Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Watsonia vanderspuyiae has dramatic, sword-shaped foliage and tall spikes of deep-red flowers. A member of the iris family (Iridaceae), Watsonia vanderspuyiae is native to the Northern and Western Cape of South Africa, where it grows during the rainy winter months and flowers in spring. It dies back before the long, dry summers but persists as a large underground corm—a swollen storage structure at the base of the stem.
Our specimen, raised from seed six years ago, is now blooming for the first time. Look for it in the Palm House, the central section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.
The genus, Watsonia, is named for William Watson, the English scientist who introduced the ideas of Carl Linnaeus to Britain in the 18th century. The specific epithet, vanderspuyiae, commemorates Mrs. M. van der Spuy, the person who supplied the specimen for botanical description.