Lachenalia sargeantii

Michael Mace
Fri, 06 Sep 2013 13:20:49 PDT
I wanted to mention a couple of things.

First, a huge thank-you to Colin for sharing those offsets. As far as I
know, L. sargeantii has been almost unknown in cultivation. Sometimes
collectors find it tempting to hoard something rare, or to sell it at a very
exclusive price rather than giving it away. I'm not trying to judge anybody,
and I'm not criticizing the nurseries that sell plants at accessible prices.
But I feel like we're ultimately custodians of the things we grow, rather
than owners, and I think it's important to make sure they get into

Second, the mystery of what motivates this species to grow will be a great
one for all of us to explore together. Thanks to Colin's generosity, it's
going to be grown in a variety of conditions with different weather
patterns, growing habits, etc. Let's share information on what we learn.

To get us all started, here's a little bit of info...

--I had the opportunity to try a few L. sargeantii offsets last year, and my
experience was just like Colin's. Most of the offsets didn't sprout at all,
and I thought I had killed them. Then a few shocked me by sprouting in early
March (September for those of you in the southern hemisphere). They kept
growing until July, when they gradually went dormant. I don't know if they
went dormant naturally at that time, or if the pot got too dry for them.
It's hard to keep a pot wet here in July.

Diana, I kept watering mine all winter. The ones that sprouted were in heavy
sun, and came up much later than most of my other bulbs.

--The McMasters have posted a very interesting article on the discovery of
the second known population of this species:

They also sent a note about it to the PBS list: 

The article says they were found on a sandstone ridge near Napier. Checking
the climate maps on the wiki, the high ground around Napier is in what I
call zone E3, an area that can get more than half an inch of rain a month in
the summer. The other location where the bulb is found is near Bredasdorp,
which averages 3/4 of an inch of rain (19mm) in its driest summer month. For
those of you who know California, a roughly comparable rainfall pattern is
Eureka (although Eureka is actually drier).  The difference is that
Bredasdorp averages about 79F (26C) high temperatures in summer, whereas
Eureka averages 64F (18C). The US doesn't have an exact match for this
pleasant climate type, but probably you'd come closest if you found a
hillside inland from Eureka that's high enough to be above the fog belt but
low enough that it wouldn't freeze in winter. 

In Europe, parts of western coastal Sardinia come close to this climate

In South Africa, the plants grow on the northern side of their hillside,
meaning they get a lot of sun, but are sheltered from the local winds (which
reportedly blow off the ocean in the south).

Anyway, it's not surprising to me that in captivity the bulbs keep growing
well into the summer if you water them. That's the sort of climate they're
adapted to.

I'm hoping Cameron and Rhoda may share some additional tidbits about the

--There seems to be general agreement that the species flowers heavily in
the wild only after its area has been burned.

--Kirstenbosch posted an article on the species confirming some of Colin's
experience (namely that the species will grow and offset in captivity, but
won't bloom). There are some very helpful details on the best soil and
watering schedule, but since Kirstenbosch can't make it bloom, I think we
shouldn't view anyone's advice as the definitive "right" answer.

Thanks, Colin!!

San Jose, CA

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