LATE SUMMER SURPRISES
An exciting surprise in late summer at the Cape , when little else is flowering, is the emergence of large pinkish 'eggs' suddenly pushing their way above ground. They quickly elongate to become topped with enormous rounded flowerheads or sturdy paintbrushes. These spectacular flowers all belong to bulbous plants which have been dormant in summer. What makes the flowers even more surprising is that they pop up out of the bare ground, normally without a leaf in sight!
Five of these late summer surprises are discussed here. All belong to the Amaryllis family, the Amaryllidaceae and all are deciduous species. One of the most spectacular is Brunsvigia orientalis, the candelabra flower, which produces a huge round candelabra-like flowerhead.
Another is Haemanthus coccineus, the April fool, which starts off looking like a snake's head emerging from the ground and ends up like a huge paintbrush surrounded by sealing wax bracts.
Amaryllis belladonna, the March lily or belladonna lily as it is also called, flowers from February to April, mainly after fires. Its large heads of cream to deep pink trumpet-like flowers contrast magnificently with their blackened surroundings. Fire, however, is not necessary for flowering.
There is only one species of Cybistetes - Cybistetes longifolia, the malgas lily. Although the flowering period is very short, a mass of these lilies is an unforgettable sight. The malgas lily, and the March lily, both have a wonderful scent.
Nerine sarniensis, the lovely red Guernsey lily, is one of 25 species in the genus Nerine. In late February to the middle of March the first heads begin to appear and by the end of March a patch of these golden dusted lilies is an absolute 'must see'! Superb hybrids have been produced with this species as one of the parents.
Should you prefer to grow them directly in your garden, choose a well-drained natural corner of the garden where plants must rely on the normal winter rainfall. The five species listed here are all from the south-western Cape winter rainfall area and do not require water in summer. They enjoy a sunny spot and do not like to compete with too many other plants. Place them near a path or an open area with low-growing ground covers so you can enjoy their spectacular, but short-lived flowering time.
|© S A National Biodiversity Institute|