floribunda var. duckittii is an attractive deciduous,
winter-growing, cormous geophyte with fresh green sword-shaped leaves
and spikes of canary yellow long-tubed flowers during winter to
early spring. A corm is a bulb-like, shortened, swollen underground
stem with one or more regenerative buds on it, enclosed by dry,
scale-like leaf bases called tunics. Like a true bulb, it is a food
store for the plant. Dormant during the summer, the corms resprout
in autumn (March-April) with the onset of cooler wet weather, the
leaves growing to a height of approx. 1 m. Chasmanthe flowers
are pollinated by sunbirds. The fruit is a capsule of large, rounded
Chasmanthe floribunda plants form small colonies and prefer
sunny, well watered sites. In nature they are found in dampish spots
on rocky outcrops. This particular variety with its distinctive
yellow flowers, is only found in a few locations in the vicinity
of Darling. The more common and widespread variety Chasmanthe
floribunda var. floribunda has orange-red flowers and is found
in coastal and montane flora on sandstone and granite soils from
the Bokkeveld mountains to Hermanus.
Chasmanthe is a purely South African genus with three species,
Chasmanthe aethiopica, Chasmanthe bicolor and Chasmanthe
floribunda, all of which occur only in the Cape flora.
Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii was named in
honour of the Duckitt family of Darling. They created wildflower
reserves and have been instrumental in the operation of the spring
wildflower shows in Darling. The genus name Chasmanthe is
derived from the Greek 'chasme' meaning gaping and 'anthos'
meaning flower, alluding to the shape of the corolla. The specific
name 'floribunda' is Latin for many-flowered, or producing
abundant flowers. Chasmanthe floribunda was initially classified
as Pentamenes floribunda and may be found by that name in
the older botanical literature.
A large bed of Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii
can be found at the main entrance to Kirstenbosch, along the road
between the main entrance and the Visitor Centre and in the Visitor
Centre car park. They can also be found in a bed just above the
Waterwise Garden. In all cases they are interplanted with either
evergreen or deciduous species of Agapanthus, as they compliment
each other very well. The Agapanthus is a summer grower with
flowers in mid to late summer, while the Chasmanthe is a
winter grower, with flowers in mid-winter to early spring. Thus,
when the Chasmanthe is underground, the Agapanthus
is there to fill the gap, and vice versa.
Growing Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii
Chasmanthe floribunda is easy to cultivate and is useful
in the garden in that it will grow equally well in full sun or semi-shade.
It is also not known to be subject to any serious pests or diseases.
The corms should be planted 3-5 cm deep and are best left undisturbed
for several years. Corms that have been lifted and replanted will
take at least a season to re-establish themselves and often will
not flower the season after replanting. Chasmanthe requires
a well-drained, well composted soil and will tolerate summer irrigation,
during the plants' dormant period, provided the soil is well-drained.
The plants must be well-watered during autumn and winter which is
their growing-season. Chasmanthe floribunda is tender to
half-hardy and requires protection in very cold climates and is
not considered suitable for permanent outdoor cultivation in climates
colder than USDA zone 10 (-1 to 4 oC / 30 - 40 oF).
Propagation is by offsets and seed. Chasmanthe
floribunda increases itself naturally by producing cormlets
(small corms / offsets / daughter corms) around the base of the
parent corm, which can be removed during the dormant period and
replanted in early autumn. If left undisturbed they will grow up
around the parent forming cormlets of their own so that in time
a single plant can form a dense colony. Another curious habit is
that the corm of a single plant, having flowered the previous season,
will split to form two plants the following season. This is another
means by which they proliferate to form dense colonies. Colonies
can be lifted during the dormant period, divided and replanted in
Seed is sown in autumn (March- May), in trays deep enough to give
sufficient room for the growth of the developing rootstock. A 10
cm deep tray is recommended. The medium must be well-drained and
should kept moist but not wet. The trays must be kept in a semi-
shaded position for the first season. The young corms can be planted
out into the garden at the beginning of their second season, when
some of them may flower for the first time.
- Du Plessis, N., & Duncan, G., 1989, Bulbous Plants of Southern
Africa, A guide to their Cultivation and Propagation, Tafelberg,
- Jackson, W.P.U., 1990, Origins and Meanings of Names of South
African Plant Genera, U.C.T. Printing Dept., Cape Town.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J., 2000, Cape Plants, A Conspectus
of the Cape Flora of South Africa, National Botanical Institute,
Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Missouri.
- Duncan, G., personal communication.
Jacqueline Esau & Alice Notten
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden