Friday, March 7, 2008

Conophytum bachelorum in bloom

Back in September 2005, I sowed seeds of Conophytum bachelorum, which is almost unknown in cultivation, for many years represented by a lonely self-sterile plant in a private collection in the UK. Its native haunt, a single quartzite ridge "east of Port Nolloth, South Africa" was rediscovered in 2003, and in 2004 various botanists and I visited the locality, and gathered a few seeds (for the gory details, see: M.R. Opel, 2004, Bachelorum's Pad, Mesemb Study Group Bulletin 19:81-82). As far as I know, this two and a half year old seedling at the University of Connecticut Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses is the first plant of its kind to flower in the Americas.

The flower snuck up on me: the largest of my C. bachelorum seedlings are still only about half the size of mature plants in the veld, and I thought for sure that the first flower would be in 2009 at the earliest. This is the right time of year, though. Unlike most conos, C. bachelorum blooms in spring, while the old leaves are senescent (as seen here) or even totally dry. It does look like this will be the only individual to flower for me this time, so seed production will have to wait until some fellow bachelors reach maturity, possibly next year.

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