Tritonia deusta, Kalkoentjie, Scorched Tritonia, South African rock garden perennial, Spring flowering, 20 seeds

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Tritonia deusta (kalkoentjie) is a variable, winter-growing species with large orange-salmon to bright reddish-orange flowers, with or without a prominent dark reddish-black marking or central stripe in the throat of the outer tepals. It occurs in the southern Cape from Caledon to Riversdale and inland to Robertson and Montagu. It is easily confused with T. crocata, dittering mainly in the absence of translucent zones or ‘windows’ on the margins of the tepals, and in having a prominent yellow, star-shaped base within the perianth tube. The subspecies deusta has reddish-black markings on the outer tepals, while in the subspecies miniata there are no markings. It produces an attractive fan of lance-shaped leaves, grows to 450 mm high in cultivation and multiplies rapidly by corm offsets. Flowering takes place in spring and it is well suited to rock garden pockets and deep containers. It readily hybridizes with T. crocata and T. squalida and flowers must be isolated and hand-pollinated in order to obtain pure seed.

The leaves of certain winter-growing species especially T. crocata, T. deusta and T. squalida are susceptible to attack by unsightly rust fungi in winter, and it is essential that they be grown in well ventilated positions receiving as much direct sun or bright light as possible. All Tritonia species are subject to fungal infection by Botrytis which causes reddish-brown lesions on the corms. Tritonia seedlings are susceptible to damping-ott by Pythtum fungi which is prevalent in poorly ventilated conditions and when seeds have been sown too thickly.

The developing flower buds are sometimes attacked by aphids, and the foliage often falls prey to rust fungi in winter and to red spider mites in early summer. The corms are subject to mealy bug infestation when grown in containers under enclosed, poorly ventilated conditions.

Propagation by seeds

Sow the seeds in autumn (September-October) when the difference between day & night temperatures is about 10-12°C in deep seed trays or pots, in a well-drained medium such as equal parts of finely sifted compost and coarse river sand. Cover the seeds with a 3-4 mm layer of sowing medium and keep moist by watering with a fine rose about twice a week, depending on weather conditions. Germination of fresh seeds takes place in about three weeks, and under ideal conditions, flowers can be expected for the first time in the second season.

© Graham Duncan