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Succulent of the Week (2011-01-10) Albuca spiralis

Posted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:17 am
by lancer99
Albuca spiralis


Albuca is a genus of about 100 species, most of them from South Africa. This particular species has unique and very curious spiraling leaves.

Growth Habit: The bulb is very squat, much wider than high, often depressed in the middle. In habitat, the bulb grows to a maximum of about an inch wide, but can be twice that size in cultivation. From the top of the bulb, 5-20 leaves grow, usually in a corkscrew shape, followed by a flower spike. After the flower spike fades, the leaves persist through the winter. (but see "Cultivation").

Scientific name: Albuca spiralis Linné

Common names: None.

Etymology: Generic name indirectly from the Latin 'albus,' meaning "white," referring to the flowers of most of the species in the genus, and 'spiralis' from the leaves.

Taxonomy: Described by Linnaeus in 1786, this species has never been re-classified, but the family it belongs to is subject to debate.

Distribution: Western Cape Province, Republic of South Africa.

Habitat: Grows on sand plains.

Cultivation: In its native habitat, this species apparently grows during the winter and flowers in the spring. In the Northern Hemisphere, it flowers in fall and grows in winter. An easy grower, happy in just about any medium. Because it's a bulb, it will easily adjust to any draining soil. When the leaves start to dry up, no more water is needed. Note that in habitat, the top of the bulb is usually exposed.

The more sun it gets, the curlier the spirals will be. My plant in half-sun:
and in full sun:

Flowers: Unspectacular, drooping, with the green outer petals (tepals) snowdrop-shaped.

Minimum temperature: It's a bulb...don't let it freeze.

Conservation Status: This species is not protected by CITES.

Similar species: A. circinata. This species has much longer, thinner leaves, that tend to curve into flat circles, rather than corkscrew. I suspect that this plant is often sold as A. spiralis.

Observations: There seem to be a number of different clones of this species, so even under best conditions, some spiral less than others.