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Bomarea ovaliei (Leontochir) "Garra de León"

This is a rare look at the amazing Bomarea ovallei This very unusual vine comes from the world's driest desert - the Atacama in Chile, where it is endangered.  Bomareas are closely related to Alstroemeria, the "Peruvian Lily" seen in floral arrangements.  This one makes spectacular clusters of scarlet blooms with a scent of honey.  The form i have has attractive yellow centers.  This is a challenging plant, but very rewarding if you can give it the right conditions.  Seeds don't germinate well, so i offer established plants.

Bomarea ovaliei (Leontochir) "Garra de León"

Bomarea ovallei (formerly Leontochir ovallei) is a tuberous vine with attractive shoots that trail along the ground for 3 to 6 feet.  If you wish, you may grow them upright on supports, like in a tomato cage.  In spring, the flower clusters make their appearance from the ends of the shoots, which bend upwards to display the blossoms.  The dense clusters have about 20-30 blooms, each about 1˝ inches across.  The blooms are shiny and have an unusual heavy texture, almost like plastic.  The flower stems were used in displays by the locals in Chile, who call it "Lion's Claw".  Unfortunately it has been overharvested, as well as eaten by animals, which has led to its endangered status.

Bomarea ovaliei (Leontochir) "Garra de León"

Its tuber goes dormant for about 6 months in spring & summer, then rapidly sends out shoots in autumn.  During the autumn & winter growing season, it needs cool or mild conditions that are frost-free, and preferably above 40 degrees F (4°C), but below 65°F at night (18°C).  Warm daytime temperatures in autumn & winter might stress it, particularly if nights are warm.  It wants mostly-sunny conditions during the growth season. 

Grow it in deep pot in a rocky/sandy mix with no more than 10% organic matter.  A typical mix is equal parts of pumice rock and coarse sand, with a small amount of coco fiber or peat moss mixed in.  Give it good fertilizing as well as regular watering.  Despite getting almost no rainfall in the desert, its roots find underground water from fog condensation.  But while it's dormant, keep the soil almost-dry.  The tubers are very sensitive to disturbances and can break apart easily.  Repot very gently, and only when dormant.  Over about 40-50% humidity is best.

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Photos used with permission of Martin Grantham

 

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