David Fenwick
Mon, 07 Jul 2003 00:06:32 PDT
Dear Julian,
Many thanks for a very useful introduction to a very difficult genus, many
species I grow here are still yet to be identified. Most being species from
the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.

>>>>Albuca humilis -  May be cold-hardy.

Yes this plant is quite hardy, I have a collection of it that originated
from Sentinal Peak, South Africa. In its native haunts it will take up
to -15C, here it survives outdoors in a gravel bed with temps of -5C; as do
all the other species I grow which grow in clay pots outdoors.

Albuca shawii is however somewhat short-lived here in the ground and -5C may
be its lot.

I have 'lots' of seedlings of A. humilis growing on at the moment as this
species is very easy from seed. If there is interest in this one I'll donate
as many as are needed to the BX later in the year.

Has anyone flowered any of the Albuca Grimshaw and Linden collected in South
Africa a few yers ago ?

Best Wishes,


David Fenwick
NCCPG National Collection of Crocosmia with Chasmanthe and Tulbaghia
The African Garden
96 Wasdale Gardens

----- Original Message -----
From: "Julian Slade (by way of Mary Sue Ittner<>)"
To: "Pacific Bulb Society" <>
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2003 7:06 AM
Subject: [pbs] Albuca--TOW

> Albuca is a genus of 60 to 70 species belonging to the Hyacinthaceae
> to be precise in the subfamily Ornithogaloideae. It is apparently most
> closely related to Ornithogalum subgenus Osmyne (alternatively treated as
> genus Coilonox).
> All Albuca species grow from bulbs, and most have a dormancy period after
> flowering whereby they lose their leaves. The flower scape is, like almost
> all Hyacinthaceae, unbranched. Most species only produce one scape per
> growing season, although some, such as A. flaccida and A. maxima, may
> produce two or more; the tropical African species may produce scape after
> scape after scape in optimal conditions. The majority of species are
> winter-growers, mainly originating from the south-west Cape and northwards
> into Namaqualand, South Africa. The genus also extends into tropical
> and Arabia, where there are comparatively fewer species.
> The most characteristic feature of the genus is the shape of the flower.
> outer 3 tepals spread out like any normal flower, but the inner 3 stay
> or less closed. The general appearance is therefore somewhat like a
> (Galanthus). The flowers do come in a limited color range, white and
> through to green, but are usually embellished with a green stripe down the
> middle of each outer tepal. Some species also have the tips of the inner,
> closed tepals colored differently, either with white or bright yellow.
> Flowers are either presented in a nodding or drooping formation, or erect
> firm pedicels (flowerstalks). The tropical African species, on the other
> hand, have flowers on such short pedicels that the only position they can
> hold is sideways.
> Another interesting floral feature lies in the anthers (pollen sacs). In
> most species, three alternate anthers are noticeably different. They can
> slightly shorter but otherwise similar to the other three, or much smaller
> with limited if any pollen, through to minute remnants or even
> This feature is consistent within each species.
> Flowers of many species, mainly the white-flowered ones, lack scent, but
> many of the yellow- to green-flowered species have rich, pleasant
> always difficult to describe precisely.
> Based on the structure of the flowers, the genus can be subdivided into 4
> subgenera:
> Subgenus Pallastema has long and slender styles, and stamens that are
> arranged zygomorphically (much like in Lachenalia). The inner tepals tend
> be slightly outspread, and the outer tepals not opening as wide as in the
> other subgenera. This subgenus is tropical African.
> The other subgenera have thick styles, and stamens arranged
> actinomorphically (like in Scilla) but bunched close together due to the
> inner tepals being held more or less shut. Their distribution is biased
> towards the winter-rainfall area of South Africa, especially the western
> part. They are distinguished from each other solely in the structure of
> tips of the inner tepals: subgenus Albuca has thickened tips attached by a
> narrowed hinge; subgenus Mitrotepalum has thin hooded tips; and subgenus
> Falconera has thickened but unhinged tips.
> Knowing which subgenus a plant belongs to is the only way one can begin to
> correctly identify it!
> Although there is not a great diversity in the shape of the flowers, there
> is however a fascinating range of leaf form. Some species do admittedly
> rather uninteresting foliage, others have such unusual leaves that they
> could be grown as a foliage plant in their own right. Leaves can be
