IBSA Symposium 2003/Vist to South Africa TOW

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Tue, 30 Sep 2003 16:35:28 PDT
Dear All,

This year the South African winter rain fall area has been very dry. Right 
before the IBSA Symposium they had rain and snow and while we were there 
they continued to have a little rain and have had some since we returned. 
But in Namaqualand, the West Coast, and some of the areas where my husband 
and I saw flowers in abundance on our last trip there were few flowers this 
year. Reports were that bulbs in the areas with so little rainfall just sat 
the year out. We always worry when our bulbs do that so it is good to 
remember that it happens in the wild.

This made it very difficult for the organizers of the Symposium who had 
planned to take us to see flowers in areas close to where we were staying 
as they just weren't blooming at the right time. I understand some have 
bloomed since. So they had to scramble to find places to take us. Two large 
buses were rented and the first day we traveled to Swellendam to a farm 
where we had permission to look for flowers. We spent a lot more time on 
the bus than anticipated but both days I was lucky to have interesting 
travel companions. The views out the window in spite of the drought looked 
very beautiful. There was snow on the mountains and there were swatches of 
color: green, yellow from farm lands. South Africa is a very beautiful 
country I think.

The sun was out and once we arrived and started walking it felt warmer 
outside than it had in the previous two days. We got very excited as we 
found our first bulbs. One of the first was Laperiousa pyramidalis. We saw 
this one over and over again while we were there. We also saw Gladiolus 
carinatus, Moraea miniata and tripetala, Oxalis obtusa, Oxalis purpurea, 
a  succulent Oxalis with purple flowers, a couple Romuleas, some nice 
orchids, a white Geissorhiza, etc. Rhoda McMaster helped my understand the 
difference between Geissorhiza and Hesperantha. In Hesperantha the style 
divides at the base of the flower or below and in Geissorhiza the style 
extends upward and divides higher up. After she clarified this we could at 
least say we were seeing Geissoriza sp. or Hesperantha sp. for all those 
white ones that sometimes had pink or brown markings on the back.

I have in my notes we saw Moraea fergusoniae and Gladiolus permeabilis. 
Since those aren't species that I knew before it will be interesting to 
look at our pictures and see how well they fit with the descriptions. There 
was enough room for people to fan out and explore on their own. Some of the 
people I never saw once we got off the bus as they moved more quickly. A 
new friend I made from South Africa who doesn't grow bulbs was fascinated 
by the conversations about what we were seeing (since there wasn't always 
agreement.) People pointed out special finds. Some of the best flowers got 
photographed by a line of people, often lying in strange positions to get 
the best shot. I was pleased when Pat Victor went out of her way to back 
track to find me to show me a natural Oxalis "rock garden" overlooking the 
river. Those people who went the farthest came back exclaiming over a 
Gladiolus tristis they saw leaning over the cliff near the river.

The following day we went to Hermanus. This was another long trip on the 
bus. Hermanus has whales and they were present. It also has the Fernkloof 
Nature Reserve and after we looked at ferns we drove there. Fernkloof has 
fynbos vegetation so we saw Proteas, Ericas, and Restios. We didn't see a 
lot of bulbs here, but did find one Gladiolus hirsutus that everyone 
photographed and a couple of other things.  We had lovely walks through the 
preserve after lunch. On the way back to the Spa we stopped a number of 
times along the road when someone spotted flowers blooming and I think 
everyone appreciated that opportunity and while the bus drivers waited we 
jumped out of the bus to see what we could find. Both buses didn't stop at 
the same places so we saw different things. We found a field of Gladiolus 
abbreviatus. Since we weren't expecting a lot even this plant which I'd say 
is one of those kindly called, "collector's items" was exciting. Their were 
some pretty Romuleas and a Babiana that most people thought was purpurea. 
And of course there were Oxalis including some that had wonderful large 
leaves that reminded me of strawberries and were not blooming. And we saw 
our first Watsonias about the time I ran out of film. The light was really 
low by then I reassured myself and I probably wouldn't have gotten much of 
a picture. Luckily I saw Watsonias in bloom many times after that.

