Oxalis question

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Thu, 26 Sep 2002 19:12:43 PDT
Dear Uli,

For two years I tried to get Oxalis bowiei you sent me to grow as you said 
it did in Germany. Twice I started it in April, but it didn't come up until 
September. The other South American/Mexican ones of uncertain name have 
started into growth in the spring and bloomed in the summer. But not this 
one. This year I didn't start O. bowiei until July and it came up in August 
and is blooming now. So in a Mediterranean climate he acts very much like a 
Mediterranean grower. It sounds like all the descriptions I have read of O. 
bowiei and looks like pictures I have seen too. So perhaps someone planted 
it in Mexico. Goldblatt and Manning's Cape Plants describes it as blooming 
from Mar to May which would fit with my experience of September to 
November. It is found from Port Elizabeth to the Eastern Cape so is not a 
winter rainfall species. Port Elizabeth as I understand it has year round 
rainfall and the Eastern Cape is mostly summer rainfall. If Rhoda is paying 
attention to this discussion I wonder if she knows of anyone who grows this 
in the Eastern Cape and if it behaves there like it does for Uli.

I purchased the Oxalis brasiliensis at a NARGS winter study meeting in San 
Francisco from Siskiyou Rare Plants. I never had a clue how to treat it. It 
didn't bloom that year, but did bloom the next year in April and May after 
coming up in November. This past year it came up in October and again 
bloomed in April and May so that seems to be its pattern. One pot had just 
recently lost its last leaf so with water it obviously has a short 
dormancy. I am grateful to you and Robin for explaining what looked like a 
tuber was perhaps an annual root. Maybe if I had left it longer before 
unpotting that part would have dried up.

Michael Vassar gave a very interesting talk at the IBS meeting in Pasadena. 
It was different than the one he gave in San Francisco. He said what Diana 
said about the plants not always looking the same from year to year and I 
have noticed that some of the descriptions of the plants that Mike Mace 
gave me from Michael Vassar don't quite fit so maybe that is why. He also 
stressed not to fertilize the plants or they would become lanky. Last year 
in response I didn't fertilize my plants and I don't think they flowered as 
well. So I don't know if they didn't bloom as well without fertilizer or 
just that I started them later than they would like. Michael stressed how 
they like to be moist or they will go dormant. He plants them in mostly 
sand so in dry Southern California must be watering them all the time.

I must say that when Mike Mace and then Andrew Wilson (who is not on this 
forum since the rodents wiped out most of his bulb collection in the 
southern California drought of last year) raved about Oxalis, I found it 
hard to believe. I decided to buy a few from Telos. Then Mike gave me quite 
a few too (which I have since shared with others) and I don't think they 
were exaggerating about them at all! They really do cure the winter blues 
and when it is overcast and cold I bring them inside and the flowers often 
open in the warmer temperatures.

After Robin raised the question of whether the Oxalis zeekoevleyensis that 
some of us were growing was really that or something else I looked it up in 
Cape Plants. It clearly states that O. z. blooms from June to August in 
South Africa so it would seem strange for it to be blooming in the fall in 
the Northern hemisphere. Since there are 500 species of Oxalis it would 
seem daunting to try to figure out mistakes.

Mary Sue

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