Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moraea tripetala

This is a cute and easy to grow species, related to the Peacock Moraeas, and able to interbreed with them.  It responds well to typical winter-growing Moraea culture.

In 2012, this species was divided into nine separate species, based on differences in flower shape, corms, and other details. I haven't yet been able to sort my M. tripetala plants into the new species, but I suspect that I'm growing at least two species.

Here are a the varieties that grow in my garden.  The first form is relatively large (about a foot tall, or .3m).  Although the picture looks blue, the flower is actually light purple with subtle blue veins.  The nectar guide is snowy white with blue spots in it.

The pollen color in this form is interesting.  Most of the Peacock flowers have yellow or orange pollen, but the pollen on this flower is bright brick red.  You can't see it in these photos, though, because the anthers are hidden unless you pry open the flower.

The corms of this species have a very distinct growing pattern. Each year, they divide into two or more new corms that grow at an angle to the original one:

The second form (below) is about 2/3 the size of the first one, and is a vivid dark purple.  It's the imperial purple shade that Roman emperors wore (at least that's what I think; I wasn't there in Rome to see them).  The nectar guide is bright yellow, and the pollen is white.

Because of the vividness of the color, this flower is quite a sight when it first opens in the garden.  Too bad it's relatively small.

The third form has color similar to the second one, although bluer and not as vivid. But it has the overall size and shape of the first form.

This plant has orange pollen rather than red:

Finally, there is a very pale version of the third form:

The name "tripetala" means "three-petaled."  Most Moraea flowers have six petals (or "tepals"), three inner ones and three outer ones.  The outer ones are usually bigger and have nectar guides (colored spots) on them.  The inner ones are often smaller, and not as elaborately colored.

For example, in this photo of Moraea tricolor below, the outer tepals are the whitish petals with the yellow spots on them, while the inner tepals are the purple paddle-shaped petals:

In some Moraeas, the inner tepals are relatively small and stick straight up, as in this flower of Moraea neopavonia:

One of the inner tepals is that orange sickle-shaped thing hooking up at the center of the photo.

In Moraea tripetala, the inner tepals are so small that you can barely see them.  In this closeup view, the inner tepals are the tiny fishook-shaped things at the center:

What's Causing This Leaf Damage?

In the last couple of weeks, leaf damage has shown up suddenly on some of my Moraea plants.  It seems to start near the leaf tips and progress rapidly back down the leaf.  It came on quite quickly, after we had a stretch of several days in the low 70s F (around 21C). As you can see, there's a bit of dark marking at the center of some of the dead areas, but they do not look conspicuously fuzzy or powdery (the hairs you see in the photos are standard Moraea leaf hairs).

This has been one of the driest winters on record in my part of California, and the leaves were not particularly wet when this started.  If anything, the plants could have been a little water-stressed because of the warm spell.

The damage looks to me like it might be fungal, so I sprayed with a fungicide (chlorothalonil).  But I am spooked, so I wanted to ask if anyone had seen this before.  Do you think it's a fungus?   Could it be bacterial?  Any suggestions on treatment?


[Edit: The dieback stopped after I sprayed with fungicide.  I am still not sure what happened, but one theory from a fellow grower is that the pots dried out during the dry spell, weakening the leaves and allowing the fungus to take hold.  So maybe the fungus is not the cause of the damage, but an after-effect.  I'll be more attentive to watering in the future.  This is one of the problems of growing things in pots: although you get much better drainage, the it's very easy to accidentally have a drought disaster.]

Moraea Fergusoniae

This is a new species for me this year.  The flowers are ridiculously small, but when you get up close to them, you can see a lot of beautiful detail.  The ones I have are white with yellow nectar guides, with a hint of blue veining on some of the flowers.
They're very nice flowers if you don't mind lying and the ground and putting your face within two inches of a plant.

According to Goldblatt, this Moraea is hard to classify because its foliage is several floppy leaves clustered at the base (they look a bit like grass), which would tend to put it in subgenus Moraea with species like M. papilionacea.  But the flower shape and chromosome number match the Vieusseuxia subgenus of Moraea, which includes the Peacock flowers.  I think I can see the resemblance.

Goldblatt says hybridization studies will be needed to determine what it's really related to.  Okey-doke.

 You can see a bit of the blue veining here.  It's very subtle.

