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Origin and Habitat: Drimiopsis maculata is widespread in eastern South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga), Swaziland and Tanzania (Mpwapwa District: Kongwa ). Reported as cultivated in the Canary Islands.
Altitude range: 25-1340 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: Semi-arid areas, valley grassland, in brown sandy clay; open places; forest floors, shaded stream banks, forest fringes, near the coast. It is also found in very sandy damp spot, not far from the beach. It did not seem to mind the salty lagoon water, where the large scaly bulbs congregate and bloom well
Drimiopsis maculata Lindl. & Paxton
Paxton's Fl. Gard. 2: 73 1851
- Drimiopsis maculata Lindl. & Paxton
- Ledebouria petiolata J.C.Manning & Goldblatt
- Drimia petiolata K.Koch & C.D.Bouché
- Drimiopsis minor Baker
ENGLISH: Little White Soldier, Leopard Plant, African hosta, African False Hosta, Spotted-leaved Drimiopsis, Small Snake Lily
RUSSIAN (Русский): Дримиопсис Пятнистый, Ледебурия черешковая
XHOSA (isiXhosa): Intshwilisa
ZULU (isiZulu): Injobo; Ucibicibane
Description: Drimiopsis maculata is a robust bulbous plant from South Africa to 30(-35) cm tall that spreads rapidly and has beautiful spotted leaves (maculata means "spotted"). It is very close to Ledebouria, both in habit and flower. The bulb increases rapidly at the surface of the ground, the leaves dying down in winter much more completely than do those of Ledebouria. They have a much wider blade than do those of Ledebouria. Foliage are topped in spring with 30 cm tall spikes of tiny green and off-white bells, making quite a show when the clumps get large. It is related to Ornithogalum.
Habit: It is a little deciduous perennial-Geophyte plant with multiple bulblets emerging in spring to form clumps up to 30 (or more) cm wide. It is dormant in winter.
Bulbs: Globose, fleshy, mostly exposed at the surface of the ground, about 2.5 cm in diameter and have large visible scales that look like a lily.
Leaves: 3 to6. Blade thin, somewhat fleshy, triangular to cordate-ovate, 7.5-12 cm long and ± 4.5 cm wide, mid-green in colour, very heavily blotched with translucent dark green or dark purple-brown to almost black, and the colour tends to be enhanced (e.g. darker spots on the foliage) in a shady spot. The spots appear on the young new growth and only last through the spring and into the early summer when they disappear into the green of the leaves. Margins more or less undulate. Petiole deeply channelled, 2.5-15 cm long
Inflorescence: Much longer than the leaves, the flower stalk rises up to 30 cm above the foliage and bears a tight cluster of small flowers of much the same insignificant nature as those of Ledebouria. Peduncle 10-24 cm long. Raceme dense, 2.5-5 cm long.
Flowers: Perfect, small, inconspicuous, hyacinth-like, bright white in buds that open and turn a pale green (also grey-green, yellowish or cream). Pedicels shorter than 1 mm long. Perianth 4 mm long; outer segments oblong up to 5 mm. Long. Inner segments ovate or shortly ligulate and narrower than the outer; upper flowers smaller, whitish. Stamens nearly as long as the segments. Anthers ovoid, white, 1mm long. Honey bees love them.
Blooming season: Spring (late April through May in Europe).
Chromosome number: 2n = 64.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Shahina A. Ghazanfar, Henk Beentje, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew “Taxonomy and ecology of African plants, their conservation and sustainable use: proceedings of the 17th AETFAT Congress, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia” Kew Pub., 2006
2) J. G. Baker “Flora Capensis” page 253 1897
3) Brita Stedje in: Nordic Journ. Bot. 14: 48, fig. 3B 1994
4) Brita Stedje, “Flora of Tropical East Africa” Ph.D. page 1 1996
5) Cytologia: International Journal of Cytology. Fujii Jubilaei Volumen. Pars I--II, Jun.-aug. 1937, Volume 2 1937
6) Hansen, A. & P. Sunding “Flora of Macaronesia. Checklist of vascular plants.” 4. revised edition. Sommerfeltia 17: [1-295] 1993
7) Fl. Pl. South Africa 24: t.957 1944.
8) Edinburgh J. Bot. 60: 561 2004.
Cultivation and Propagation: Drimiopsis maculata is a lovely undemanding species and is one of the most popular bulb plants. This attractive hosta look-alike bulb has purple-spotted foliage that emerges in the spring and is an excellent ground cover for areas under trees where the shade is too deep for much to grow. It will tolerate heat and drought that will reduce a hosta to mush. It is an attractive plant in the garden when used in mass or in pockets within a rock garden and also is an easy to grow houseplant; always a favorite carefree windowsill citizen, an excellent addition to any dish garden. Bulbs at the base of the plant must be above the soil. The plant's origin will make its bulbs tolerate heat and drought.
Exposition: Likes light shade to part sun (it will take a few hours of sun without a problem), but adapts very well to heavy shade. Likes a bit of shade for best colour in leaves.
Watering: During the summer growing period the plant appears to need much more water than the average succulent. It does fine with year-round water. Let it dry completely between waterings.
Soil: It adapts to a wide array of garden soils comprising cactus and succulent soil and regular (peat, perlite, pine bark) potting mix. But an organic rich media (2:1 to 1:1 organic:inorganic) seems to work very well. Rich humus organic soil will make this plant multiply like rabbits. This plant needs well-drained soil; it does not like wet feet.
Fertilization: Feed monthly with 50% strength soluble house plant food when it is actively growing.
Hardiness: The species is winter deciduous and can take light frost but not a hard freeze, so best kept in a frost free place indoors and can be grown outside where there is no danger of frost. It is often recommended to USDA zones 8-10 and should be considered good to Zone 7b too.
Pests and diseases: Slugs and snails don't seem to want to attack this plant as much as they do your traditional hosta plant.
Propagation: It's very easy to grow and to propagate. Just separate the bulbs. Seeds or (usually) by division of bulb-clusters. Will multiply in the garden to form clumps that should be divided every few years.
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