Alliaceae: Tulbaghia

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Tulbaghia is a small genus of bulbous plants from South Africa that's beginning to enjoy limited popularity among specialist bulb growers and those who admire the incredible diversity of South African flora.  The genus stands closely allied to Allium.  Aside from the tiny narcissus-like tube or corona at the center of each floret, the plants indeed look very much like an allium.  To read more about the genus Tulbaghia, visit David Fenwick's marvelous web site and photo galleries devoted to Tulbaghia and other South African bulb flora at the following URL:

http://members.tripod.co.uk/theafricangarden/page10.html

Tulbaghia simmleri -  white corona form    copyright  2000 Mark McDonough

Tulbaghia simmleri  (= T. fragrans)

The photo above was taken 01/16/01; a potted plant of the intensely fragrant T. simmleri (I like the name fragrans better), flowering in my office window at work.  The close-up photo clearly shows the lobed corona and the undulate margins to the tepals.  According to Dave Fenwick, the white-corona form is much less common than the uniformly colored plants.  The small cluster of flowers atop 12"-16" stems, are powerfully fragrant, particularly in the evening, filling my office with a sweet gardenia-like aroma.

 

Tulbaghia simmleri - white corona form   copyright  2000 Mark McDonough

Tulbaghia simmleri  (= T. fragrans)

In this photo, the opposite side of the same two umbels is shown.  The flowers are very long lasting, persisting for several weeks, a single inflorescence filling a room with a heady perfume.  Evidently the species is rather variable, and Dave Fenwick's web site has good photos of four different color forms.  Typically it seems that the species has smooth-edged tepals, thus my specimen with rather undulate tepals is an anomaly.

 

The tulbaghias are intriguing little bulbous plants for a greenhouse, windowsill, and possibly outdoors (some are reputedly hardy to some degree).  Look for seed in rock garden society seedlists or the Silverhill Seeds web site.

 

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Questions or comments on this page?  Contact Mark McDonough at antennaria@aol.com.

Images and textual content copyright 2000 Mark McDonough

This page was last updated on 01/29/01