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THIS MONTHS CHOICE OF OUR SOUTH AFRICAN FLOWERS
Kniphofia Moench - Info from the
South African Natural Biodiversity Institute
Common names: red-hot poker or torch lily (English), vuurpyl (Afrikaans)
Red-hot pokers are grown in temperate gardens around the world. Ranging in colour from reds, oranges through yellow to lime green and cream, numerous cultivars and hybrids have been developed from species originating in South Africa.
Kniphofias are herbaceous perennials growing from rhizomes. Most species of Kniphofia are evergreen while a few are deciduous and sprout again in the early summer. They bear dense, erect spikes (elongated inflorescence with stalkless flowers) above the level of the leaves in either winter or summer depending on the species. The small, tubular flowers are produced in shades of red, orange, yellow and cream.
Kniphofia form large clumps of arching leaves which are long, narrow and tapering. The leaves are non-succulent, unlike the leaves of aloes. This distinguishes them from a plant such as Aloe cooperi. The leaf surface is glabrous (smooth) in all but one species, namely, K. hirsuta.
The underground part of the plant consists of a thick rhizome and fibrous, fleshy roots. In some Kniphofia species the rhizome divides forming groups of stems, while in others the stems are more or less solitary. The vast majority of Kniphofia species do not produce an aerial stem, but exceptions do occur as is the case with old specimens of K. caulescens and K. northiae which can reach a height of 30 cm.
Distribution and habitat
Kniphofia spp. occur naturally in all the nine provinces of South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal possesses the highest number of Kniphofia species, compared to the other provinces with ± 40 to 50 species. Kniphofia also occurs in Lesotho, Swaziland and northward towards Sudan. The species diversity, however, decreases as one moves north. Three species occur naturally outside continental Africa. Two of these species occur in Madagascar and one in Yemen. Most Kniphofia species are found growing near rivers or in places where conditions will become damp or marshy for part of the year. A small number of species prefer dry conditions with good drainage.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Kniphofia was named in honour of Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof, 1704-1763, who was a professor of medicine at Erfurt University in Germany. Kniphofia belongs to the family Asphodelaceae which comprises 17 genera (10 of which occur in South Africa) and about 750 species. About 70 species of Kniphofia occur in Africa and 47 of these are found in the eastern areas of South Africa. The genus Kniphofia is very closely related to the genus Aloe. As a result, the first Kniphofia to be described, namely K. uvaria, was mistakenly thought to be an Aloe and was thus initially named Aloe uvaria.
Kniphofia are frequented by nectar-feeding birds such as sunbirds and sugarbirds. They are also visited by certain insects.
The flowers of some species of Kniphofia are reportedly used as a minor food and apparently taste like honey. K. parviflora is reported to have been made into a traditional snake repellent. K. rooperii and K. laxiflora are used traditionally as a medicine. An infusion of the roots is used to relieve or treat the symptoms of certain chest disorders
2021 SOUTH AFRICAN FLOWER UNION VIRTUAL SHOW -
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A BLAST FROM THE PAST (CLICK HERE)
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