Eriospermum is a genus of the family Eriospermaceae, loosely. There is conflicting evidence and certain authors have placed it into the families Ruscaceae, Convallariaceae or the expanded Asparagaceae. The name can be derived from Greek erion for "wool" and sperma for "seed". Indeed, this is true because the seeds of eriospermums are covered in a dense layer of white hairs. The genus is little understood taxonomy and many other ways. There are roughly a hundred species of this genus, many of which can be found in winter rainfall regions such as Namaqualand and the Little Karoo, South Africa. In Afrikaans it is called bobbejaanui. Cultivation of the genus depends on whether the species is from the winter or summer rainfall areas. Winter rainfall species should be treated similar to other geophytic plants of winter rainfall desert areas. A well drained mix is a must and fertilizing them sparingly keeps the plant happy. Seeds should be sown within a year or two. Seedlings should be kept moist throughout their first growing season and given a dose of light fertilizer monthly. They often flower in 3-5 years, depending on the species and growing conditions.
Eriospermum cooperi is a summer rainfall species found in rocky grassland and open scrub from the Eastern Cape, South Africa to Zimbabwe. It has a solitary erect leaf and white to pale green flowers and grows to 60 cm. The outer tepals are sometimes reddish brown. Photos from Alessandro Marinello.
Eriospermum corymbosum is a species found in many places in southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana). In South Africa it is found in arid areas of the Karoo, Eastern Cape and the Orange Free State in a variety of habitats. It has a small spherical tuber that is crowned with a dense ring of fine brown fibers, a solitary heart-shaped leaf (3.5 by 2 cm.) usually appearing after flowering, and a dense raceme of 6 to 30 pale to bright yellow flowers with a greenish-brown keel. This is a very tiny plant as shown in the pictures taken below in the rain on a rocky outcrop in Andriesberg, Eastern Cape, South Africa, early January 2010. There is a one rand coin to give an idea of how tiny this plant is. We saw a lot of leaves, but only managed to find one plant in bud and none with seed. Photos by Bob Rutemoeller.
Eriospermum paradoxum is an interesting species with leaves that are extremely dissected and fuzzy. It is a winter growing species. Plant grown and photographed by Jacob Uluwehi Knecht.
Eriospermum spp. The first photo below was taken by Nhu Nguyen at the UC Botanical Garden September 2008. It is a summer growing species. The second photo shows the mature "wooly" seeds of an unidentified species. The third photo shows an Amaryllis worm making a meal out of a leaf of an unidentified species. The second and third photos were taken by Cameron McMaster at Cathcart in February 2008.
These unidentified species were growing sheltered by rocks in the shade at Maclear. There are four species noted in the field guide for the Drakensberg. The second photo could be E. ornithogaloides which is described as having a heart shaped solitary leaf with red margins fringed with hairs and lying flat on the ground . Photos by Mary Sue Ittner.
Eriospermum zeyheri is native to South Africa. The first and second photo were taken in Cradock. The third photo was taken at Ecca Pass by Cameron McMaster January 2008.