Ipheion and Nothoscordums

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Fri, 02 Aug 2002 20:04:23 PDT
Dear All,

Alberto Castillo has recently posted some very interesting information 
about these subjects. He has given me permission to share it with this 
group. I know that some of us are on both the Australian Bulb Society list 
and this list and this will be a repeat of information on that list so 
joint members can disregard the rest of this.

"Several plants we have known as Ipheions are now regarded as belonging to 
Nothoscordum. Thus, "Ipheion sellowianum" is now  Nothoscordum felipponei. 
("Charlotte Bishop" remains Ipheion uniflorum "Charlotte Bishop") It is 
interesting that many of these South American winter growers are grown like 
Cape bulbs. Actually, they grow in soils that are clayey , slightly acid 
and rich in organic matter. They are always found in full sun and usually 
on higher ground in rolling country. They experience slight frosts during 
winter, often every night but during the day
temperatures are above 10 C. Thus, they may be hardier than many Cape 
bulbs. They receive rainfall the year round, even when they are dormant in 

The only dryish month is February, and this is the equivalent of a "dry 
summer" for these bulbs from the pampas. With the first rains of March it 
is that Rhodophiala bifida and a number of Habranthus and Zephyranthes 
bloom profusely often before foliage appearance. It is seldom mentioned 
that most of these bulbs and the other several Ipheions and Nothoscordums have
perennial roots (like amaryllids or Liliums). This is very important as 
most growers treat them like Cape bulbs and give them a thoroughly dry 
summer dormancy which makes the bulbs lose their roots. They must therefore 
replace them annually with the obvious loss of energy. A suggestion for hot 
Australian climate is that in December the pot be taken to a shady spot 
where some moisture will be retained in the mix. I do not recommend leaving 
the pots in full sun and water the dormant bulbs as the combination of 
extreme heat and moisture may bring a bacterial or fungus disease up.

Remember that in the wild they are never so hot in summer as in a pot. I 
must mention that bulbs of "Ipheion sellowianum" are found 5 cm. deep in 
the wild (from the surface of the soil to the "shoulder" of the bulb). 
Offsets are seldom found in the wild. Rainfall in the past have been 900 mm 
a year, to give you an idea, but now it is 1,800 mm a year (so much for global
warming!). This change has taken place in some 4 years only. I mention this 
because agriculture is no longer feasible in lower ground (too wet) and 
landowners are therefore forced to plow the land in higher ground only. 
Because of this it is very difficult to find these bulbs in the wild now.

Perhaps they may become endangered in the years to come (although they have 
never been over abundant because of agriculture).

And then I asked
Dear Alberto,

Thanks for your interesting remarks about these South American bulbs. It is 
always helpful to learn more about the habitat. I am also happy to learn 
about the name as I had understood the Ipheions that were considered 
Nothoscordums had the same species name. What about
Nothoscordum  dialystemon (syn. Ipheion dialystemon). Does it retain the 
species name?

I think these two yellow Nothoscordums are super plants. I got mine as a 
gift from Bill Dijk in New Zealand and Murray Cubis in Australia and have 
turned them around to this hemisphere and California conditions where they 
have grown well. I have since been able to share them with others too. I 
was told they might need a warmer summer than they would get in our coastal
climate and after what you wrote I am wondering if that is so. I had moved 
them to my greenhouse, but maybe I don't need to do that. It has been in 
the 50 ties (10-14 degrees C.) most nights and lately rarely above 19 to 20 
during the day (although we have had a few hot days this summer.) It will 
probably get warmer this fall.

I have noticed that Ipheion 'Rolf Fieldler' is already shooting out as 
well. Maybe the cooler temperatures have fooled it. Has anyone figured out 
about this plant, whether it is a hybrid or what it is?

Alberto responded:

"Good to know that you like Ipheions and Nothoscordums so much. They are 
fantastic bulbs indeed. I mentioned the rainfall amounts so you can add the 
extra watering up to the average 900 mm.
   They never set seed in cultivation because most probably all of you are 
distributing a single clone. They are strongly self incompatible. In the 
wild they propagate through seed and most times you find only single bulbs. 
It is curious that the capsules once formed bury themselves into the ground 
and for this the stem bends and forces the capsule down. When the seed ripen
the capsule (almost completely buried) turns yellow and burst open to shed 
the seed. These germinate together and you can see a tuft of grass like 
seedlings there. It is a puzzle why Nature wastes plants this way as it is 
obvious most won't survive.

  As for the names, the current ones are
Ipheion vittatum is Nothoscordum vittatum
Ipheion sellowianum is N. felipponei
Ipheion hirtellum is N. hirtellum
Ipheion sessile in cultivation is Ipheion recurvifolium
Ipheion sessile true is a Chilean species not in cultivation
Ipheion 'Rolf Fiedler' is an undescribed species of Ipheion, tender, and
different than I uniflorum. It also offsets in a different way than I.
                                        They all grow well in the warmer
areas of California from the Bay Area south. In cooler locations they must
receive extra heat during the summer, Mary Sue. In the wild summer
temperatures are above 28 C for some three months. My remarks were for hot
Australia, where summers are long and dry. In S. California I saw these
plants and they lose character in the dry hot summer. Here in the pampas the
air is humid the year round, over 70% is common."

First of all, the problem of name changes is A problem in that most are 
here to stay. And nurseries, mags, books and the web most often adopt them, 
therefore there is no way to ignore

Nothoscordum dialystemon (ex Ipheion dialystemon) seems to be a form of N. 
felipponei (ex Ipheion sellowianum) with eight tepals instead of the normal 
six and offsetting fairly well. It flowers from Aug. 17th on in the wild. 
It grows in full sun  in a strange kind of soil, like a beige powder. It 
receives a lot of cold during winter , even - 8 C frosts. But also a lot of
sun and a long hot dormancy with the rainfall distributed as mentioned 
before. The flowers have a silky texture.I would suggest watering them well 
during their flowering season.

"Froyle Mill" is a form of Ipheion uniflorum. This species grows on 
hilltops here in E Argentina and in Uruguay. Soils are alkaline, very rich 
in organic matter and formed from decomposed rock. It grows in full sun and 
has the same rainfall pattern as mentioned before It is in flower from July 
to October here. Their season has started now. It receives cold wind and 
frosts in winter, I would say -12 C in the south of its distribution.  It 
is very variable, from tiny miniatures
5 cm tall in flower to giants like my namesake. Here in the collection we 
have a dozen or so hybrids, some of them really stunning. To avoid the 
problem of overpotting be sure the drainage holes are on the pots' sides.


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