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Albuca Alcea,and Alchemilla. A-Z of Plant Genera { 14 }

Updated on January 22, 2016

Albuca shawii habit.



This is the fourteenth in the series A-Z of Plant genera. Here review five genera which include a diverse range of flora,and occur in places all over the world. Some of the species are grown as cultivars and may be familiar to gardeners. Where this is applicable tips on horticulture will be added. The plants are described along with their habitat and conservation status in the wild.

We commence our review with the genus Albuca, a genus of flowering pants in the family Asparagaceae {sub family Scilloidae} within the Order of plants referred to as Asparagales.

The genus Albuca.

This genus consists of plants that occur on the African continent,with some occurring on the Arabian Peninsular. They are collectively known by the not so complimentary name of 'Slime Lilies'. which are some times found under the genus Hyacinthe,in older books. Indeed as far as botanical taxonomy is concerned they are often found under other genera depending on the authority concerned and the age of the book in which they occur. The traditional Albuca genus id Monophyletic { A group that forms a clade,meaning that it consists of an ancestral species and all its dependants}. There are an estimated sixty to one hundred species.

The cultivars are a group of spring or summer flowering plants arising from bulbs. They are half hardy to frost tender with a minimum temperature requirement of ten degrees C {50 F}. They require an open sunny position and a well drained soil. They die down in Spring or late summer, depending on the species, after flowering has finished. They may be propagated by seed sown in the spring or from offsets when the plant is dormant.

Albuca bracteata

Mozambique. | Source

Albuca fastigiata


The species.

Albuca bracteata, is sometimes found under Ornithogalum bracteatum, and is commonly referred to by the common names of ' Pregnant Onion', 'False Onion ' and 'Sea Onion'. It is native to South Africa and tropical east Africa and is a species utilized as a house plant It was reclassified into today's valid botanical systematics in 2009.

The plant reaches the height of one to one and a half metres tall and is deciduous in nature. The basal ,fern -green leaves are with no teeth at the margins, and are linear. During June and until August the plant produces white,six stellate flowers borne in racemes. These are followed by large seed capsules. These plants prefer a sunny position on a moderately moist sandy or a gritty loam soil. They are often grown in Greenhouses and are suitable for mixed borders. Like many other bulb species the foliage should be left to die down naturally so that the bulb an be replenished for the following season.

During the autumn the bulbs can be dug up and stored in a dry frost-free place for the winter. They may then be replanted in the spring at a depth of about four inches deep. It is prudent to note that members of this genus are poisonous.

Albuca fastigiata, is a native to the Cape Provinces of South Africa, in its native habitat it hangs from crevices and ledges on sandstone cliffs. The foliage is narrow along the whole of itself and are of a bright green colour. There is a distinct silvery band running down the middle. The flowers are held erect. The tepals are white with a green stripe underneath and tipped with yellow. it is another species once found under Orinthogalum { fastigiatum }. Some cultivars have blue flowers.

They are a useful plant for growing in containers as they are drought tolerant with only average watering needs and should never be over watered. They attain the height of twenty six inches and delight to grow in full sun. They may be propagated by dividing offsets of the bulb. Allow the fruit capsules to completely dry out before harvesting the seeds which may be sown the following spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Albuca humilis


Albuca humilis and Albuca shawii

Albuca humilis, is native to South Africa from the Free State to Kwazula-Natal. The scientific name of humilis indicates low growing. it grows from small white bulbs from which arise one or two narrow leaves during the summer which die back during the winter. Among the leaves rises the flowering stem to the height of four inches {10 cm }. The tepals { when petals and sepals are the same colour and form} are white with green stripe on the outside, there are six in total, the inner three have yellow tips.

In the UK, they are cultivated in an Alpine house or a bulb frame.

Albuca shawii. {See header Image at the top of the page} is a popular garden species, it is deciduous with very narrow, fleshy, slightly viscid leaves, and slender and erect flower stems, which bear many nodding yellow flowers with green stripes, for a relatively long season during the summer. The flowers are Almond scented and the foliage is slightly aromatic. The stems are about a foot tall.

They require a sunny sheltered position in a well drained, loam, sand, or chalky soil. The bulbs need to be planted three to four inches deep during the spring. Watering is required when in full growth and apply a liquid plant feed about once a month. When the bulbs are dormant keep them dry. They are ideal for flower beds and borders, a gravelly rock garden or in a container. They are generally pest and disease free. Container grown plants should be very well drained this can be achieved by adding sharp sand.

Other popular cultivars include----

Other popular plants include Albuca Canadensis, a spring flowering species attaining the height of six inches that produces yellow flowers.

Albuca major, is an early spring flowering species attaining the height of three inches with a spread of about six inches. They are frost tender. The flowering stem bears about a dozen tubular yellow flowers up to three quarters of an inch long.



Alcea setosa


Alcea regosa white flowered variety


The genus Alcea

The genus Alcea is a group of biennials or short-lived perennials, grown for their tall spikes of flowers. They are frost hardy, but require full sun and a well drained soil. They may be propagated by seed in late spring or summer. Rust is sometimes a problem with these plants. They are collectively known as the Hollyhocks. It is a genus of about sixty species, belonging to the family Malvaceae.

The common Hollyhock, Alcea rosea, some times found under the genus Althaea is a popular garden plant grown for its showy flowers. It is thought to have been imported from China as early as the fifteenth century. The flowers produce have a diverse range of colours ranging from white to dark red ,including pink, yellow and orange many depend on the soil types and conditions.

