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South African Beauties

March 17, 2001|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS

The peak bloom for most South African bulbs in our climate is mid-February through mid-May, although there are bulbs that flower at other times of the year.

The following are a sampling of the rare and unusual plants you can see this weekend at the UCI Arboretum's Winter Bulb Festival.

* Boophane disticha: This plant forms an unusual round ball of pink flowers that, after pollinated and dried, breaks from the plant and rolls around in the wind dispersing its seeds.

* Brunsvigia littoralis: This red flower grows in sandy areas. Its only-known remaining wild habitat at the foot of an airport runway in South Africa is threatened by plans to expand the runway.

* Dioscorea elephantipes: This unusual vining succulent-like plant is commonly named elephant foot for its gnarly appearance. It easily adapts to arid environments, storing moisture in its leaves.

* Ferraria crispa: These flowers tend to be brown and wrinkled, and are pollinated by flies, which think they are dead animals. The flowers have interesting aromas described as chocolate and vanilla scents.

* Massonia: These flowers resemble hyacinth and come in a variety of pastels. They have flat, low-growing leaves and are pollinated by mice, which drink the nectar, covering their snout with pollen and then visit another plant.

* Moraea loubseri: Recently discovered and described scientifically, this plant was found on a hill near a town in the Cape Province of South Africa. Since then, the hill has been destroyed by a quarry and they are now thought to be extinct in the wild. The flowers are purple with a black center.

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