Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 14 Jul 2004 07:50:02 PDT
Dear All,

I am hoping to hear from some other Gethyllis growers. Bob Werra's 
experience gives me hope I may be able to grow it but he has much hotter 
summers than I do even though we live in the same county. My first attempt 
at growing from seed was a bust, but I suspect I might not have watered 
enough being afraid that I'd over water them.

Gethyllis leaves got a lot of attention at the IBSA Symposium last August. 
There were always a lot of people clustering around the tables looking at 
them. I added pictures to the wiki of some of the ones we saw with cool 
spiraling leaves, hairy leaves, and spotted bases. Also there is a picture 
of the flowers of one species that Julian Slade provided so we know he is 
growing it successfully in Australia. Now we just need a picture of the 
fruit. I'd love to know which species that wonderfully hairy one is that 
Alan Horstmann grows.…

I find it very interesting that Bob Werra's leaves don't appear until 
January since so many leaves of South African bulbs appear in the fall and 
that seems late. Can anyone help him with his pollination question?

A number of us got together to do a group order from Gordon Summerfield so 
I purchased bulbs of Gethyllis linearis and G. verticillata last winter. 
The bulbs had an extended visit with USDA, but still arrived looking 
healthy even though they were very small. Gordon told us to pot all the 
Amaryllids up right away, but not to water them until they started to grow. 
I potted mine in March and by April there were green shoots and they have 
been growing ever since. I really worried about whether they would make it 
but most of them look just fine. If January is the usual time for leaves 
they weren't totally out of sync. I've been wondering when I need to try to 
make them go dormant. We are having a really cool summer (sorry for those 
of you who are sweltering) so perhaps they haven't figured out that it is 
summer yet.

Mary Sue

At 07:33 AM 7/12/04 -0700, you wrote:
>Dear All,
>A number of people have said I could reuse their introductions when I did 
>the topic of the week on another list for the topic of the week on this 
>list. So this week I am doing just that and repeating a fascinating 
>introduction on Gethyllis provided by Rachel Saunders in June 2000. This 
>must be the most amazing Amaryllid genus of them all. Does anyone in this 
>group grow Gethyllis? I had promised to share my notes on this genus from 
>the IBSA symposium last August and will do that some time this week. 
>Please tell us if you grow Gethyllis and what your experiences with it 
>have been.
>Mary Sue
>Gethyllis are found from Southern Namibia through to the Eastern Cape, with
>the largest number of species in the Nieuwoudtville Vanrhynsdorp area.
>There are about 32 species, and they are all probably winter growers.
>Unfortunately there is no revision of the genus - some work was done on them
>in 1986 by the Muller-Doblies, but this was published in German and is not
>easily accessible (or understandable!).
>The plants have true bulbs with thick fleshy roots.  These roots can be
>extremely long, particularly in the sand-growing species, and they can act
>as contractile organs, pulling the bulbs down deep into the soil.
>In autumn, the leaves emerge, and in most cases they are spirally twisted.
>There are exceptions - some species have straight leaves, and some have
>prostrate leaves.  Many are ciliate (hairy) and in most cases the leaves are
>extremely attractive.  Some species have a cataphyll or sheath at the base
>of the leaves, and these may be marked with speckles, they may have a rolled
>collar at the top, or they may have bristles along the top edge.  The
>cataphyll looks like a slender neck, with a bunch of leaves projecting from
>the top like an "afro" hair style!
>During the winter the bulbs grow, and in late spring or early summer, when
>the rainfall drops, the leaves begin to die back.  For the next few months,
>there is nothing to be seen of the bulbs at all, and one has no idea that
>the plants are even there.
>Suddenly in mid-summer, in the midst of the hot dry season, each mature bulb
>will send up a flower.  The flowers are extremely fragile looking and one
>wonders how they manage to break through the hard baked soil.  They are in
>shades of white to pink and are usually sweetly scented.  The ovary is
>inferior and lies below the ground in the neck of the bulb where it is
>protected from the heat.  In young bulbs, the flowers often have stamens but
>no style, presumably as a protective mechanism to prevent the immature plant
>from being fertilized.  There are no leaves during the flowering period, so
>all the nutrients and moisture must come from the stored resources in the
>bulb.  The flowers last from 2 to 5 days, depending on the temperature.  As
>each plant only produces one flower, it is essential that the whole
>population flowers at more or less the same time to ensure cross
>pollination.  It is thought that there must be some external stimulus which
>triggers the flowering mechanism - perhaps changes in atmospheric pressure?
>After cross-pollination, the ovary begins to swell, and about 3 to 4 months
>later, in mid-autumn, the fruits are pushed out of the ground like sausages.
>The fruits vary considerably in size (from thin worm like bodies to large
>fat sausages) and in colour (from creamy-white to yellow to rich burgundy).
>Each fruit consists of small round perishable seeds embedded in a fruity
>flesh and encased in a translucent "skin".  As the fruits are pushed up,
>they fall over and lie on the ground.  They have a strange fruity scent, and
>are thought to be scattered by animals (perhaps tortoises and rodents)
>eating the flesh and scattering the seeds.  Once the seeds are released from
>the skin and flesh, they immediately begin to germinate, whether the weather
>is hot and dry, or wet and cool.  If no rain falls, the germinated seeds
>simply shrivel up and die, but if the ground is wet, the seed pushes a root
>into the soil, forms a small bulb, and then pushes up a leaf.  Man has
>discovered a good use for the fruits - if they are soaked in alcohol, the
>fruity flavour is extracted into the alcohol making a delicious tasting
>beverage!  The common name for Gethyllis is "koekamakranka" and the brandy
>is known as "koekakmakranka brandewyn".
>Almost immediately after seed production, the leaves emerge, and the whole
>cycle starts again.
>In the latest Indigenous Bulb Society of South Africa Bulletin (July 1999),
>Alan Horstmann wrote an article on the identification of Gethyllis based on
>leaves and cataphylls.  Many of us have quite extensive collections of
>Gethyllis, and none of us know what they are due to the lack of literature
>on these plants.  Alan divided the plants into several groups depending on
>leaf shape and hairiness, and on the absence or presence of a cataphyll.
>One has to remember that when the plants have leaves, no flowers are
>evident.  And when the flowers appear, the leaves are long gone!  So a
>traditional key using leaves, flowers and perhaps fruits is useless to a
>grower, as at no stage of the life cycle do even 2 of these characteristics
>occur simultaneously!
>The first group consists of those plants with cataphylls visible above the
>ground - Gethyllis cavidens, verticillata, namaquensis, gregoriana,
>grandiflora, britteniana, ciliaris, latifolia and undulata.  Some have
>spotty cataphyls, and some are bristly, and all have long leaves, many of
>which are spirally arranged.
>The next group consists of those species with prostrate leaves arranged in a
>rosette - Gethyllis barkerae, lata, pectinata, roggeveldensis and uteana.
>The third group has no visible catalphyll and no prostrate leaves, but they
>have hairy leaves: Gethyllis setosa, longistyla, verrucosa, villosa,
>lanuginosa, fimbriatula, multifolia, unilateralis and oligophylla,.
>And the final group are those with non-hairy leaves: Gethylls afra,
>campanulata, hallii, oliverorum, pusilla, spiralis, transkarooica and
>The best way to grow Gethyllis is in a large deep pot in a well-drained
>sandy potting mix.  They need to be kept dry in summer and damp in winter,
>and they are simple to grow from seed.
>Rachel Saunders
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