Ornithogalum--PBS TOW

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Thu, 05 Dec 2002 18:08:19 PST
Dear All,

Thank you Jane for your interesting discussion of the Ornithogalums you 
grow. Are the non South African ones also susceptible to virus?

I have grown a number of Ornithogalums from seed and sometimes have a hard 
time convincing them to break dormancy the second year. Do those of you who 
grow these from seed keep them dry during the first dormancy or water them 

Ornithogalum dubium (none of mine have looked virused) also chooses to stay 
underground some years. Paul Tyerman reported the same problem with his. 
They are sold so cheaply by the Nurseryman's Exchange one is tempted to 
treat them like annuals and buy new ones each year but I don't know if this 
would be risky if they are prone to virus.

I tossed all my Ornithogalum thyrsoides. I had planted them in a raised bed 
and they seemed to be splitting into smaller bulbs and not flowering well 
and the leaves looked questionable as well. I never fertilized and that may 
have been part of the problem. In Darling I saw this species in very wet 
sand and perhaps it needed more water too as it is a late bloomer after our 
rains have slowed down and I didn't always give it supplemental water. 
Alberto, how soon can you tell if you have virused plants? Please describe 
how they look. I assumed mine were as they were in that bed with the 
Lachenalias that got virused after a number of years of being quite wonderful.

Ornithogalum umbellatum brings to mind that what some people are delighted 
with (read the word naturalized), others think of as a pest (weed). My 
father-in-law despaired of getting rid of it in his San Francisco sandy 
garden and my husband made it clear I was never to plant it, but I remember 
a friend being thrilled in Midland Texas when it came back each year.

O arabicum I agree with Lauw is a very handsome plant. I have tried it two 
or three times in my gardens (Stockton and Gualala) and have never gotten 
it to last longer than a year or two at the most. I'm not sure why this is.

I hope someone will be able to answer Tom's questions. When seeing them in 
the wild in South Africa we too saw a similarity between Albucas and 
Ornithogalums. And I agree some of them had wonderful curling leaves.

We saw O. maculatum often in South Africa, usually in the rocks. It is very 
tiny in habitat and most of the time it was closed when we saw it as we 
just happened to see it on overcast and rainy days. It was attractive 
closed however, but so small that none of our pictures captured its charm. 
I have tried it a couple of times from seed, but never had any luck.

Mary Sue

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