Orange and scarlet Crocosmia are at their best in Autumn.
Crocosmia belong to the iris family. It is cosmopolitan family, consisting of approximately 82 genera and 1 700 species. Thirty-eight genera and over half the species occur in South Africa. They are very easy to grow and, ideally, should be left undisturbed to multiply on their own. Transplant corms during winter, when they are dormant, or sow seeds in the warmer months. Crocosmia was previously known as Montbretia.
The genus name is derived from Greek words krokos meaning saffron and osme meaning smell. This is because dried flowers placed in warm water emit a strong smell of saffron. There are nine species in this genus, and seven of them occur in South Africa. Many of this family have been domesticated and they are familiar garden plants around the world, often so ‘improved’ that it is hard to associate them with their beautiful wild ancestors.
Common names: Falling Stars, Valentine flower; umlunge, udwendweni (Zulu)
This season, the bright orange Crocosmia have flowered fabulously, creating spectacular splashes of orange in gardens and on the edges of the forest. They grow in colonies – the corms spreading underground and also seeding profusely. The soft, narrow leaves are sword shaped and wrap around the tall flower stalk which holds the inflorescence high.
The flowers are almost luminous in gentle light, each one about 4cm in diameter with three stamens, opening in succession up the stem. They certainly brighten up shady parts of the garden. The seed capsules are very attractive too – a leathery dark orange capsule filled with shiny black seeds (much loved by birds). Both the flowers and seed heads are lovely in a flower arrangement.
Common names: Falling stars; Vallendesterritjies; khalal-ea-bokone, moloke (S Sotho); udwendweni, umlunge (Zulu).
In the Midlands of KZN clumps 1m to 2m high are found in moist grassland or stream banks. The arching zig zag inflorescence bears beautiful dark orange-red tubular flowers above pleated sword shaped leaves. Once flowering is over, the shiny purplish black seeds held in a leathery orange capsule are just as attractive.
A rewarding fast growing garden plant, it does well in damp sunshine or partial shade, forming large clumps if left undisturbed. It self seeds readily but is easiest to grow from corms planted in rich soil in early Spring. It is dormant in winter.
Birds eat the seeds while the corms are a favourite of bushpigs. The corms are also used in traditional medicine to treat dysentry and infertility. Crocosmia paniculata are in flower at the moment along the R103
Common names: Slender Crocosmia; udwendweni, umlunge (Zulu)
Usually found on stream banks in late summer. The leaves are blue-green and the flowers are red.