Sunday, 5 October 2014

Flower of the day: Freesia

Freesia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Iridaceae, first described as a genus in 1866. It is native to the eastern side of southern Africa, from Kenya south to South Africa,[1] most species being found in Cape Province.[citation needed] Species of the former genus Anomatheca are now included in Freesia. The plants commonly known as "freesias", with fragrant funnel-shaped flowers, are cultivated hybrids of a number of Freesia species. Some other species are also grown as ornamental plants.

They are herbaceous plants which grow from a corm 1–2.5 cm diameter, which sends up a tuft of narrow leaves 10–30 cm long, and a sparsely branched stem 10–40 cm tall bearing a few leaves and a loose one-sided spike of flowers with six tepals. Many species have fragrant narrowly funnel-shaped flowers, although those formerly placed in the genus Anomatheca, such as F. laxa, have flat flowers.

Freesias are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Large Yellow Underwing.Systematics

The genus was named in honor of Friedrich Heinrich Theodor Freese (1795–1876), German physician.

Freesia andersoniae L.Bolus - Cape Province, Free State
Freesia caryophyllacea (Burm.f.) N.E.Br. (syn. F. elimensis L.Bolus, F. parva N.E.Br., F. xanthospila (DC.) Klatt) - Heuningrug region in Cape Province
Freesia corymbosa (Burm.f.) N.E.Br. (syn. F. armstrongii W.Watson, F. brevis N.E.Br.) - Cape Province
Freesia fergusoniae L.Bolus - Cape Province
Freesia fucata J.C.Manning & Goldblatt - Hoeks River Valley in Cape Province
Freesia grandiflora (Baker) Klatt - Zaire, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, northeastern South Africa
Freesia laxa (Thunb.) Goldblatt & J.C.Manning (syn. F. cruenta (Lindl.) Klatt) - from Rwanda + Kenya south to Cape Province; naturalized in Madeira, Mauritius, RĂ©union, Australia, Florida, Argentina
Freesia leichtlinii Klatt (syn. F. middlemostii F.Barker, F. muirii N.E.Br.) - Cape Province; naturalized in Corsica, California, Florida, Argentina
Freesia marginata J.C.Manning & Goldblatt - Cape Province
Freesia occidentalis L.Bolus (syn. F. framesii L.Bolus) - Cape Province
Freesia praecox J.C.Manning & Goldblatt - Cape Province
Freesia refracta (Jacq.) Klatt (syn. F. hurlingii L.Bolus) - Cape Province; naturalized in France, Canary Islands, Madeira, Bermuda, St. Helena
Freesia sparrmanii (Thunb.) N.E.Br. - Langeberg in Cape Province
Freesia speciosa L.Bolus (syn. F. flava (E.Phillips & N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.) - Cape Province
Freesia verrucosa (B.Vogel) Goldblatt & J.C.Manning (syn. F. juncea (Pourr.) Klatt) - Cape Province
Freesia viridis (Aiton) Goldblatt & J.C.Manning - Namibia, Cape Province
Species of the former genus Anomatheca are now included in Freesia:[1]

Anomatheca cruenta Lindl. = Freesia laxa subsp. laxa
Anomatheca grandiflora Baker = Freesia grandiflora
Anomatheca juncea (Pourr.) Ker Gawl. = Freesia verrucosa
Anomatheca laxa (Thunb.) Goldblatt = Freesia laxa
Anomatheca verrucosa (B.Vogel) Goldblatt = Freesia verrucosa
Anomatheca viridis (Aiton) Goldblatt = Freesia viridis
Anomatheca xanthospila (DC.) Ker Gawl. = Freesia caryophyllacea

Cultivation and uses

The plants usually called "freesias" are derived from crosses made in the 19th century between F. refracta and F. leichtlinii. Numerous cultivars have been bred from these species and the pink- and yellow-flowered forms of F. corymbosa. Modern tetraploid cultivars have flowers ranging from white to yellow, pink, red and blue-mauve. They are widely cultivated and readily increased from seed. Due to their specific and pleasing scent, they are often used in hand creams, shampoos, candles, etc.

They can be planted in the fall in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-10 (i.e. where the temperature does not fall below about −7 °C (20 °F)), and in the spring in Zones 4-8.

Freesia laxa (formerly called Lapeirousia laxa or Anomatheca cruenta) is one of the other species of the genus which is commonly cultivated. Smaller than the scented freesia cultivars, it has flat rather than cup-shaped flowers.

Extensive 'forcing' of this bulb occurs in Half Moon Bay in California where several growers chill the bulbs in proprietary methods to satisfy cold dormancy which results in formation of buds within a predicted number of weeks – often 5 weeks at 55°F.

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