They are easily grown from seed and self seed readily. The gardener needs to be aware of slugs and snails when the seedlings have germinated.

Alcea rosea variety 'Majorette', is an erect biennial grown as an annual. It is about two feet tall with a spread of about a foot. It produces rounded, lobed pale green leaves with a rough texture. Spikes of rosette-like double flowers in several different colours are produced in summer and early autumn.

Alcea rosea variety 'Summer carnival' is an annual or biennial with a height of up to two point four metres {six foot eight} and flowers of mixed colours.

Alcea rosea,'Charter's double' is an erect biennial with lobed rough textured leaves. Spikes of double flowers in several different colours are carried on upright stems during the summer or early autumn. They stand up to six foot eight inches tall with a spread of about two feet. They require full sun and well drained soil. They are fully hardy.

Alcea setosa is sometimes referred to as the 'Bristly Hollyhock', a native the Galilee, the Carmel, the Gilboa and adjacent regions. This species produces large flowers of a pink colour from April until June. It is encountered on roadsides in Irid, Ajloun, Salk, Anman, Karak and Tafila. It may reach the height of six feet tall , usually less.

It is a species with a long tradition of its use in herbal medicine. Extracts from the plant were used to treat injuries, burns, coughs etc. the flower buds are deemed edible either cooked or raw.

Alchemilla alpine flowers


Alchemilla vulgaris foliage


Alchemilla barbatiflora


Illustration of Lady's mantle with its components


The genus Alchemilla

Alchemilla is a genus of plants belonging to the Roseace family within the order Rosales. They are collectively known as the Lady's mantle's. Alchemilla mollis, the common Lady's mantle has been dealt with in detail in my series 'Past and present medicinal uses', {},and thus is omitted here, however, the cultivar varieties will be reviewed, This is a large genus containing about three hundred species, the majority native to cool climates and the sub-Arctic regions of Europe and Asia, with some occurring in the mountains of Africa and the Americas.

The cultivars are a group of perennial herbaceous plants grown for their foliage and flowers. Some of the species are used in herbal medicine ,especially for ladies complaints. Most species are clump forming with basal leaves arising from a woody rootstock, above which rise flower stalks that bear clusters of many tiny yellow-green flowers. The flowers when faded self seed readily.

The Alpine Lady's mantle Alchemilla alpine is an Arctic mountain plant native to Europe and southern Greenland. It is a perennial species with a woody rhizome, and low growing between two and eight inches tall. The stems of this species are weak and covered by fine hairs. The foliage form a basal rosette and are palmate in form, with six to seven scalloped, lanceolate leaflets, that are toothed at the tip. They are smooth on the upper surface and densely hairy beneath. On the stems there are smaller leaves of a similar form arranged alternately.

The flowers which occur in dense clusters are tine and lime green in colour, they have four sepals but no petals. They flower from June until September. It may occur on mountains as previously stated but also on moorland and Alpine meadows. This species is suitable for a light sandy soil, loamy soil, or even clay soils. They are ideal for a rock garden or the sunny edge of cultivated beds. Apart from propagating by seed it can be achieved by division in spring or autumn.

Alchemilla erythropoda, is the dwarf lady's mantle, native to eastern Europe. It is a small clump forming variety producing palmate foliage. It grows to the height of five to nine inches. The foliage is highly water-repellent. The tiny flowers are yellow and occur in dense clusters during the summer.

It is a fine species to provide ground cover in temperate regions and it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. it does best in a south facing or east facing or north facing exposed or sheltered aspect. The soil should be moist but well drained loam, chalk, sand, or clay. Once the flowers and foliage become untidy in late summer shear them off this will encourage new nearby streams and lakes.. They are generally frost free. This species self seeds vigorously.

Alchemilla stricta, is a species native to Turkey where it is found from five locations and encountered in marshy ground. Although it has a restricted range there are no current conservation concerns.

Alchemilla vulgaris, is the common Lady's mantle a perennial plant of Europe and Greenland, commonly encountered on unimproved grassland or on roadside verges and banks, on chalk down-land and on mountain slopes. It flowers from June until September and is very similar to the larger Alchemmila mollis, which often escapes from gardens and causes confusion with identification in some localities. The foliage of A.vulgaris has scalloped edges and are kidney shaped or semi circular. The flowers are yellowish green and are formed in dense clusters.

Alchemilla species under threat

The species under threat include Alchemilla bursensis, is endemic to north western Turkey where it inhabits stream sides and banks under Beech forest. It is currently classed as being Near Threatened by the IUCN. International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Alchemilla jaroschonkoi, is endemic to Aberbaijan, and is only known from one region. It is found in Alpine meadows and pastures. It is currently classed as being Near Threatened by the IUCN.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb, Hollyhocks are a favourite in all parts of the world where they occur. Thank you for your visit. Best wishes to you.

      Shyron E Shenko,

      Hi, So glad to have brought back some wonderful childhood memories for you. It seems hollyhocks bring back childhood memories for many people. Best wishes to you.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      2 years ago from Texas

      Dave, I love the Hollyhocks, when I was a little girl, I liked playing among them. Such beauty I really enjoyed the learning experience.

      Have a blessed day.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I adore hollyhocks and anything that is a bulb is likely guaranteed to be a favorite.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Devika, as always I appreciate your visit and your tweet. You are very kind. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I like the images. Always a learning lesson from you. I Tweeted!


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