Melasphaerula

Melasphaerula is a cormous genus in the Iridaceae family with just one species, Melasphaerula graminea, previously misnamed Melasphaerula ramosa. Growing from 30 to 50 cm high, the species has a bell-shaped corm with a flat base and erect, sword-shaped leaves, often with a purple midrib. Many small creamy white to pale yellow flowers with a musky scent are produced on a branched slender stem in spring (August to September). This plant is widespread in the winter rainfall region of southern Africa, occurring from southern Namibia to the Agulhas Peninsula where it is found in sheltered shady places, often on cooler south or east facing hillsides. It is too easily cultivated in some climates where it can become weedy and is considered to be a "collector's" plant by some. Others appreciate its graceful elegance.


Melasphaerula graminea (L.f.) Ker Gawl. is photographed below in habitat first in the Nieuwoudtville reserve September 2011 by Cameron McMaster and second by Mary Sue Ittner near Tulbagh. The last two photos from the book Plants of the Klein Karoo courtesy of Jan and Anne Lise Schutte-Vlok.

Melasphaerula graminea, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMasterMelasphaerula graminea, Tulbagh, Mary Sue IttnerMelasphaerula graminea, Jan and Anne Lise Schutte-VlokMelasphaerula graminea, Jan and Anne Lise Schutte-Vlok

The first two photos below were taken by Alessandro Marinello. The other photos from Mary Sue Ittner show the flowers as they age, first very pale yellow, then becoming darker, and finally in fruit. The last shows the corms on a 1 cm grid.

Melasphaerula graminea, Alessandro MarinelloMelasphaerula graminea, Alessandro MarinelloMelasphaerula graminea, Mary Sue IttnerMelasphaerula graminea, Mary Sue IttnerMelasphaerula graminea fruit, Mary Sue IttnerMelasphaerula graminea corms, Mary Sue Ittner

This illustration in Curtis's Botanical Magazine shows the prominent leaf midrib and curves in the bloom stem. The text mentions they had not seen it vary in color. Sightings in iNaturalist show both the pale yellow color form and the white form with dark maroon markings, such as the second and third photos by Jan-Hendrik Keet and shared under a CC BY-NC license. He observed this bloom early October at Skelton Gorge, Table Mountain and describes these as "dainty little flowers" and "numerous plants growing in the shade". The bloom in the fourth and fifth photos by Shlomit Heymann bloomed in her Tel-Aviv garden in March 2019.

Melasphaerula graminea, Curtis's Botanical MagazineMelasphaerula graminea, Jan-Hendrik Keet, iNaturalist, CC BY-NCMelasphaerula graminea, Jan-Hendrik Keet, iNaturalist, CC BY-NCMelasphaerula graminea, Shlomit HeymannMelasphaerula graminea, Shlomit Heymann

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