Friday, 21 February 2014

Lily Grass or Weeping Anthericum

Anthericum saundersiae Synonym. Chlorophytum saundersiae

Anthericum saundersiae is an excellent and very versatile landscape bedding plant that can be grown in the full sun semi and even full shade it is an asset to any landscape design in particular where one would like to plant a productive plant the brings in vast amounts of wildlife into the landscape or garden.

Anthericum saundersiae plant is named after Katharine Saunders plant collector and botanical artist who was born Katharine Wheelwright (1824-1901) in Tansor, Northamptonshire, England  she emigrated to Tongaat, Natal with her husband James who later became the sole proprietor of the Tongaat Sugar Estate in 1860.

I first collected Anthericum saundersiae which I found growing in full sun at the Treasure Beach grasslands in Durban in the late 1970`s. The tiny insignificant single stemmed specimen that I collected grew rapidly under my care and soon started to produce vast amounts of seed which germinated readily under the ideal conditions that I gave it and in no time at all I had large numbers of this delightful little plant. Anthericum saundersiae produces a profusion of little white star like flowers on long thin, arching stems from mid winter into late summer. Some years later I gave a number of my still unidentified plants to Geoff Nichols who took a specimen to the Natal Herbarium at Botanic Gardens where it was identified as Anthericum saundersiae. I grew and sold Anthericum saundersiae in my own nursery in small numbers but after they found their way to the Silver Glenn indigenous plant nursery they were propagated in large numbers making them much more available to the public.
In 2001 I went to stay in Germany where I became familiar with a very similar and popular specie Anthericum ramosa Syn. graminifolium so I was not at all surprised when I returned to South Africa seven years later and found Anthericum saundersiae growing in their countless thousands in nearly every new garden planting in and around Durban. Whether those plants now in cultivation came from the one tiny specimen that I collected way back in the 1970`s or from another source I do not know and probably will never know but the likely hood is certainly high that they did.

Anthericum saundersiae is a very productive trouble free garden plant that grows to about 700 mm which is ideal for the natural garden in that it attracts vast numbers of insects in particular large numbers of bee species from the very smallest to large bumble bees that when they land on the flower they weight them almost down to the ground causing them to bob up and down as they move from flower to flower setting the plants in motion as if they are dancing. I have observed that the foliage is also loved by Scrub Hares, domestic rabbits and in particular Egyptian Geese.
Although Anthericum saundersiae prefers to grow in full sun in fertile sandy soil it is a very versatile plant that will grow under almost any conditions in most soils from sand to heavy clay soils in frost free areas.
Anthericum saundersiae propagates very easily and profusely from seed but can also be subdivided when seed is not available. Seed germinates best in raised seed beds or directly on the ground in prepared sandy soil with a little very well rotted compost added, poor results may be obtained if seed is planted into a bark based growing medium in seed trays

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