Saturday, August 21, 2010

Montbretia - Travelling Plants

A guest post by Ken.

So now it is August and we return, as promised, to Montbretia. The most prominent wildflowers at the moment on the sides of country roads are the bright oranged-coloured ones known as Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora). I have heard others refer to them as St. Anthony's Lilies.

Where to now Montbretia?

Montbretia is a man-made hybrid from France and is familiar in gardens and one of the most widely established escapes in Britain and Ireland. It is clump-forming and grows to approx. 60cm. The flowers are reddish-orange with six petal-lobes being the same length as the gradually widening tubes that form an unbranched one-sided spike. They can be seen between July and October (although it is usually August that I remember as the month for Montbretia). The leaves are iris-like but are not pleated and have a prominent mid-rib. It  can be seen around sea-cliffs as well as grassy-banks and less frequently found inland. (Wild Flowers of Britain & Ireland, Blamey, Blamey & Fitter, pp. 320-321).

Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora)

The pictures displayed here are taken around the Rocky Bay area. (A great place for a swim in the sea. In the distance there is the ever present oil-tanker[not-pictured]  - I have never seen it move!!).

Country road by Rock Bay

It is a cross between 2 South African species but I can only assume the cross took place in France. Those two species are Crocosmia aurea and Croscomia pottsii, the cross being listed on the Consolidated list of environmental weeds in New Zealand (Dept. of Conservation NZ, Howell 2008). It is an invasive species in New Zealand and indeed is an introduced one in Ireland too. See below picture of Montbretia with its other alien friend the fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica).

Bedfellows (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora and Fuchsia magellanica)

One of the species of the cross Crocosmia pottsi (Falling stars) is a Zulu medicinal plant called Undwendweni where the corms are used to treat infertility. (V. Steenkamp, Traditional herbal remedies used by South African women for gynaecological complaints, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 86, Issue 1, May 2003, pp. 97-108).

So, from Zulu medicine in South Africa, to botanists in France (didn't Buddleia davidii visit there too?) and then to Cork, I leave you now with the beauty of another wild Irish plant, Montbretia.



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