Strumaria truncata is a charming bulbous plant, little known
and unusual in cultivation. In the wild it occurs in the western
parts of the Northern Cape, usually on south-facing slopes of rocky
outcrops, in sandy or clay soils.
globose bulb has a long neck and is covered with several layers
of pale brown outer tunics. It produces a most attractive fan of
up to six erect, usually spirally twisted leaves about 150 mm long
and 10 mm wide. The lower parts of the green or greyish-green leaves
are surrounded by a striking deep reddish-maroon aerial sheath (known
as a cataphyll in botanical terms) which supports the base of the
leaves. Strumaria truncata is the only species in the genus
that produces this curious aerial sheath.
The flower head is an umbel and is produced on a long slender
stem with the flowers usually hanging downwards. The funnel-shaped
flowers are usually bright white, but also vary in shades of pink
depending on the wild locality, and have conspicuously protruding,
long stamens. During the fruiting period, the flower stalks lengthen
and become erect, and produce bright green or dull reddish-brown,
round fleshy seeds which drop to the ground once they are ripe and
begin to germinate almost immediately. The flowering period is April
to June in the Southern Hemisphere, and individual flowers are quite
long-lasting, remaining attractive for about ten to twelve days.
Strumaria is a most interesting, ornamental dwarf bulbous
genus comprising about twenty-five species, which is endemic mainly
to the dry winter rainfall parts of Namibia and South Africa. Only
one species, Strumaria tenella subsp. orientalis occurs
in the mainly summer rainfall parts of South Africa where it is
found in the southern Free State as well as in Lesotho. The leaves
of the various species vary from very narrow and grass-like to relatively
broad with blunt tips, and in several species are produced in an
attractive fan. The leaves of some species are densely covered with
soft hairs, but most species have smooth shiny leaves. The flowers
vary in colour from pure white as in Strumaria barbarae from
southern Namibia, to bright pink as in Strumaria salteri
from the north-western parts of the Western Cape. The genus is very
poorly known in cultivation and is usually grown by specialist bulb
collectors, as most species have stringent cultivation requirements,
which have to be met for successful flowering to occur.
Growing Strumaria truncata
truncata is one of the easiest and most attractive of the species
to grow. It is best grown as a container subject as its bulbs must
be kept absolutely dry during the summer dormant time, and cannot
survive garden irrigation during this period.
The bulbs are best suited to a shallow 25 cm diameter plastic
or terracotta pot, and are planted with the top of the neck of the
bulb exposed just above ground level. The growing medium must be
very well drained and should preferably be a mix of equal parts
of coarse river sand and industrial sand (swimming pool sand), with
a layer of fine, well-decomposed compost placed at the bottom of
the pot. Ensure that large stone chips are placed over the drainage
holes at the bottom of the pot to prevent the soil medium from washing
The bulbs are planted in early autumn after which they should be
given a good watering, and then not again until the flower buds
and leaves begin to appear, whereafter they can be watered well
every two weeks. For best results, place the pots in a position
where they will receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Resist
the temptation to water more frequently as this plant detests constantly
wet feet, which will soon lead to rotting of the roots and bulbs.
Towards the end of spring, as temperatures rise, the leaves will
begin to yellow, and watering must then cease completely to allow
the soil medium to dry out. The pots can then be stored in a cool
dry place for the summer months.
easiest method of propagating Strumaria truncata is by seed,
as offsets form rather slowly, if at all. Seed is produced in large
quantities and there is no need to hand-pollinate the flowers, as
they are self-fertile. Seeds are ready to be harvested once they
are easily detached from the ripe capsules, but be careful not to
squash them, as they are fleshy and easily damaged. Sow the seeds
in the same medium recommended for cultivating bulbs. Sprinkle them
evenly and thinly over the soil medium and then cover them with
about 3 mm of the medium. Water well with a fine rose and place
in a protected position with good air circulation and which receives
morning sun. Once the seeds have germinated and produced their first
leaves (within 10-12 days), water them well every two weeks. Seedlings
generally flower for the first time during their third season, but
under ideal conditions flowers may appear during the second year
Strumaria truncata is generally pest- and disease-free,
but mealy bugs do attack the leaf bases and are best treated by
drenching the soil medium with a chlorpyriphos solution during the
growing period. Lily borer (also known as amaryllis caterpillar)
occasionally attacks the foliage and can be combatted by spraying
the foliage with a carbaryl-based insecticide in severe infestations.
Bulbs and seeds of Strumaria truncata are difficult to obtain,
but specialist bulb nurseries such as those which advertise in Veld
& Flora, the quarterly journal of the Botanical Society of South
Africa, do occasionally list them.
- Duncan, G.D. 1989. Strumaria. In: Du Plessis, N. M. and G.D.
Duncan, Bulbous Plants of Southern Africa. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Duncan, G.D. 2000. Grow Bulbs. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series.
National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
- Snijman, D.A.1994. Systematics of Hessea, Strumaria and Carpolyza
in Contributions to the Bolus Herbarium.16:1-162.pp.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden