Haemanthus--TOW (continued)

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Mon, 06 Dec 2004 07:19:12 PST
Here is the rest of the Haemanthus introduction:

Dr Snijman has classified Haemanthus into four groups of closely allied 
H. humilis Group
1. H. humilis Jacq.
2. H. carneus Ker Gawler
3. H. montanus Baker
4. H. avasmontanus Dinter

H. crispus group
5. H. crispus Snijman
6. H. barkerae Snijman
7. H. tristis Snijman
8. H. namaquensis R.A. Dyer

H. albiflos group
9. H. albiflos Jacq.
10. H. deformis Hook f.
11. H. pauculifolius Snijman

H. coccineus group
12. H. sanguineus Jacq.
13. H. canaliculatus Levyns
14. H. pumilio Jacq.
15. H. lanceifolius Jacq.
16. H. amarylloides Jacq.
17. H. graniticus Snijman
18. H. nortieri Isaac
19. H. coccineus L.
20. H. dasyphyllus Snijman
21. H. unifoliatus Snijman
22. H. pubescens L.f.

The Haemanthus humilis group, which are summer rainfall species, flower 
from mid summer. Haemanthus avasmontanus is known from the type specimens 
only, collected from the Auasberge, south east of Windhoek in central 
Namibia. The winter rainfall species, which include both the H crispus and 
H. coccineus groups flower in autumn. A number of species in the winter 
rainfall region are locally endemic and under considerable threat. The most 
notable of these are H. tristis, H canaliculatus, H. pumilio and H. 
lanceifolius. The H. albiflos group are evergreen and flower in winter or 
early spring.
My personal experience of Haemanthus is confined largely to the summer 
rainfall species, and more specifically to those which occur in the Eastern 
Cape. My observations of Haemanthus in the Eastern Cape were published in 
the September 2004 edition of Veld and Flora, the organ of the South 
African Botanical Society.

I have been fascinated by the variability of local populations, 
particularly of the H. humilis humilis group which occur over a wide range 
of habitats. H. humilis is widespread but occurs in isolated and localised 
populations in specialised habitats, which is probably the reason for the 
variation between populations. The most spectacular form is one we call 
"Giant" which we observed with binoculars growing on a steep cliff in full 
shade on the opposite bank of the Great Kei River. I had to swim the river 
and scale the cliff to get seed, and now have a well established population 
in the nursery as a seed source and bulbs of various ages for sale. It has 
leaves as large as 60cm in diameter and it has an enormous flower head. In 
sharp contrast is a miniature form growing near King Williams Town with 
tiny flower heads on stems less than 20cm in height, which we call "Dwarf". 
Two other noteworthy variations of H. humilis in the Eastern Cape are an 
early flowering form from the Graaff Reinet area of the central Karoo. This 
form has small cerise flowers with bright yellow stamens  very, very 
attractive. We have also collected seed from a pure white form with 
pubescent leaves growing in Acacia thicket in the Stutterheim district  of 
which we now have stock.
Closely allied to H. humilis is the enigmatic H. carneus known from only a 
very few disjunct populations. This rare species flowers in January and is 
distinguished by a looser, widely spreading umbel and stamens included well 
within the perianth, the only known Haemanthus with this feature. It has 
the same growth pattern as H. humilis, with leaves emerging just after the 
flowers and persisting to late spring. It occurs in Acacia thicket and 
grassland on a mountain near Somerset East. One wonders whether H. carneus 
should be considered separate from H. humilis on the basis of the small 
difference mentioned above. What confuses the issue is a further form which 
occurs some 40km further west on Bruintjieshoogte, which has stamens the 
same length as the perianth tube, a feature shared by the white form of H. 
humilis from Stutterheim mentioned above. These seem to be intermediate 
between H. carneus and H. humilis. Isolated populations of Haemanthus with 
included stamens occurring near Escourt in Natal and near Jagersfontain in 
the Free State, have been attributed to H. carneus. Charles Craib writing 
in IBSA Bulletin No. 48 (1999) expressing the same reservation, also 
queried this distinction, basing his query on the fact that populations of 
H. carneus and H. humilis hirsutus occur near to each other in identical 
habitats near Estcourt. Dr Snijman, commenting in the same publication 
suggests that the shorter stamens of H. carneus could be an adaptation to 
exploit a different pollinator to H. humilis, and that should this be the 
case, it is possible that two taxanomic entities might be reproductively 
isolated in the wild  despite their shared physical habitats and close 
geographic proximity to one another.

