Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a plant at the far end of the spectrum as opposed to last week’s PoI – this time around we’ll be looking at a small bulbous wildflower that has only been observed in 2 localities over the last month.
Moraea stricta (commonly known as Bloutulp in Afrikaans), is a small plant of between 15 & 25 cm in height and is widespread throughout Africa. Stricta refers to the straight or upright appearance of the flower. M. stricta grows in grasslands in close proximity to rocky outcrops and slopes at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.LM. strictais interesting in that the leaves are usually absent during the flowering stage (Sept – Nov). A single long narrow leaf (600 mm X 1.5) will appear after flowering. The flowering stem is erect with 3 – 6 short branches. The flowers themselves are small, with the outer petals 19 – 24 mm in length and very in colour from pale lilac to blue-violet. Each petal has a small yellow-orange spot which is thought to function as a nectar guide which helps pollinators to locate the flowers nectar. Around 3 flowers will open simultaneously and close at sunset. This small wildflower is often found in greater numbers in areas that have been recently burned and therefore plays an ecological role as an indicator of disturbed or recently disturbed veld. Another interesting habit of M. stricta is its propensity to appear towards the end of the dry season (it is drought tolerant); just before the first spring rains (could this be regarded as another one of nature’s peculiar ways of keeping us “sophisticated” humans in the loop?). Keep a close lookout for a similar looking species, M. alpina which flowers from Oct – Dec.
This interesting little wildflower can be grown from seed and from transplanting the corms, although most report a low survival rate – thumbs up to those persistent gardeners that manage to grow the little devil!