Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Very Special South African Dianthus

Finally I have a nice flowering plant grown from seed I collected many years ago in South Africa of this unusual yellow flowered dianthus.  I collected seed of it when I was traveling with Ernst Van Jaarsveld of Kirstenbosch fame in the Klein Karoo area of the south Cape.  We were in an area with a fair number of succulents and bulbs, and while photographing the bulb I realized one flower looked like it had five petals.  A closer look revealed it was a dianthus that was evidently mimicking the pale yellow flowered bulb that was also in bloom in the same area.   Ernst told me at the time it might possibly be a new species, but I have not heard anything new since.  I've grown it during my time at NYBG but I think they have since lost it as with much if not most of the material I brought them, and I decided to start some stored seeds again last year.  It comes from an area with primarily winter rainfall but can get some summer rain too.  It grew well under lights with some sun in my cool garage and set buds, which took forever to open.  They began to open in numbers when the plant was outside for some time and are still opening.  Hopefully the plant will set another crop of seed, I have not observed any daytime pollinators so far so I may have to do some hand pollination. 
South Africa actually has a decent number of dianthus species which are largely unknown outside of the country.  Most are winter growers, some are summer growers and D. basuticus is definitely winter hardy as well.  Many of the Cape species come from semiarid areas, so they would likely do well in other Mediterranean climate areas.  This species tends to have long trailing branches, a feature it shares with several other Cape species.  It could make a nice windowbox or basket plant in areas with the right climate.
One day I shall have to write Ernst to see if he remembers this plant.  For now though I am content to enjoy its pale yellow flowers in my personal plant zoo.   


Steve Law said...

This looks a lot like the D.caespitosus I grew this year from Silverhill Seed. It's a lovely plant and looks like it should be scented, but isn't. (

geranios said...

It does look similar, maybe more pointed petals. No scent that I can detect so far.