The final day we went to the Worcester Botanical Garden. This wasn't such a 
long trip. A lot of people were leaving at noon so they decided rather than 
to rent buses to just pile into private cars. This is a dry area and the 
garden has a lot of succulents. We were lucky to be allowed to view the 
private bulb and succulent collections. There were a lot of Oxalis pots 
that attracted my attention. As I looked at them closely there were many 
different leaves in the same pot and I began to understand that we may be 
lucky ours don't reseed. I think sorting out all these pots (as there were 
a lot of them) would be quite a job. We were told they planned to plant 
many of them out in the garden. Since some of us have discovered except for 
the weedy ones Oxalis planted out in our gardens haven't done well, it will 
be interesting to hear how these do.

There were other series of plastic pots, but the majority of the bulbs were 
planted in large concrete deep planters where the bulbs have a deep root 
run and where soil temperatures are very constant. The concrete is divided 
into sections with different species in each and they are numbered. I'm not 
sure I am explaining this very well so I posted two pictures to the wiki:

The man who is in charge and who was talking to us said that the bulbs were 
really responding well to this new planting and were growing much better 
than in pots. This was especially true of the Amaryllids. You can see some 
nice leaves in the second picture. What they are finding however is that 
some of them are increasing so rapidly they need dividing. It didn't seem 
to me that with this design it would be especially easy to divide them or 
transplant them once planted. He thought ultimately they would be able to 
grow bulbs better there than at Kirstenbosch. They don't have so much rain 
so could control the moisture I'd expect.

A lot of the South African delegates purchased plants here. They looked 
through the containers that were for sale and often found bonuses that they 
valued more than the plant they were purchasing in the same pot. My husband 
who loves to take pictures of signs found a picture of a Lachenalia that 
was for sale marked Cape Cows Lips.

The Symposium ended after lunch. My husband and I, Patty Colville, and Lauw 
de Jager spent the afternoon exploring on our own with suggestions about 
where to go. We explored an area that had been burned first (always a good 
choice) and found more Moraeas, Albucas, more of that same Lapeirousia, and 
Lachenalia orchiodes (which we also saw repeatedly). We got our first 
practice climbing between the barb wired fences and trying to step 
carefully so we didn't end up with black streaks on our pants. We saw 
Moraea gawleri here which Bob and I saw often in shades of orange and yellow.

At Tulbagh we found some beautiful red Babiana villosa near a cemetery. We 
found some pretty Romuleas and Lauw removed his shoes to wade in the water 
to get a better photo of Spiloxene aquatic. As we returned we found a small 
section of land where the roads crossed that we had been told about but 
missed on the way that had Lachenalias and Oxalis in bloom. The whole patch 
was solid flowers.  This might have been Lachenalia longibracteata. The 
International delegates had become quite friendly and a number of us 
weren't quite ready to say goodbye so thirteen of us arranged to meet one 
more time for dinner in Worcester.

For me the Symposium was a great success. I learned a lot, saw some 
interesting plants, but most of all I appreciated talking to fellow bulb 
enthusiasts. Thursday night was scheduled to be the farewell dinner and the 
local delegates were encouraged to attend and many of them did. At the 
dinner the noise level was very high. If you looked around the room you saw 
a lot of happy people very engaged in conversation. IBSA is considering 
sponsoring another Symposium in 2-4 years and I highly recommend this to 
anyone who is interested in South African bulbs.

I'll continue to share throughout the week about our trip to South Africa 
and some of the talks, but won't some of the rest of you who are on this 
list who attended please say something! Shelley, Patty, Stefan, Audrey, 
Rhoda, Allan, Alan, Nico, Malcolm, Chris, Jim, Dawie please. Rachel is out 
seed collecting and Lauw has already written. Won't a few of you at least 
help me out here.

Mary Sue

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