Micranthus

Micranthus is a cormous genus in the Iridaceae family with three species originating in the Cape Province of South Africa. This genus has small flowers in a spike that are blue, white, or purple. Growing mainly on sandstone soils, often in damp places, they mostly flower in early summer. This genus is visited by a variety of insects and is attractive to butterflies.


Micranthus alopecuroides grows from 25 to 40 cm high and has sword-shaped leaves and pale to deep blue flowers in two-ranked spikes. It is found on sandstone soils in the southwestern Cape. The first four photos were taken in habitat in the western Cape September 2006. The last photo is of corms on a 1 cm. grid of plants yet to flower. Photos by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller.

Micranthus alopecuroides, Mary Sue IttnerMicranthus alopecuroides, Mary Sue IttnerMicranthus alopecuroides, Mary Sue IttnerMicranthus alopecuroides, Bob RutemoellerMicranthus alopecuroides corms, Mary Sue Ittner

Micranthus junceus has slender hollow and terete leaves and usually dark blue flowers. It grows on wet, seasonally marshy sites on granite or sandstone soils in a broader range (Bokkeveld Mountains to Riversdale.) The first two photos by Cameron McMaster were taken in the Overberg. The last three photos were taken by Andrew Harvie near Tulbagh.

Micranthus junceus, Cameron McMasterMicranthus junceus, Napier, Cameron McMasterMicranthus junceus, Tulbagh, Andrew HarvieMicranthus junceus, Tulbagh, Andrew HarvieMicranthus junceus, Tulbagh, Andrew Harvie

Photographs by M.Gastil-Buhl show seed acquired from Silverhill Seeds before and after germination. Seed germinated in 8 days (photo 2) to over a month (photo 3) on damp filter papers in a closed dish at warm day and cold night temperatures (approximately 60-75 °F day and 35-45 °F night). I soaked the seeds in smoke water, which stained the filter paper pink. Photo 3 on a 1 mm grid shows sprouts ready to plant. These seeds are thin and difficult to handle. I would recommend direct sowing, not filter papers.

Micranthus junceus seed, M. Gastil-BuhlMicranthus junceus seed, M. Gastil-BuhlMicranthus junceus seed, M. Gastil-Buhl

Micranthus tubulosus grows on clay and granitic soils in renosterveld in the northwest and southwest Cape. Flowers in two ranked spikes are blue to mauve and fragrant. Leaves are tubular and hollow. Photos below were contributed by the UC Botanical Garden.

Micranthus tubulosus, UC Botanical GardenMicranthus tubulosus, UC Botanical GardenMicranthus tubulosus, UC Botanical Garden

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Page last modified on March 12, 2013, at 08:55 AM