Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Among the many colorful flowering South African bulbs one of the most jewel-like is Lapeirousia silenoides. It is a tiny plant, barely 4 inches high, but it produces a succession of gorgeous, delicately-marked magenta blooms.
Native to Namaqualand, an especially dry area of northwestern South Africa, it grows and flowers during brief rainy spells in winter and then quickly dies back to the root and spends the rest of the year as a dormant corm—a fibrous swelling that functions like a bulb. This behavior enables it to survive many months of extreme heat and drought.
If you visit our Palm House now, be sure to look closely at the clustered displays on the window sills just outside, and to the left of the entrance to, the Cactus & Succulent House. You might just spot this tiny wonder among them.