Thanks to John Bryan for this interesting Introduction to my next to the last Topic of the Week MSI Dear all, The first time I saw Ferraria in flower, was on a visit to Cape Point right next to the Cape of Good Hope. It was in early October, and while the masses of color in this area of other flowers were fantastic, at the first sighting of Ferraria crispa I was amazed and awed. The pattern of colors reminded me of those found in Paisley shawls, which happened to be the favorite patterns of my mother. I wondered if, when she lived in South Africa during the English winters, she had ever seen this species. The flowers were some 2 inches in diameter, and while there are only two or three open at the time, I wondered why I had never seen this species in flower before in one of the botanic gardens in Europe. After all it was introduced into cultivation way back in 1755. Velvety textured brownish purple with V shaped markings of greenish white in the center with the tips of the petals slightly recurved with the margins very crisped. A magnificent combination of colors and while the petals were quite thick, it had a delicateness about it that added to its beauty. The brown stigma is much dissected at the tip, with a tube formed by the anthers surrounding the lower part. The leaves reminded me of the Ice plant we often see along our freeways in California. The leaves are some 12 inches in length, overlapping, often a little shorter on the stem and those under the flowers almost bract like. There are some 11 species of Ferraria which is in Iridaceae and they were named in honor of Giovannia Battista Ferrari (1584-1655) the Italian Botanist who first described this genus. The majority of the species are dwarf, and the basal leaves are larger than the others all clasping the stem, almost as if protecting it. The flowers in the genus are mostly brown, green or purple and are mottled or spotted. F. crispa subsp nortierii has flowers which are more yellow spotted brown which color is also found along the edges of the petals. The rootstock is a corm, and these do not have a tunic and are often, to the eye, misshapen. They need full sun, should be planted quite deeply, some 4-6 inches in well drained soil, but should be grown with other plants and seemingly prefer to be close to rocks, where no doubt they appreciate the additional moisture in the early summer. They do require good moisture in early to late spring and into the summer, then they like to have warm soil so that by fall they are warm and dry. Unless the soil is poor, no feeding is necessary. Of the species, perhaps F. divaricata, native to southern Namibia and the Northern and Western Cape deserves greater attention. But as is the case with other species, this is not hardy and will not (to my knowledge) withstand any frost. The basal leaves are spreading; other leaves do not cover the stem as much as in other species. The flowers are green with triangular brown markings and the lower portions of the petals are quite erect forming a small cup in the center of the flower. The petals become almost horizontal, but the flowers are not at all long lasting. The height is some 14 to 18 inches, not unlike the majority of the species. F. ferrariola has unbranched stems spotted purple, the petals dull greenish at the margins spotted purple, very crisped along their edges. This species has a sweet fragrance unlike so many others which are fetid, and in the wild it flowers in winter, June to September where it can be found in S. Namaqualand and Vredenburg in the Western Cape. It is not the most attractive species but if used in any breeding program might pass along its fragrance, an advantage to be sure. F. foliosa has purple to maroon flowers and flowers in very early summer or late spring. F. glutinosa has flowers which are brown, maroon or deep purple, and is found in southern tropical Africa, in Botswana and Namibia, flowering in the summer months. F. uncinata was introduced in 1825. The 10 inch stems are branched, and the leaves exceed the stems. The petals are held horizontally with the edges curling downwards the color is a rather lackluster blue to yellowish orange at the tips which curl upwards, the remainder of the flower being greenish with blue blotches, a most unusual combination! This species seems to thrive in sandy soil and quite possibly has a use in sand dunes in warmer climates. All of the species seem to have no objection to salt sea spray. Will anyone undertake breeding ferrarias? Perhaps not, but the fascinating color combinations and patterns are, once seen, never forgotten. I do not know how many people grow these remarkable plants, but they are worthy subjects for those appreciating unusual, and to me, remarkable flowers.