A bulbous plant with a profusion of pink flowers, Nerine masoniorum
is ideally suited to cultivation in pots and window-boxes. It is
evergreen when cultivated in temperate climates and has extremely
narrow, grass-like leaves. The dainty, compact flowerheads appear
in late summer in the Southern Hemisphere (February-March) and last
for about three weeks. It is ideally grown as a container subject,
but is also useful in the rock garden or as an edging plant along
has an extremely limited distribution and is an
endangered species, only known from one locality in
the former Transkei (now part of Eastern Cape), where it is threatened
by encroaching informal settlements and cattle grazing.
In the wild, N. masoniorum is completely deciduous due to
the very cold winters. The flowers are strongly self fertile and
the ripe seeds drop to the ground as soon as they are dislodged
from the capsules, forming dense colonies.
Derivation of the name & historical aspects
The plant owes its name to Marianne Mason, who first collected material
near Umtata in the eastern Cape in the late 1920's, and her brother.
The genus Nerine was established in 1820 by the cleric and
amaryllid expert, Rev. William Herbert. It is unclear whether he
named it for Nerine, the Greek mythological sea nymph and
daughter of the Sea God Nereis and Doris, or for Nereide,
the daughter of Nereus, son of Oceanus. Nerine
is a genus of about 25 species, endemic to southern Africa. The
most well-known species in the horticultural trade are the scarlet
forms of N. sarniensis, the
Guernsey lily, which is indigenous to the southwestern parts of
Western Cape, and N. bowdenii, the hardy, 'large pink nerine',
from the high Drakensberg of KwaZulu-Natal and the midlands of Eastern
Uses and cultural aspects
N. masoniorum is not known to be used medicinally by the
indigenous peoples of Eastern Cape.
Growing Nerine masoniorum
is the most easily cultivated of all the dwarf nerines and requires
a free-draining medium such as equal parts of river sand, loam,
and finely sifted compost. The bulbs should be planted with the
top of the neck just above soil level, and once planted should be
left undisturbed for at least four years, as best flowering results
are always obtained from well-established plants. The plants prefer
full sun. They will also flower well in light shade, but under the
latter conditions the flower stems lack the strength of sun-grown
specimens, and tend to fall over.
N. masoniorum makes an excellent container subject and is
also a most valuable bedding plant where it is suited to planting
as a thick border to larger annuals and perennials such as Senecio
elegans and Lobelia
Plants require regular watering during the summer months (a good
soaking once per week if natural precipitation is lacking). They
can be dried off completely in winter but do not object to winter
rainfall, provided the soil medium has excellent drainage.
Propagation is easy and is either by separation of offsets (daughter
bulbs) from the mother bulb, or by seed. Separation is best carried
out in early spring just as warmer weather sets in and new leaves
begin to develop. Carefully lift thick clumps with a large garden
fork, shake off excess soil, and then separate daughter bulbs by
carefully tugging them away from the mother bulb. Do not forcibly
break the bulbs away as this will damage the bulbs' basal plate.
Daughter bulbs that do not come away easily by careful tugging are
not yet ready for separation. Prevent the perennial, fleshy roots
from drying out by replanting separated daughter bulbs as soon as
possible, at a distance of 2-3 cm apart.
Seeds are produced in profusion in March in the Southern Hemisphere.
They are fleshy and water-rich, and do not undergo a dormant period,
but germinate almost immediately they become ripe. Sow the seeds
in seed trays as soon as they are easily detached from the dry flower
capsules, evenly sprinkling them over the surface, and covering
with 5 mm of sowing medium. Seed trays are best placed in semi-shade
until seedlings are growing strongly, after which they can gradually
be moved to full sun. Germination is rapid and the young plant rapidly
forms a bulb that will reach flowering stage in two to three years,
under ideal conditions.
The main pest affecting N. masoniorum is the lily borer,
also known as the amaryllis caterpillar (Brithys crinii).
The night-flying moth lays its eggs on developing flowerbuds and
along flower stems, especially during the hot summer months. The
voracious caterpillars rapidly bore into the tissue and can cause
collapse of flowerstems in as little as two to three days. In highly
susceptible areas in parts of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western
Cape, this pest can be treated preventatively by spraying with carbaryl
every two weeks. Poor drainage of the growing medium leads to fungal
rotting of the bulb roots which affects flowering performance, but
seldom causes death of the bulb.
DUNCAN, G.D. 2002. Grow nerines. Kirstenbosch Gardening
Series. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
Author: Graham Duncan
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden