@pacbell.net
Thu, 10 Oct 2013 10:59:32 PDT
Worsleyas are sturdy good growing plants. Until they aren't.

A couple of years ago I lost my oldest, mature, plant that had bloomed every year for the previous 4 years or so. I thought the drainage was still good because water immediately flowed out the bottom whenever I watered it. Once I discovered that it was dying (the leaves were fine and healthy looking but a new leaf that was barely emerging never emerged, so I immediately checked and the entire baseplate had already turned an ugly brown color and the thick roots had all turned brown. When I dumped out the pot, there was this layer of very wet organic matter coating all the rocks in the bottom half of the pot, and I noticed that even though it still drained extremely well, this organic matter coating kept the region very wet all the time. It appeared that it never dried out. I think that the roots stayed in contact with this constant wetness and it eventually proved deadly. And once the rot started it spread to *all* the roots before I even noticed anything wrong.

As for the seedling issue, once a seedling reached a certain size, it doesn't need the coddling any more. And I think that in nature, a lot of seedlings germinate (the seeds germinate easily and at almost 100% rate), but that there is a high die-off rate before they reach the size where they do just fine with the rocky, quickly drying off medium in which the native populations grow. In fact, at that point, it seems they require a rocky, extremely well-draining, frequent summer rainfall, but also quickly drying off root environment. (As you say, the sunshine is intense, so I suspect the rocky cracks dry off quickly after each rainfall. I actually visited the Organ Mountains a couple of years ago, but wasn't able to go to the actual locations where Worsleya are still growing.) But given how expensive seeds are, I don't appreciate losing half of them in the first couple of years just because they haven't reached that sufficient level of growth needed to easily survive those conditions. The peat/sphagnum moss method allows *many* more of the seedlings to continue to thrive until they get big enough to switch to the rocky type medium.

Now, this has been my learning experience, in southern California climate conditions, so others' experiences may differ.

Those who have mastered providing the conditions that Worsleyas want, especially the Australians and South Africans, grow them quite easily and even produce seeds fairly regularly--which is from whom a lot of people around the world have been obtaining seeds in the past 5-10 years. But all of them still provide pretty specific conditions to their Worsleya collections to get them to that state. Even though I didn't get to see Worsleyas in their native habitat, I did get to see Mauro Peixoto's (who runs brazilplants.com) magnificent Worsleya collection in full bloom. He lives in another area of Brazil about 300 km south of the Organ Mountains, but with a very similar climate, and even though his Worsleyas grow extremely well and bloom in massive numbers (relatively speaking) almost every year, even he has trouble getting them to set seed and may only get a few pods every year if he's lucky. Then every 4 or 5 years he gets pods that set and fully ripen on all of the flowers. He says he's never figured out why this is.

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USA - USDA Zone 10a
Latitude 34°N, Altitude 1150 ft/350 m

On Oct 10, 2013, at 7:25 AM, James Waddick <jwaddick@kc.rr.com> wrote:

> Dear PBSers,
> 	It has been years since I grew Worsleya. I am sort of confounded by all the comments about people trying to follow the cultivation notes of random trials. A friend sent me a small seedling and I reviewed the literature of the how and where the plant actually grows- temperature, weather,  substrate etc NOT what kind of pot or soil.  I wanted to reproduce the actual growing environment, not a pot culture. I found some great articles in the old Plant Life, Amaryllis Society and IBS publications dating to the 30s and 40s. I wish their pix had been in color especially the habitat shots. 
> 	Worsleya appears to grow in full sun on, in and among rocks on steep cliffs. As Lee said "they really do grow in large cracks in mountain-sized granite boulders." Google it.
> 	I used this natural approach and got some inch or so diameter granite rocks ( not gravel or pebbles, but rocks) and planted the seedling in a 6 in clay pot full of rocks. I sprinkled on a couple of table spoons of well rotted compost which gradually trickled down among the rocks.
> 	I set the pot in full sun (yes full sun in KS/MO is very intense and hot). I watered it daily or almost using the weekly/weakly method mentioned by Nick Plummer ( This just makes sense). I kept it outdoors spring, summer, fall. And I fond it a vigorous growers easily double or triple in size within a year. Basically I found it no more difficult to grow-with some extra attention - than many other bulbs.
> 	Unfortunately the plant was done in by a freak  freeze - unforecast and unexpected, but part of MO weather. I can authoritatively say Worsleya cannot take even a single night of even a light freeze. 
> 	Basically I found it responded well to rocky substrate with very little organic matter and full sun. 
> 	If I could acquire another seedling again without breaking the bank, I'd do it in a minute. 
> 	As a slight after note, I do recommend that all interested Worsleya growers seek out these old pubs. They are filled with great info and pix. 
> 	And as a second after note, Worsleya did not seem like a 'prima donna' or a weak wimp, but a sturdy good growing plant. 		
> 		My 2 cents and get growing.		Jim W. 
> _______________________________________________

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