Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Ink sketch and watercolour in small sketch-book. 

The Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia moench, pronounced nip-HOFF-ee-uh) in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) are just starting to flower, which means soon my garden will be flooded by Sunbirds. Can’t wait!

Family: Asphodelaceae
Common names: Red-hot poker or Torch lily (English), Vuurpyl (Afrikaans) – Endemic to Africa.

About 70 species of Kniphofia occur in Africa and 47 of these are found in the eastern areas of South Africa.The genus Kniphofia is very closely related to the genus Aloe. As a result, the first Kniphofia to be described, namely K. uvaria, was mistakenly thought to be an Aloe and was thus initially named Aloe uvaria.

Kniphofia form large clumps of arching leaves which are long, narrow and tapering. The leaves are non-succulent, unlike the leaves of aloes. This distinguishes them from a plant such as Aloe cooperi. The leaf surface is glabrous (smooth) in all but one species, namely, K. hirsuta.
The underground part of the plant consists of a thick rhizome and fibrous, fleshy roots. In some Kniphofia species the rhizome divides forming groups of stems, while in others the stems are more or less solitary. The vast majority of Kniphofia species do not produce an aerial stem, but exceptions do occur as is the case with old specimens of K. caulescens and K. northiae which can reach a height of 30 cm.

Kniphofia ensifoliaKniphofia are frequented by nectar-feeding birds such as sunbirds and sugarbirds. They are also visited by certain insects. The flowers of some species of Kniphofia are reportedly used as a minor food and apparently taste like honey. K. parviflora is reported to have been made into a traditional snake repellent. K. rooperii and K. laxiflora are used traditionally as a medicine. An infusion of the roots is used to relieve or treat the symptoms of certain chest disorders.

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