© Judd Kirkel
Hesperantha vaginata is a geophyte, 120–180 mm high. The bright yellow flowers, 25–35 mm across, are large, cup-shaped, odourless and nectarless and often have contrasting dark brown markings. On days that are warm enough they will open from mid- to late afternoon.
It has slightly fleshy, sword-shaped leaves and a small fibre-covered corm with a flattened base.
© Judd Kirkel
Hesperantha vaginata is endemic to the Bokkeveld Plateau and listed on the Red Data species list as Vulnerable, mainly due to land transformation (farming).
Distribution and habitat
It is found on the Bokkeveld Plateau, up to Calvinia, on heavy clay soils derived from dolorite.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Hesperantha – comes from the Greek words hesperos, meaning evening, and anthos, meaning flower.
The name vaginata is derived from the Latin vagina, a sheath or covering, and refers to the leaves sheathing the stem.
The H. vaginata is pollinated by the hopline scarab beetle, Clania glenlyonensis. Beetle markings (dark spots and centres on the flower) attract pollinating monkey beetles. In some areas monkey beetles prefer flowers with dark beetle markings over flowers that have no markings.
Monkey beetle feeding on pollen
© D'reull de Beer
Monkey beetles use the flowers as mating sites and also feed on the pollen.
Growing Hesperantha vaginata
Sow the seed in rich, well-drained soil in autumn. The soil pH should be mildly acidic (6.1 to 6.5) or neutral (6.6 to 7.5). H. vaginata is drought-tolerant and has average water needs. Do not overwater. Sow or plant in full sun to partial shade. It is also suitable for growing in containers. Flowering time is August to September.
In its native habitat it forms colonies in heavy clay soils, though it also thrives in a well-drained, sandy mix.
Hesperantha is dormant in summer; so, no summer watering is wanted!
Allow the pods to dry on the plant and break open to collect seeds.
References and further reading
- Du Plessis, N. & Duncan, G. 1989. Bulbous plants of southern Africa. Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town.
- Manning, J. & Goldblatt, P. 1997. Nieuwoudtville, Bokkeveld Plateau and Hantam. South African Wild Flower Guide 9. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town. Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 2000. Iridaceae. In: Seed plants of southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
Hantam National Botanical Garden