Boophane disticha (2012)

PhotoBy Peggy Galantowicz (February 2012)

I have been privileged to acquire the October show-worthy plant, Boophane disticha. Sometimes spelled Boophone, the name is derived from the Greek “bous,” ox, and “phone,” death, referring to the poisonous properties of the bulb. The specific name disticha refers to the leaves, which are erect in a fan shape.

This large deciduous bulb has a thick covering of dry scales above ground and grey-green leaves. Mature bulbs can grow to about 7 inches in diameter and produce sweetly scented flowers whose color ranges from pink to red and bloom in late winter or into spring.

Boophane disticha is found in a wide range of South Africa from Port Elizabeth (with summer rainfall) northwards to East Africa and areas that have regular winter rainfall. In the former, winters are dry, but the occasional light shower can occur in winter.

B. disticha thrives in full sun in well-drained, sandy soil and also in rocky areas. It should be planted in a protected area, and although it can stand drought, it does not like frost.

The bulb must be planted so that the neck and part of the bulb show above the ground. Some bone meal would be beneficial, seeing that these species need to remain in deep containers for a long time. While the plants seem to grow equally well in well-drained, sandy soil and in hard ground, they take a long time to flower after being moved.

This plant is attractive in all its forms, whether dormant bulb or in full leaf and flowered.