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A simply sensational and wonderfully unique bulb, endemic to southern Africa. It is often encountered in the rolling valleys and scenic grasslands of the country, but many species are facing great adversity in their natural habitat due to human interference. During the summer months, the Candelabra flower produces a large, circular flowerhead that consists of numerous, individually stalked, vividly coloured, trumpet-shaped flowers. As the flowers fade, the flowerhead dries out and eventually breaks off while still preserving its classic shape, thereby ensuring the seeds are distributed as far as the wind can carry it. The Brunsvigia genus contains about 18 species, all of which occur only on the African continent. It also honours the esteemed Duke of Brunswick, Charles William Ferdinand (1735-1806). This impressive bulb has stout, prostrate leaves that have a scabrous, coarse and rasping texture on both surfaces, hence the species name.
Amaryllidaceae (The Amaryllis family)
These large bulbs are most commonly encountered in moist grasslands and open woodland situations; they seem to favour summer rainfall, higher altitude areas (1000-2200 m), but also grow quite well in the dry winter rainfall regions.
They can sometimes also be found growing in semi-arid regions, rocky outcrops and scrublands.
B.radulosa is distributed in the eastern parts of our country, as well as a select few neighbouring countries such as Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana.
Found from the North-western Cape to the Northern provinces, (favouring the eastern-most parts), Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Natal.
Foliage & Bulb
It has a rather large bulb (60-200 mm diameter), with a compact, short neck (70-100 mm).
This bulb is enclosed in dark brown, tough and firm tunic-like, somewhat cartilaginous membranes.
The plant typically produces 4-6 leaves with or shortly after the flowers.
The leaves are rather large (250-500 – 100 x 200 mm), tongue-shaped, slightly widened at the centre, with rounded edges and reddish-green tips, especially when young.
They lie nearly flush with the ground, spreading out broadly from the centre of the plant.
The margins are often creamy-white in colour, coarse, slightly corrugated, thick, firm and somewhat rigid.
The leaves are also thick and rough textured on both surfaces.
Each bulb produces a main, sturdy, robust (300-500 mm), leafless peduncle (flower stalk) that supports a bulky umbel (400-600 mm across).
A well-developed plant can bear an inflorescence consisting of 30-70 individually stalked, trumpet-shaped flowers.
As the flowers mature, and the plant readies itself for the fecundation of the seeds, this flower stalk elongates, becoming up to 300 mm long.
Each flower has a diameter of 40-60 mm, several oblanceolate petals, with long stamens that curve downwards and upwards and are attached to the throat of the flower tube.
Colour is variable, ranging from pale or dark pink, to purple or red.
The petals have a glittering, almost pellucid appearance in bright sunlight.
January – February.
The fruit is a thinly chartaceous capsule (10-15 mm).
It contains up to 5 small seeds.
As the flowers fade, the candelabra-like umbel dries out and, once completely desiccated, breaks off in one, complete piece.
It retains much of its shape and rolls around, carried along by the wind, dispersing the seeds far and wide.
200 – 550 mm.
Medicinal usage of B. radulosa is somewhat limited, but there are reports of different parts being used in traditional practices to: help straighten the bones of children, treat infertility and ease labour.
Extracts of the bulb have apparently been used to repair leaks in traditional clay pots.
The dried out flowerheads have been used to make interesting rustic indoor decorations.
These bulbs absolutely resent being disturbed or moved once they have become established.
Flowering will also be adversely affected.
The flowers attract bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles and more.
The vast array of insect life enticed by the pollen and nectar rich flowers may lure the occasional insectivorous bird species.
Sun- and sugarbirds, as well as many other nectivorous birds will flock to the nectar laden flowers and are able to perch quite comfortably on the long stalks.
They are also an important pollinator.
A spectacular garden subject, suitable for even the novice gardener.
It is very low maintenance, preferring to be left completely undisturbed once a suitable spot has been found.
When in full bloom, it provides a simply dazzling display that has few rivals.
These bulbs are perfect for mass planting.
The Candelabra flowers makes for an excellent container specimen as it is relatively slow growing and water-wise.
It is also a most handsome and statuesque feature or accent plant.
By planting this superb bulb, you are contributing to its preservation, something which is dearly needed as its natural population is constantly under threat due to overgrazing and urbanisation, among others.
These bulbs typically lose their foliage during the winter months, when they become dormant.
The underground bulb is thus able to withstand and survive through the cold winter months.
When spring arrives, it will send up fresh leaves.
B. radulosa is otherwise able to endure only very mild frosts that last for a short period of time.
It is a relatively water-wise species due to its ability to store moisture in its underground bulb.
A slow grower.
Prefers a position in full sun.
Soil & Water
This bulb grows best in very well-drained, somewhat coarse textured sandy or loamy soil with a neutral to slightly acidic ph.
It will benefit from added compost, which can be done at the start of each growing season.
It resents being overwatered and only needs to be given water occasionally, or if the weather is exceptionally hot and dry.
It is advised, for the health of the bulb, to allow it a dry summer rest; usually towards the end when the leaves start to die back.
Do NOT water during the dormant period.
As the bulbs do not transplant well and the plant itself absolutely resents being moved, it is best propagated from seed.
Remove seed (capsules) from the terminal ends of the flower spikes as soon as they are dry.
Sow in a well-drained, sand and compost mixture (2:1).
Place in a temperate, brightly lit area and mist the soil often, but allow adequate time between watering’s to dry out to prevent mildew setting in.
The seeds generally germinate well and rapidly.
It does unfortunately take a very long time to grow, and flowering should not be expected for at least 7-8 years.