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Accepted Scientific Name: Ledebouria socialis (Baker) Jessop
J. S. African Bot. xxxvi. 253 (1970)
(Silver Squill) is probably the most popular bulb among succulent collections, it has stunning spots on the leaves which make it beautiful and interesting to look at. Whenever a plant lover comes across it, it always elicits a very favourable response.
Origin and Habitat: It is native to KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
Habitat: Grows in arid savanna in summer-rainfall regions, this species has mottled leaves enabling it to blend into its thicket backdrop.
Ledebouria socialis (Baker) Jessop
J. S. African Bot. xxxvi. 253 (1970)
- Ledebouria socialis (Baker) Jessop
- Scilla socialis Baker
- Ledebouria paucifolia (Baker) hort., nov. comb. ined.
- Scilla paucifolia Baker
- Ledebouria violacea (Hutch.) Tjaden
- Scilla violacea Hutch.
- Scilla pauciflora Link ex Schult.f.
ENGLISH: Violet Squill, Leopard Lily, South African Scilla, Bluebell, Silver Squill, Wood hyacinth
Description: The silver squill (Ledebouria socialis) is a small geophytic, evergreen bulbous member of the lily family that forms small, somewhat teardrop-shaped bulbs that sit on top of the soil in thick clusters. It survives drought as effectively as any succulent. The leaves are small, silvery white, shield-shaped and beautifully adorned with dark green dots. The small, green and purple flowers are borne in short, nodding racemes. It was first described by John Gilbert Baker as Scilla socialis in 1870. John Peter Jessop later revised the genus Scilla and split off several species, reclassifying Scilla socialis into the genus Ledebouria in 1970.
Bulb: Above-ground, conical, tapering , green to purple, clothed in peeling, papery tunics that prevent water loss, (15-)20-35(-40) cm tall 8-20 mm in diameter, it will soon cluster from the base to form dense mounds.
Roots: Succulent, 1 mm in diameter.
Leaves: 2 – 4, lance-shaped, strap-like, 4-7(-15) cm long and 1-2 cm wide, upright to spreading, fleshy, light silvery green, and basal with dark-green, turquoise, olive or aquamarine markings above and wine-red to purple beneath.
Flowers: Forms spreading-ascending racemes 9 - 17 cm long of bell-shaped flowers. Pedicels 6 mm long, bracts small, ovate. The flowers are tiny (about 3 mm) but showy, , campanulate, greenish purple-pink with a small pink stripe running down each petal, can be up to 20+ flowers on each spike. Filaments purple, exserted. Ovary globose, stipitate.
Blooming season: Spring and summer.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Ledebouria socialis group
- Ledebouria socialis (Baker) Jessop: forms small, teardrop-shaped aboveground bulbs. Leaves silvery white, shield-shaped with dark green dots. Flowers Small, green and purple in short, nodding racemes. Distribution: KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, South Africa.
- Ledebouria violacea (Hutch.) Tjaden: foliage is silvery gray-green flecked with dark green and the undersurfaces of the leaves are violet (hence the specific name), but most botanist agree that it should all be included in the Ledebouria socialis.
- Scilla pauciflora Link ex Schult.f.: is a horticultural name for a plant that is likely a Ledebouria socilais. The name has not been published, but this plant is often available on the trade.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Arnold, T. H. & B. C. De Wet, eds. "Plants of southern Africa: names and distribution." Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Africa no. 62. 1993.
2) Huxley, A., ed. "The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening." 1992.
3) Zachos, E. "Tempting Tropicals: 175 Irresistible Indoor Plants." Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. 2005.
4) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 17 July 2001
5) Smith Prof. Gideon “Gardening with Succulents” Struik, 01 March 2006
Scilla socialis (Ledebouria socialis) Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Scilla socialis (Ledebouria socialis) Photo by: Carolina González
Cultivation and Propagation: Ledebouria socialis is an easy-to-care plant. Bulbs at the base of the plant must be above the soil. The horticultural usefulness of Ledebouria socialis lies in the fact that it thrives in rich compost in shade and semi-shade, where many other plants will flounder. It is an excellent plant for the classroom or terrarium; flowers freely.
Soil: It prefers a well-drained but rich soil mix.
Exposure: It needs full sun to semi-shade, but adapts to shade too.
Waterings: Let it dry completely between waterings.
Fertilization: Feed monthly with 50% strength soluble house plant food when it is actively growing.
Hardiness: Hardy down to freezing so best kept in a frost free place indoors and can be grown outside where there is no danger of frost. It is very happy sitting in window sill too.
Propagation: Seeds or (usually) by division of bulb-clusters.
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