17 September 2015

Reflecting on Ixia

Mary von Blommenstein’s interesting talk yesterday at Kirstenbosch on “Flowers South Africa gave the world” afforded us a glimpse into South Africa’s horticultural history and how botanical artists have depicted some of our more famous garden flowers over the last three hundred years. One of the flowers she talked about was the Ixia, a member of the Iris family.

On the way back to my car I noticed, in the flowerbeds outside the Lecture Hall, some beautiful little pink ixias.

 "Ixia reflexa" was written in black marker pen on a plant label nearby. It turns out that this is actually Ixia scillaris L. subsp. latifolia Goldblatt & Manning, but was previously known, amongst other names, as Ixia reflexa Andrews.

A quick google, and I discovered a painting of “Ixia reflexa” by Henry C. Andrews from the journal Botanical Repository 1: 14 in 1798. A quick (This periodical was an early competitor to William Curtis's Botanical Magazine.). Accompanying the painting was information that bulbs of this little ixia were “gathered at the Cape by J. Pringle, Esq. from whom they were sent to Messrs. Lee and Kennedy in 1795, at whose nursery they flowered the ensuing spring, when this figure was taken.”

A dig into the SANBI publication Botanical Exploration of Southern Africa yielded the information on John Pringle and the Vineyard Nursery in London, shown above.

Ixia scillaris subsp. latifolia is a South African endemic, occurring from Namaqualand to the Bokkeveld Escarpment, Cederberg Mountains and Olifants River Valley in the Northern and Western Cape provinces. It grows in fynbos and Succulent Karoo vegetation and prefers sandy soils on rocky outcrops and slopes.

iSpot has one entry on the species growing in the wild - and I have taken the liberty of lifting them from iSpot to show them here in their natural glory. The two photos by John Wilson were taken on the Pakhuis Pass in the Cederberg.

The name Ixia is thought to imply a plant of variable colour, and scillaris means '"resembling a plant of the genus Hyacinthoides".

Information fromhttp://redlist.sanbi.org/
Botanical exploration of Southern Africa : an illustrated history of early botanical literature on the Cape flora : biographical accounts of the leading plant collectors and their activities in Southern Africa from the days of the East India Company until modern times, compiled by HF Glen and G Germishuizen, Strelitzia 26. SANBI, Pretoria. 2010.
Andrew, G. 2012. Geoffrey's Fernkloof Plant Names Explained.

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