Haemanthus montanus occurs in isolated local populations from the Eastern 
Cape northwards. The Bedford district is probably its most southern 
extremity. H. montanus grows in small areas of poorly drained shallow soil 
with an impervious substratum. It completes its annual cycle in four to 
five months, the period during which its fairly hostile habitat remains 
moist. It occurs in dense stands, the large cream flowers appearing from 
December to January, rapidly followed by two upright leaves. The seed 
ripens by mid-February and germinates rapidly around the parent plants. The 
leaves dry off and blow away by the end of May when all signs of the bulb 
population have vanished.

The most widespread Haemanthus in the Eastern Cape is H. albiflos which is 
amazingly adaptive and versatile in its habitat. It is a particularly 
desirable and easy to grow garden subject and is also suitable as a ground 
cover in areas of semi-shade. It is equally at home in deep shade on forest 
floors, on rocky sea shores exposed to salt spray, in coastal dune forest, 
on cliff faces in hot river valleys where it clings in large clumps to 
crevasses in full sun, and in shady places on high altitude inland mountain 
ranges. It is evergreen and multiplies vegetatively, as well as from seed. 
The attractive white flowers appear in May and the ripe seeds are carried 
in equally attractive clusters of scarlet fruit.

It is very surprising to find the West Cape species, H. coccineus, which 
flowers in autumn, occurring as far east as the Keiskamma River valley near 
Hamburg It grows here in Valley Thicket vegetation together with a small 
form of H. albiflos which flowers in winter, so they don't hybridize. H. 
coccineus occurs from here, a summer rainfall region, westwards through the 
winter rainfall region of the Western Cape and up to the arid regions of 
Namaqualand and Namibia, an enormous range of 2000+ kilometers and climate 
variation! The flower stems can be reddish, or blotched with red. and the 
leaves have varying degrees of stripes and dots on the underside.

Recently we moved to Napier in the Western Cape where H. coccineus and H. 
sanguineus grow in the wild. Both species have very similar flowers and 
occur in the same habitats. They are only easily distinguishable by the 
leaves, and since they bloom before leaves emerge, it is sometimes a puzzle 
to be sure of the species. In contrast to H coccineus, H. sanguineus has 
tough, leathery leaves, rounder in shape with a distinct reddish margin and 
always flat on the ground. There are no markings on the underside of the 
Haemanthus are easy to propagate from seed. Seed will germinate soon after 
ripening but germination can be retarded by keeping it in a fridge. Sowing 
of seed is easiest after a strong radicle has formed, when they can be 
placed in rows in a seed box of well drained seedling mix with the radicle 
in the soil and the seed on the surface. Water sparingly but do not allow 
the seed box to dry out. Leaves form rapidly. Most species retain their 
leaves for the first year. Seedling bulbs can be kept in seed boxes for a 
year or two after which they should be transferred to individual 
containers. The secret is well drained soil rich in organic matter. Winter 
rainfall species should be kept dry in summer and only watered again when 
growing season commences in late summer. Summer rainfall species are more 
tolerant of watering all year round and should not be allowed to dry out 
completely in their dormant phase. Evergreen species should be kept moist 
all year round. Species from high altitudes such as H. humilis, H. carneus 
and H. montanus should be fairly hardy and are able to tolerate 5 to 6 
degrees of frost.

We have found H. albiflos, H. coccineus and H. humilis "Giant" the easiest 
to propagate and fastest growers. While not difficult to cultivate, other 
species are rather slower to develop. It will be interesting to have 
comments from other growers concerning their experience in propagating 
Haemanthus. The wonderful flowers that are eventually produced are ample 
reward for patience and care in growing them.
Cameron McMaster
africanbulbs at haznet.co.za

Please consult the Haemanthus wiki page to see photos of the species 
described in the introduction:

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