In the middle of the image, at the back of the flower, you can see a brown and white thing with three points on it, like a trident with a long central tine.  If I understand correctly, that's called a "trifid inner tepal," and it's one of the things that links these plants to the subgenus Vieusseuxia.

 The backs of the flowers are very interesting.  It's hard to see in the photo, but there's a mix of brown and yellow-green in those veins.

 This gives you a sense of the size of the flowers.

Moraea Tricolor?

The second and third flowers below came to me as Moraea tricolor.  The flowers are certainly the right shape, and the foliage matches as well.  But the color scheme is very different from the usual M. tricolor you see online.  Goldblatt's book says they're variable, so maybe these are just unusual (and pretty) color forms.

But I also wonder if they're possibly hybrids.  I self-pollinated them to see if they'll breed true, but in the meantime, what do you think?

This is the form of M. tricolor that you usually see in cultivation.  It's lustworthy, even though the flowers are small (maybe an inch across) and last only a single day.

Here's the "Moraea tricolor" that bloomed this week.  The inner tepals are purple, the outer ones are white with a bit of purple veining in them.  If this is part of the species, it's a lot more variable than I realized.

This is another flower from the same pot.  It looks like a pale form of the typical M. tricolor, but if you look closely you'll see the inner tepals are a bit darker than the outer ones. So I wonder about this one too...

Edit:  Maybe I was wrong.  I just found a M. tricolor photo on a Japanese grower's weblog that looks a lot like these.  A link to the photo is here, and you can see an English translation of the weblog here. Saboteru, whoever you are, you grow beautiful plants.

Moraea Elegans

I'm not a huge fan of many of the former Homeria species now classified as Moraea.  Some of them are certainly easy to grow, which is a plus, but many of them have slightly pale yellow or peach colored flowers without a lot of pizzazz to them.

But I make an exception for Moraea elegans.  It's incredibly nice to walk outside and find one of these plants in bloom.  Their colors are vivid, the flowers are fairly large, and as you can see they come in a couple of color forms.

The one with orange in it isn't just orange; it's a bright tangerine color that reminds me of the orange parts of a 50-50 bar.  The yellow and green form is not quite as spectacular, but the colors are vibrant, and it's not often you find a flower with bright green in it.

Apparently these color schemes attract the beetles that pollinate many colorful flowers in South Africa.  In California, they seem to attract mostly gardeners with cameras.

This one has almost no green...

This one has no orange...

I tried crossing a couple of green-only forms to see if they breed true, but they produced a mix of green-only and green-and-orange flowers.

This weird form below showed up in a pot in 2016. At first it looks typical, but note the strange fleshy barb poking up in the middle of the yellow tepals. What's that about?

A Semi-Double Moraea Speciosa

First time this plant has bloomed for me.  I'll be interested to see if the flowers are semi-double in the future, or this was just a one-time thing.

This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago.  The plant is now done blooming, and appears to have set some seeds.

A Mystery Moraea

Edit: Two Three experts have told me now that this is Moraea schlechteri, one of the former Homerias.  So the mystery is solved.  Thanks!

This came to me in a pot labeled "Romulea."  I think we can all agree that it's not a Romulea, but that leaves the question of what it actually is.

I think it's a Moraea, and looking through the Goldblatt book, it strongly resembles Moraea elsiae in many ways, but not in all of them:

Similarities to M. elsiae:  Flower color, size (the flowers are small, about an inch across / 2.5 cm), branching pattern, position of leaves, shape of anthers and style branches.  I can't find a listing for any other Moraea with this combination of style shape and branching pattern.

Differences:  Stems are not sticky; flowers last two+ days (rather than one); ovary of flower is inside the spathe rather than outside; spathe is supposed to be brown at the tip; illustration in Goldblatt shows the nectar guides as stippled (although text says they are dark yellow); M. elsiae is supposed to bloom in late spring (Nov-Dec in South Africa, equivalent to May-June here in California), whereas this plant is starting to bloom in February.

It would be nice if this actually is M. elsiae, since that's a rare species in the wild and I'd like to help conserve it.  But I'm wondering if maybe it's an obscure member of the Homeria group, one that doesn't show up in my books.  Or maybe a Hexaglottis?

What do you think?  Please post a comment if you have any ideas on what it could be.  Thanks.