Witsenia is a monotypic genus in the Iridaceae family from South Africa. It is one of three genera, along with Nivenia with 10 species and Klattia with 3 species that are referred to as South African woody irids. This fascinating and little studied group of plants can grow to be true shrubs producing thickened woody stems that arise from woody caudices. All have leaves in two ranks making stiff fans of foliage along flattened stems. This is one of the "related" genera which probably wouldn't be considered a bulb or a geophyte but is a monocot and certainly related with its woody caudex.

Witsenia maura is a plant of wetlands and fairly low elevation. It has large flowers (almost 2 in. long and over 3/8 in. wide) that remain closed with bright yellow, beak-like tips, a green zone which intensifies almost to black and then fades to yellow again at the base. The flowers are borne in conspicuous pairs that mature at the same time. The stigma protrudes from the tip like a snake's tongue. Photo of flowering at San Francisco State University by Dr. Bob Patterson.

Witsenia maura, Bob Patterson

Information furnished by Martin Grantham in his Introduction to Woody Irids when it was the topic of the week on the Pacific Bulb Society list in July of 2003.

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