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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bomarea Flowers

Type of Flower
Bomarea is a tuberous member of the the family Alstroemeriaceae. There are about 100 species, some of which are non-climbing, growing more like a ground cover, although the majority are climbers. They are found from Mexico on South, through the tropics and into the Andes, down to Southern Chile, and are mostly plants of the forest understory, where they grow through adjacent vegetation in lightly shaded conditions. Some species are coastal, growing in the fog belt of Chile, so, not surprisingly they do very well in Coastal California. 
Other species can only be found in the high altitude Páramo of South America. Bomarea is related to Alstroemeria where both flowers and leaves demonstrate this close relationship. The most current phylogenetic studies support these two genera as distinct. Morphologically, these two genera can be differentiated with capsule and seed coat characters. Alstroemeria has explosive capsules with a brown seed coat whereas Bomarea does not have explosive capsules and the seeds are covered by a red fleshy sarcotesta layer. The beautiful flowers of this genus are produced in a dense umbel at the end of the growing shoots. Each umbel can be composed of as many as 30-45 flowers if well grown, with flowers consisting of three outer tepals and three inner, sometimes of contrasting colors.
Growing from seed is not difficult. Collect seeds when the capsules have mature. Rub and wash away the red sarcotesta layer as it inhibits germination. Sow the seeds in a well drained mix (1:1 organic:inorganic is good) and keep the soil moist. It takes about 3 months for seedlings to appear. In the Bay Area, seeds mature in the fall and if sown in October, they will sprout in January. It is anecdotally thought that if the seeds dry out, they will not germinate. Once seedlings have grown 3-4 leaves, they can be spit up and repotted.
Seedlings will remain about the same size in a small pot for years but once they are put into a larger pot (such as a 1 gallon (~3 L) pot) they will take off and flower in 2-3 years. The best and largest blooming comes from plants that have established in the ground for several years. Growing plants do better with occasionally fertilizing. Division of plants can be made although it severely weakens the parent plant. But if a division is necessary, make sure that the new division has some growing points (see photos below) with at least one storage tuber. The tubers are only for storage and no new plants can be grown just from the tubers alone.


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