Garden News Blog

South African Bulbs in Bloom

BBG's special collection of South African bulbs are in bloom. While some of the plants begin to flower in December, the best time to see a diverse and beautiful display of these winter bloomers is February through March.

Most of the geophytes (commonly called “bulbs”) found in BBG’s Warm Temperate Pavilion are native to South Africa, specifically to the Cape Floristic Region located on the country’s southwestern tip. The Cape Floral Region is a biodiversity hotspot. Within this relatively small land mass approximately 9,000 different species of native plants grow and it’s estimated that 70 percent of this flora is endemic, meaning it can only be found growing in this region.

The Cape Floristic Region is home to an abundant diversity of geophytes. This special population has the capability to withstand the semiarid Mediterranean-type climate of dry, hot summers and cool winters with rain.

The geophytes found in the Cape Floristic Region are remarkably adaptable to the area’s nutrient-poor soils and flourish from sandy beaches to rocky mountains. They flower in brilliant colors, some with sweet fragrances, to best attract pollinators during their short cycle of fertility.

BBG’s South African geophytes collection contains around 150 species from 37 genera, mostly from the Iridacaeae family. To see a photo collage of some of the highlights of the collection, visit South African Bulb Photos.

Karla Chandler is the curator of the Warm Temperate Pavilion in the Steinhardt Conservatory.

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