Schizostylis/Hesperantha a confused genus--TOW

Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 19 Feb 2003 15:05:22 PST
Dear All,

There hasn't been much response to Alan's Topic of the week, 

I remembered reading about the change from Schizostylis to Hesperantha in 
an old IBSA Bulletin  and have found the reference in Bulletin No. 46 (July 
"In NOVON vol 6 no. 3 (1996) Drs Goldblatt and Manning sank Schizostylis 
coccinea into Hesperantha as Hesperantha coccinea on the grounds that the 
reversion to a rhizome was no more than an adaptation to a wet habitat and 
the long tubed red flower was to cater for its pollinator Aeropetes 
tulbaghia. Both adaptations are not uncommon in the Iridaceae: Ixioideae. 
There being no other morphological distinction between Schizostylis and 
Hesperantha, there seems to be no good reason for maintaining a 
monospecific genus. This is in line with the modern trend to discourage 
monospecifics which apart from environmental (even if visually obvious) 
adaptations, do not differ essentially from established and multi-specific 
genera." I think Jane is correct that for the most part nurseries in the US 
are staying with the old name however.

My Ortho book indicates that Schizostylis can only easily be naturalized in 
the warmer parts of the U.S: central to southern California, Arizona, south 
Texas, and the southern sections of other southern states in the U.S. 
Presumably it can also be grown in Australia.

I find this geographical distribution interesting since it includes areas 
where rain is in winter and summers are dry and areas that are hot and 
humid with summer rainfall.

My experience has been that if Schizostylis (Hesperantha) coccinea is 
planted in my part of Northern California in an area with regular summer 
irrigation no doubt closer to its stream bed origins in Eastern South 
Africa, it thrives and can even be a bit invasive. If however it gets 
infrequent summer water like most of my garden, it dwindles away. I think 
it can tolerate winter wet just fine, but doesn't like long dry periods. In 
my garden it has not adapted back from its rhizome to a corm. It can be 
quite striking when in bloom and I see it used in irrigated gardens, but I 
don't have many plants left. Every now and then a remmant from the past 
surprises me with a bloom. I am sure I had what were cultivars and I am 
sorry to say I'm not sure I kept track of their names although I think Miss 
Hegarty was one of them.

I confess to knowing very little about how dna is used except that it often 
leads to plants that I have finally learned to identify being renamed but I 
am very intrigued with someone thinking they could tell the difference 
between cultivars using this method. I guess I always assumed that 
cultivars would all have the same dna as they would be the same species.

Alan, do you find any difference in the requirements or hardiness of any of 
the cultivars you are growing? Do you find they behave differently in any 
way? What are you looking at when you tell them apart?

Who else grows this species? Can we extend it's range from what Ortho predicts?

Finally I created a Hesperantha page on the Wiki. I couldn't find any 
pictures of Schizostylis (Hesperantha coccinea) in my quick search through 
my photographs although I know I have some. So the photographs I have 
placed there are winter growing species with corms. Hesperantha erecta and 
H. cucullata are blooming now for me.…

Mary Sue

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