Albuca batteniana is not a commonly known garden plant, but a collector's jewel and specialist species. Albucas, as can be seen from the photograph, deserve more horticultural merit than they are usually accorded.
This is an evergreen bulb, with firm, truncate and fibrous scales, that grows above the ground with only the roots embedded in the soil. It grows up to 0.6 m in height. The leaves are firm and lanceolate. The flowers are erect, on long pedicels, white with pale greenish keels, 25-40 mm long, with the outer tepals spreading-curved, the inner tepals cowled above, and the outer anthers are larger is than the inner. It flowers from July-October.
Distribution & habitat
This bulb is found on the moist, sea-facing cliffs in Knysna, Kei Mouth and Morgan's Bay in the Eastern Cape.
There is little knowledge about the pollination biology of Albuca batteniana.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name Albuca is from albus meaning white, or albicans, becoming white, thus referring to the flowers. The specific epithet batteniana was named in honour of Auriol Ursula Batten, a botanical artist who has contributed many illustrations in publications. Auriol Batten graduated with a B.Sc in Botany at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. She also studied art at the Durban Technical College. She settled in East London after her marriage and started painting wild flowers.
Recent molecular studies have suggested that the genus Albuca be combined with Ornithogalum (Manning, Goldblatt & Fay 2004).
Uses and cultural aspects
Though Albuca batteniana it is not a commonly known garden plant, it can make a beautiful border plant and also grows well in a pot. Albucas are traditionally used as protective charm plants and for good luck. A number of plant species are referred to as intelezi (good luck charms) in different ethnic groups. A. batteniana is known to have the same effect.
Growing Albuca batteniana
You can multiply your bulbs by separating the offsets from the mother plant. This plant can also be grown from seed. A porous soil mix with a high sand content is appropriate to grow Albuca batteniana. Two parts of industrial sand to one part of loam and one part compost will give good results. The soil mix should be well drained. This bulb grows best in pots. Organic fertilizer is useful. It is not particularly susceptible to pests or disease.
References and further reading
- Bryan, J.E. 1989. Bulbs, vol. 1. Timber Press, Oregon.
- Doutt, R.L. 1994. Cape bulbs. Timber Press, Oregon.
- Du Plessis, N. & Duncan, G. 1989. Bulbous plants of southern Africa. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. 1981. Botanical exploration in southern Africa. Balkema, Cape Town.
- Manning, J. 2001. Eastern Cape. South African Wild Flower Guide 11. The Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Manning, J., Goldblatt, P. & Snijman, D. 2002. The color encyclopedia of Cape bulbs. Timber Press, Oregon.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Manning, J. C., Goldblatt, P. & Fay, M. F. 2004. A revised generic synopsis of Hyacinthaceae in sub-sahran Africa, based on molecular evidence, including new combinations and the new tribe Pseudoprospereae. in
Edinburgh J Botany 60(3): 533-568.
Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden