Summer growing Ferrarias

Started by Martin Bohnet, September 16, 2022, 11:55:05 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Martin Bohnet

Ever since I found out about them, I've been very intrigued about the central African summer growing Ferrarias - growing more like something from tribe Tigridieae, though of course without the pleated leaves. Originally treated as one species, Ferraria glutinosa, there are now 4 species accepted. Genetically, they seem basal to all the winter growers, forming subgenus Glutinoseae

from Bothalia 41,1: 1–40 (2011) Systematics and biology of the African genus Ferraria (Iridaceae:

1a Anthers with filament insertion in lower third and lobes parallel and usually contiguous above filament insertion when fully dehisced;
capsules globose- to ovoid-truncate or acute or beaked in one species; perianth with tepal claws usually forming a shallow cup and
bearing prominent nectaries 1/3to 1/2 as long as claw; stigmas minute, terminal on apices of style branch arms (subgen Glutinosae and
sect Ferraria):
   2a Upper internodes below flower clusters with sticky exudate; ovary ovoid, short, < 10 mm long; capsules ovoid to globose and truncate
(subgen Glutinosae):
     3a Leaves several (up to 8) in basal fan; rhipidia with outer spathe 1/3 to 1/4 as long as inner 2 F. candelabrum
     3b Leaves absent at base of flowering stem or 1–4 basal; rhipidia with outer spathe 1/3 to slightly more than 1/2 as long as inner:
         4a Flowers brown or dark purple, sometimes marked with yellow near tepal limb bases; tepal limbs often with buff to yellow margins; flowering plants usually with 1–4 basal foliage leaves, or foliage leaves reduced; filament column 8–11 mm long; flowering (Dec –)Jan –Mar (–May) 1 F. glutinosa
         4b Flowers yellow to buff, limbs sometimes speckled with brown, dark red, purple or dull green spots; tepal limb margins not contrasting in colour; flowering plants lacking foliage leaves at base and branches subtended by sheathing leaves without blades;
filament column 5 0–7 5 mm long; flowering (Sept –)Oct to Dec (–early Jan ):
              5a Tepal limbs speckled with dark colour and margins obviously crisped; style branch arms prominently fringed 4 F. welwitschii
              5b Tepal limbs uniformly yellow and margins plane or slightly undulate; style branch arms entire (not fringed) and arching outward
3 F. spithamea

Usually, my Ferraria welwitschii
Height: 30-45 cm (1-1.5 ft)
Flower Colors: yellow, brown, patterned
Flower Season: early summer
s flower in early summer and wilt until mid to late summer, having a quite short growth period and barely holding their size - they seem also self sterile, so I was halfway accepting to loose them, as my only source was Brexited away from me. This year though, there were no flowers in early summer, and the leaves are still fresh and green - and now there's a flower stalk, with flowers more substantial and noticeably darker than the early ones - compare picture 3 to the other ones. I really wonder what caused the change (suggestions welcome - the summer was hot and dry, something I'd expect to drive plants towards dormancy, not keeping them from it) - and sincerely hope they've gained substance through this. And of course I'm trying to microvwave them now.

Does anyone have any of the 4 summer species or know any source for them? My welwitschii is from Paul Christian /Rare Plants UK.
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)


Hello Martin,

Very interesting pictures! I do not grow these plants and was not even aware they existed, so I cannot help with material..... sorry. 

I would think that they are not sent into dormancy by hot weather, that is the mechanism which makes winter growing bulbs go dormant. But tropical summer growers are happy with warmth unless they are of high elevation habitats. Maybe you are lucky with seed set this season....

Bye for now 

Algarve, Portugal
350m elevation, frost free
Mediterranean Climate


Rareplants UK export to the EU.
I hope to receive some F. welwitschii bulbs in the next few days from another supplier who does not.

Seeds of at least one other summer-flowering species have been offered recently, probably glutinosa, although I cannot remember where, but probably Silverhill or Lifestyle, possibly one of the mainland European suppliers.