The Gardeners’ Chronicle, p 150 (August 27, 1904)

Vallota purpurea alba


THAT a white variety of Vallota purpurea has existed is well known, and it is interesting to record its re-appearance as evidenced by living flowers, and a photograph (fig. 61) kindly sent by Mr. JAS. WHITTON, Superintendent of Parks, and Curator of the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, who, in reply to our enquiries as to its origin, states:—"The bulbs were purchased by a local seedsman from a wholesale firm in London, who say that the bulbs came from Cape Colony (the Knysna Forest district). We purchased two hundred bulbs, and sent fifty to each of the following places—viz., Botanic Gardens, Queen's Park (Camphill), Springburn Park, and Tollercross Park. It was in the last-named park that the white one appeared. The bulbs have generally bloomed, but this is the only white one in the 1st. There was not the slightest apparent difference in the bulb, foliage, or flower-stems. In fact, the buds were well developed when our foreman noticed the paleness, and this abnormality made him observe the plant more carefully, and call my attention to it when I visited the park." Reference has been made to a white variety of Vallota purpurea on several occasions in the Gardeners' Chronicle. In the issue of August 5, 1893, p. 160, is a note: "Vallota purpurea.—Messrs. VERTEGANS send us flowers from a bulb received from the Cape as a white variety. The colour, however, is a delicate warm pink, and very beautiful."

In the Gardeners' Chronicle (report of the Scientific Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society). August 14, 1897, p. 112:—"Cream-coloured Vallota.— Dr. MASTERS exhibited blossoms of this variety (received from a correspondent). A white one is known to have existed, but is apparently lost to cultivation. It was suggested that crossings should be made with the present one, so that possibly the white may reappear." Without differing specifically from the coloured type except in the matter of colour, there is still in all these light forms a something which suggests the notion that hybridity not sufficiently potent to affect the shape of the flower or general habit of the plant might have originated the white, as it has been known to produce the light forms.

In the Gardeners' Chronicle, November 10, 1900, interesting particulars are given of the origin of a remarkable batch of seedlings, on which we had previously remarked, "with flowers of a distinct pleasing shade of cerise," and which were raised by Mr. ARTHUR RIX [Nix], of the Miner's Bank, Truro. These had been obtained by crossing Vallota purpurea with Amaryllis Belladonna. Of the batch raised, ninety per cent. were identical with the ordinary Vallota purpurea, but many of the others showed variation towards the white form by colour suppression.

Both Vallota purpurea and Amaryllis Belladonna grow in close proximity in some parts of the southern provinces of Cape Colony, and it is possible that in a state of nature intercrossing may have resulted in an occasional but very rare albino, one of which has fortunately become the property of the Corporation of the city of Glasgow.

It is probable that Mr. WHITTON'S skill may increase the plant and secure its establishment in gardens.

p. 172
THE WHITE VALLOTA.— In respect to the white Vallota, illustrated in these pages last week, Messrs. R. Veitch & Son, Exeter, write as follows:—"In your interesting article on Vallota purpurea alba you omit to mention that we obtained an Award of Merit at a meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society on May 25, 1893, for Vallota purpurea delicata. At that time we exhibited several plants with flowers ranging from the faintest blush to a clear shade of pink colour. We fear these albino forms are not very strong in constitution, for the few bulbs left over unsold from the importation of 1893 have not flowered since, and are in fact smaller now than when originally imported." Messrs. W. Bull & Sons also write to us, stating that on two separate occasions they have flowered a pure white variety, but in each case the bulb after flowering gradually dwindled and died, although other bulbs of the same importation succeeded well. In the same article, the name Mr. Arthur P. Rix should have read "Nix."

p. 189
VALLOTA PURPUREA.—With reference to the remarks at p. 172, in the issue for Sept. 3, that the light-coloured and white forms of V. purpurea have been found to be very delicate, it may be said that in many gardens where the ordinary form is grown in quantity as decorative plants and for cutting (for both of which purposes the plant is eminently suited), it has acquired a reputation for dying out in the course of three or four years, the bulbs gradually degenerating after the second year. When first my attention was called to the matter, I could not understand why in certain gardens there were large specimens of Vallota purpurea which had been there many years, blooming well annually, and with no trouble taken with them, while in others the much-desired stock degenerated. I came to the conclusion that in the case of the healthy specimens the neglect of the annual repotting to which the large batches of plants in the gardens where they were grown for decorative purposes were subjected was the chief point of difference, and as I knew from experience that frequent repotting caused the loss of many other African bulbs, surmised that this, to a great extent, was the explanation. I referred the matter to a friend in South Africa, and he informed me that Vallota purpurea when cultivated there invariably died if disturbed often at the root, but was always safe when kept in the same pots for as long as possible. In borders too he said they generally disappeared after a time, but if planted in confined spaces in rockeries they formed dense masses. Now that the white variety has again appeared these remarks may be useful. I advise that it be not "nursed" or repotted. Let it get pot-bound and off-sets will form. Another source of weakness in African bulbs of this class is the neglect of a dry resting season. The deciduous bulbs want no water after the leaves turn yellow, and the evergreen species but little. A period in the open-air in summer is also very beneficial. Finely sifted soil is bad for any of these bulbs, fibrous loam and peat mixed with sand are best for them. Vallotas are cool greenhouse plants, and any attempt to grow them in a warm, moist house or frame must result in their loss. James O'Brien.

p. 209
THE WHITE VALLOTA.— I note on p. 150 that the wholesale firm who supplied the Vallota bulbs, one of which produced white flowers, state that they came from the Knysna Forest, Cape Colony. I know the Knysna district fairly well, having many times travelled through the whole of it some years ago. The chief home of Vallota purpurea is in the Zitzikama Forest, many miles to the eastward of Knysna. The forest is situated on the long plateau that runs between the Outeniqua Mountains and the sea, the average breadth of which is about 5 miles. Only a portion is "bush," which contains much splendid timber, the remainder being brushwood from 5 to 12 feet in height, known by the term of "fine bush." It is well watered, several rivers or fast running streams crossing the plateau from the mountains to the sea. Certain of these rivers run on the top of the plateau for some miles, reaching the sea by a series of falls near the coast. Others run in deep kloofs almost from the foot of the mountains, and it is on the banks of these latter, close above the water-level, that the Vallota is found in the greatest quantity, growing in the sandy debris washed down by the stream. Their general flowering time was February, and I suppose I must have seen thousands of plants altogether in the forest region, but never came across one with white flowers, though I have occasionally seen pale pink forms. The district has no clearly defined wet and dry seasons, heavy rains being liable to occur in any month of the year. Immediately after those, the rivers rise rapidly and become roaring masses of discoloured water, often 12 feet above their usual level, bearing trees and all manner of flotsam down in their turmoil. I was once camped on the bank of one of these rivers when a flood occurred, and was obliged to move my impedimenta hurriedly to a ledge on the kloofside. The Vallotas were then in bloom, and were soon hidden under six feet or more of rushing water; however, when it subsided after thirty hours or so, excepting for a few damaged petals they seemed none the worse for their immersion. The bulbs grew at various depths, some being fully a foot beneath the surface, but these were growing quite as vigorously as those at a less depth. They did not appear to produce bulblets as in pot-culture in this country, and I imagine their method of reproduction in their native habitat as by seed. The variety of Amaryllis belladonna known as blanda grows freely in the Zitzikama forest. S. W. Fitzherbert.