Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
This four-color Cape cowslip (Lachenalia quadricolor) is one of the first of a succession of South African bulbs which will be on display during the winter months in our Palm House, the central section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.
It has gray-green, mottled foliage and spikes of tubular flowers, banded in pinkish-orange and yellow and with purple tips. Altogether, it’s a very colorful plant with a fresh, spring-like character.
There are more than 100 species of Cape cowslip, all native to southern Africa and related to the hyacinths. The misleading common name—a cowslip is a type of yellow-flowered primrose, and not at all related—probably arose because some species do have pale-yellow blooms.
The genus Lachenalia is named for an eighteenth-century Swiss botanist, Werner de Lachenal.