Lachenalia and Virus

Mary Sue Ittner
Mon, 03 Mar 2003 09:10:46 PST
Dear Jim,

I grew Lachenalias in my raised bed for years here in Northern California. 
In 1990 (December) we had what we called "The Arctic Freeze". We were 
unusually dry for that time of the year and it hadn't been cold yet when a 
cold spell came in from the north. We got to 19 degrees (-7 C.). The ground 
froze and it remained cold for 3 days. It was a fantastic time for plumbers 
as most people did not have their water pipes well enough protected for 
such an event.

Most of my South African bulbs in that bed turned to mush although there 
were a few that put up second leaves in a month or so. The Lachenalias did 
not, but some of them came back in later years. Lachenalia viridiflora 
bloomed the next year before it disappeared.

Later I added new ones to that bed and found a number of them came back 
reliably and bloomed well: Lachenalia bulbifera, Lachenalia pustulata and 
Lachenalia aloides quadricolor were three with the latter being absolutely 
wonderful for a very long time in winter. I probably have pictures some 
where that I can add to the Wiki. In time L. bulbifera got a little out of 
hand and there were leaves everywhere, but not blooms. Last year the leaves 
on those Lachenalias looked virused so I took everything out of that bed. 
I'm not sure the origin of my virus. I once bought some Ornithogalum 
thyrsoides and added it to that bed and it very quickly started looking 
worse each year. So it got removed. And someone gave me some Lachenalia 
bulbs that were probably virused and he didn't know and I put some of them 
in that bed without quarantining them first.

I offer up these examples because I think they illustrate the virus 
problem. When I purchased those Ornithogalums I didn't know they were prone 
to virus and in the second year when the leaves looked a bit yellow I still 
didn't know. When I asked my friend whether he worried his Lachenalias were 
virused he said he thought that was the way those leaves were supposed to 
look.  When you live in a place where there is a lot of rain and winter 
hail, the leaves of bulbs in the ground do not continue to look pristine so 
it is hard to know what is the result of the weather. So Alberto's comments 
about looking at the plants as the leaves appear is an excellent point.

My Veltheimias sheltered from the heavy rain in containers look much better 
than those in the ground at this point, but when the leaves of those in the 
ground appeared they looked just fine.

I have lots of Lachenalias now that look very healthy I grew from seed and 
I will be trying some of them in the ground again or in new beds I will 
create. I think I wrote recently that L. mutabilis is blooming again in the 
ground (for the second year). But we haven't had a cold year. I am sure 
there are ones I could grow in raised beds. I'd need to look for species 
that could tolerate the wet as well as the cold however. And I might need 
to throw a blanket or frost cloth over them for a few days in a cold year.

There used to be a number of them on African Hill at the UC garden in 
Berkeley. Maybe Liz can tell us if they are still there.

Don Journet advised us that he could grow them in the ground where he lives 
in Australia if he positioned them to take advantage of protection from 
trees. I have the trees so can make some experiments.

Mary Sue

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