> boat-shaped, coiled into corkscrew shapes, or narrow and wavy like a
> slithering snake. Even some of the otherwise uninteresting species have
> unusual ornamentation on their leaves, the most frequent being numerous,
> small glands. These glands are like stubble with sticky tips, resulting in
> the leaves attracting dust and dirt, the occasional small insect and, in
> gardens, lint and hair!
> Some of the most noteworthy species are described below:
> Albuca abyssinica
> A member of subgenus Pallastema. Flowers yellowish with some green.
> Flowering any time of the year, particularly in summer. Evergreen to
> winter-deciduous. Several species, such as A. angolensis and A. melleri,
> now considered part of this species.
> Albuca clanwilliamigloria
> A member of subgenus Falconera. Flowers drooping, golden yellow, almost
> orange! Plants very tall, at around 6-7 feet (2 m). Bulb sometimes
> small bulblets. Flowering late winter to spring. Winter-growing,
> summer-dormant.
> Albuca flaccida
> A member of subgenus Albuca. Known for many years as A. canadensis -
> thankfully this absurd name has now been disallowed! Flowers yellowish
> green, nodding, strongly and pleasantly perfumed. Flowering late winter
> spring. Winter-growing, summer-dormant. This species produces copious seed
> which is easily dispersed by the wind, and has become naturalized in
> south-western Australia.
> Albuca hallii
> A member of subgenus Albuca. Leaves corkscrew-shaped, glandular. Flowers
> nodding, yellowish. A dwarf species, growing to only 4-6 inches (10-15 cm)
> tall. Unique among the winter-growers in flowering in autumn, often before
> the leaves have fully developed. Not in cultivation (yet!).
> Albuca humilis
> A member of subgenus Mitrotepalum. Flowers white with a green stripe which
> ages to brown, only 1 or 2 in number. Leaves few, very narrow. As its name
> implies, a dwarf plant, only about 4 inches (10 cm) high.
> Summer-growing/flowering, winter-dormant. May be cold-hardy.
> Albuca jacquinii
> A member of subgenus Falconera. Supposedly a 'form' of A. viscosa. Leaves
> narrow, glandular, corkscrewed at their tips, otherwise straight. Flowers
> bright yellow with a green stripe, nodding, rather dainty, strongly and
> sweetly perfumed. Flower scape quite slender, also glandular. Grows to
> 12 inches (30 cm) or more tall. Flowering late winter and early spring.
> Winter-growing, summer dormant. Has unusually small seeds for an Albuca.
> Albuca maxima
> A member of subgenus Albuca. Flowers white with a green stripe, nodding or
> drooping. Leaves somewhat succulent and rigid, deeply channeled, covered
> with a gray powdery bloom. Quite tall, 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m). Flowering
> winter and spring. Winter-growing, with a very short summer dormancy. This
> species also produces copious seed, and has reportedly become naturalized
> Italy. Formerly known as A. altissima.
> Albuca nelsonii
> A member of subgenus Mitrotepalum. Flowers erect, white with a green
> that becomes reddish-brown with age. Leaves evergreen, bright green,
> narrowly triangular, numerous. Bulb partially exposed above ground,
> multiplying rapidly. About 3-4 feet (90-120 cm) high. Flowering late
> and early summer. Sometimes incorrectly distributed as A. altissima.
> Albuca pendula
> A member of subgenus Pallastema. Flowers yellow-green. Notable in having
> extremely long (to 6 feet / 2 m), fairly broad, floppy leaves. In its
> Arabia it grows on cliff faces, where its leaves can dangle freely.
> Summer-growing.
> Albuca shawii
> A member of subgenus Falconera. Flowers yellow and green, nodding. Leaves
> narrow, glandular, reputedly smelling of aniseed when crushed!
> Summer-growing/flowering, winter dormant. A. trichophylla is synonymous.
> Albuca spiralis
> A member of subgenus Albuca. Flowers green with pale yellow margins,
> nodding. Sweetly scented, reportedly of butter and vanilla! Leaves narrow
> and glandular, wavy like a snake to spirally twisted. Flowering late
> to mid-spring. Winter-growing, summer-dormant.
> The winter-growing species are cultivated like any other Cape bulb, often
> with greater ease. Although Albuca maxima does appear to tolerate summer
> watering it, like all the winter-growing species, fare better kept dry but
> not hot in summer.
> Because most species rarely produce offsets, growing from seed is the best
> way to increase stocks, and is usually the only way to obtain most
> All species, however, are extremely easily raised from seed, sown at about
> the same time adult plants come into active growth. Fresh seed often
> germinate within a week of sowing, often with 100% germination. Seedlings
> usually flower in their third year.
> Julian Slade
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