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Chile’s Garra de león, or Lion’s Claw, at SFSU’s Greenhouse

November 9, 2012
Bomarea (=Leontochir) ovallei

A photo from last year’s flowering, but our plant will be flowering again soon!

Plant lovers know this marvel of the Chilean desert as Garra de león, or Lion’s Claw. It’s found in just a few valleys in the Atacama south of Copiapó. Until recently, botanists placed it in the monotypic genus Leontochir of the Peruvian Lily family, Alstroemeriaceae. Molecular work has provoked botanist Anton Hofreiter to transfer this plant to the large and diverse genus, Bomarea, centered in South America. SFSU has a distinguished collection of this genus, part of which can be seen in flower much of the year outdoors above the Bio. Department’s New Greenhouse. Bomarea ovallei is grown in a cool greenhouse with supplemental light. It needs to be kept completely dry from May or June, until October or November. With cool temperatures and a bit of moisture the root system becomes active. Soon the  first shoot springs up and rapidly elongates from underground stems connected to swollen storage roots. Plants produce numerous stems that scramble along rocky substrate in nature, but in the Greenhouse, the stems are trained on a wire form for better viewing of the extraordinarily beautiful flowers and an appreciation of their heady honey scent.

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