ISI 2004-36. Schizobasis intricata (Baker) Baker

This relative of Bowiea volubilis, the so-called climbing onion, is an extremely wide-ranging African bulb found from S Africa N to Ethiopia and from Tanzania W to Angola. Frank Horwood used to grow a magnificent specimen at Abbey Garden in the ’80s with three tennis-ball-sized bulbs and a thick shock of intricately branched, wiry stems. Chuck Hanson of Arid Lands Greenhouses later acquired this specimen along with other plants from Horwood’s collection. It proved to be self-sterile and was retired to the pastures of the Huntingon to live out its days as a display specimen. In the meantime, Chuck traveled to S Africa and was able to collect seeds of a form that proved to be considerably easier to propagate. This is the form offered here with translucent pale green to brownish, half-submerged, depressed-globose bulbs to about 5 cm across, reminiscent of pearl onions floating in a fricassee. From atop the bulb emerges a tangle of wiry stems more like the leaves of dill weed except that they bear small, whitish, self-fertile, 3-merous flowers followed by BB-sized capsules that split open and pepper the ground with course-ground black seeds. If one can resist the temptation to consume the plants, one can enjoy a gratifyingly easy yet charming dwarf container subject. We have later generation plants, HBG 90233, from seed originally collected by C. Hanson in 1990, just S of Jansenville, E Cape, S Africa. $6.

Photo © 2004 by John N. Trager. Images may not be used elsewhere without permission.

Published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal, Vol. 76 (2), March - April, 2004