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THE ORIGIN OF GARDEN PLANTS AND THE FSU CONTRIBUTION

The South African Center


The South African Center refers mainly to the Cape Region, the southern point of Africa. Phytogeographers consider this area a unique Floristic Kingdom because of its extremely unusual flora and independent evolution. Vavilov did not define the Cape as a region of origin of cultivated plants since so few plants of economic importance have been brought from there. The Cape flora is, however, a significant source of ornamentals, having provided the world's gardens with about 600 ornamental plants, or about 12% of the total. Numerous commercially significant herbaceous ornamentals are native to this area: various species of the ever popular Geraniums (Pelargonium) thrive both indoors and in the open as annuals; Bird-of-Paradise (Strelizia reginae), best-known as a cut flower and as an indoor plant; Cape primrose (Streptocarpus hybrida hort.) a wonderful pot plant and belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna), which is a native of the Cape as well. Giant summer hyacinth (Galtonia candicans) was brought from Port-Natal, and Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) came from Transvaal. The genera Crassula, Gasteria, Haworthia, Lachenalia, Gazania (Gazania linearis, G. rigens) are frequent and abundant in the Cape Region, various of the genus Erica and the Proteaceae family are also common to the area. The corn flag (Gladiolus) which is not winter hardy, has more than 100 species there, some of which were involved in hybridization.

South African plants were most actively introduced to Europe in the 18th century. Dutch gardeners and botanists contributed greatly to the introduction of Cape plants. The rich plant collections in Dutch botanical gardens, in particular those of Hartekamp Garden, near Haarlem, were studied by Carl Linnaeus, who worked there from 1735 to 1737. Most of the plants brought from South Africa are thermophilous species which, in the Temperate zone, must be grown in greenhouses, in winter gardens and indoors; some species can grow in a cold climate. For example, giant summer hyacinth (Galtonia candicans) does well in St. Petersburg (zone 4), red hot poker (Kniphofia galpinii) can grow in many regions in the Central and South Russia (zones 4, 5).

THE ORIGIN OF GARDEN PLANTS
 
 
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