Walleria is a tuberous genus of plants in the Tecophilaeaceae native to central and southern Africa. First described in 1864, there are three species. Tubers are spherical and clustered with fibrous roots, often buried up to 20 cm, stems are erect and solitary, and flowers have 6 tepals and are blue or white. The cauline leaves are sometimes rough or armed with hooked prickles.
Walleria gracilis (Salisb.) S.Carter is the winter growing species of this small African genus. It is found in Namibia and in South Africa in the Olifants river valley and near the foot of the Gifberg in two currently known populations. In its natural habitat it is found in sandy soils, but it does not require such soils to grow in cultivation so long as they are well drained. It is easy to grow but not necessarily fast to germinate from the relatively large seeds, which should be sown under cool conditions. Plants will begin to flower in their second year from seed. The plant is much like a miniature gloriosa vine, with the addition of small spines on the undersides of the leaf midribs. Blue centered white flowers are readily produced in early winter and probably are buzz pollinated judging from their structure, which resembles that of some Solanaceae flowers in that the stamens are fused to form a cap that barely subtends the pistil. This species can be self pollinated by hand. Large tubers are produced and more than one may eventually result after a few years of growth. They can be separated to grow new plants. It is also not uncommon for this species to skip a year of growth but careful inspection will usually reveal that the tuber is still there. I grow this species under lights and this can present some problems as it is a vining species but it is easy to keep it from running into the light tubes by pressing the vines down and allowing them to clamber over and around neighboring plants. In a greenhouse or in a garden with suitable climate it can be allowed to crawl up a small trellis. Photos and information supplied by Ernie DeMarie.
Walleria mackenziei J.Kirk is native to Zaire, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. It grows in light shade, amongst rocks, or on termite mounds and flowers November to December. It has ovate leaves and blue tepals and blue anthers with yellow tips. Photos by Nicholas Wightman.
Walleria nutans J.Kirk is native to Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. It is found on sandy or sometimes shallow soils over dolomite and granite, and grows in full sun or light shade in mixed deciduous woodland, grassland, rocky outcrops, dry riverbeds, sometimes in cleared areas. Growing from 10 to 30 cm and flowering November to December, it has a simple or sometimes 3 branched hairless, strongly ribbed, rough, or sometimes prickled stem, sessile, linear-lanceolate leaves up to 17 cm long, sometimes with recurved prickles, and nodding flowers with white, pink, mauve, purple or blue tepals 6 to 15 mm long. Stamens are yellow with blue or purple tips and held together. Photos by Nicholas Wightman.