Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cryptostephanus vansonii

Clivias have been all the craze for some time now among folks from here to China, South Africa, and Australia/New Zealand for some time now, so its only natural that their close relations would also begin to come into cultivation. The genus Cryptostephanus is close to clivia, with a similar plant habit and smaller flowers, and similar berries containing one or a few large seeds. Like clivias, the seeds need to be planted asap, so that is what I did when I got five seeds of C. vansonii from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa a few years ago. It is a forest plant from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The seeds sprouted nicely, and three of the four plants I have flowered this past spring for the first time, The plants are smaller than clivias, and easier to manage indoors where space its limited. I can't describe the white flowers (which develop a pinkish cast as they age) as stunning, but they are nice, and the effect a blooming plant presents is very nice. I managed to get a couple of seed pods to set when I cross pollinated some flowers, and they took forever to ripen. At one point they looked like little green watermelons, with the same pale green striping pattern on them that a watermelon has. I harvested a few brownish seeds from them in late fall, and they are already are sprouting.
I also have two plants of the more challenging C. haemanthoides, a somewhat larger relative from Tanzania and adjacent Kenya with deep maroon flowers. It goes dormant in winter, and thus far puts out a few leaves in summer, but is not as vigorous as C. vansonii, and I have not gotten them to bloom yet. I hope to see them bloom one day, from photos I have seen the inflorescences are quite spectacular. I understand that it requires more heat and sun than C. vansonii when it is in active growth.

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