Wandering in the Wind

Many bulbous plants are stimulated to flower following a fire. However, for many of these plants, they do not require a fire as such but for the surrounding vegetation to be cleared. In which case, while the species may flower most profusely after a fire, individuals can often flower where there is no surrounding vegetation. Such places may be along the edge of a path or in a firebreak. Around our house, we cut one such firebreak last December and now there is a profusion of the dainty flowers of Ixia micrandra.

Ixia micrandra (Iridaceae) habitat

Ixia micrandra flowering in a firebreak

Ixia micrandra (Iridaceae) flower

Ixia micrandra flowers have particularly small anthers

One of the common names for the genus Ixia is “wand-flowers”. This is not because of any connection with wizards. A wand originally referred to a supple flexible stick that moved in a twisting way. The word “wander” comes from the same derivation. So the very fine stems of Ixia rather wander in the wind. The common name wand-flower is not exclusively used for Ixia, it has been used for several other flowers with fine graceful stems that are easily moved by the wind such as the closely related Dierama.

Botanical Bit

Ixia micrandra forms part of a group of similar species that have small anthers (see Systematics of the southern African genus Ixia (Iridaceae: Crocoideae): 4. Revision of sect. Dichone). Thus the name of Ixia micrandra refers to this character: micr- meaning small, -andra referring to male, i.e. stamens, of the plant. It used to be regarded as a more widespread species with two varieties, var. minor and var. confusa. But recent work on the genus has recommended separating these varieties as species. Ixia micrandra is now restricted to plants with thin leaves and pale mauve-pink flowers that appear from July to September. It occurs in the Overberg from Houw Hoek to De Hoop. Ixia minor and Ixia confusa both have brighter pink to purple-pink flowers. Ixia minor is found from the Kogelberg to Franschhoek, whereas Ixia confusa is the most widespread of the three found from the Riviersonderend to Outeniqua Mountains and inland to the Swartberg.

Ixia micrandra (Iridaceae) plant

The very narrow leaves (<2mm wide) of Ixia micrandra help to separate it from Ixia confusa

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