Cobra Lily Bonanza

Cobra lilies (Chasmanthe) are amazing plants. There are four species that are found in the area. 

Chasmanthe floribunda is indigenous to Peninsula Shale Renosterveld, and Chasmanthe aethiopica is indigenous to Cape Flats Dune Strandveld, Peninsula Shale RenosterveldChasmanthe bicolor is listed as vulnerable. Chasmanthe floribunda 'Duckittii' occurred traditionally further north of Cape Town, but it has beautiful yellow flowers. 

There are a number of reasons why these plants are magnificent to grow:

  • They attract sunbirds and sugarbirds
  • Their flowers are colorful and beautiful
  • They are easy to grow from seed
  • They grow bulbs, which makes it easy to transport them to different sites
  • They grow quickly and can flower within 1-2 seasons
  • Bunched together, they form a beautiful cluster that can quickly enhance a dilapitated garden

For these reasons it is possible to find cobra lilies in many parts of the city. However, they tend to grow in dense clusters in private gardens or in affluent neighborhoods. When they seed they can produce hundreds of bright-orange seeds per plant. However, these seeds will often get lost within the dense cluster. Furthermore, bulbs will reproduce underground and further densify the cluster. 

The goal of the Cobra Lily Bonanza project is to achieve the following goals:

  • To harvest as many seeds and bulbs from cluster that are already very densely packed with cobra lilies (September-October - year 1)
    Target: 10,000 seeds and 1,000 bulbs
  • To train home nursery growers how to grow cobra lilies at home (February-March - year 2)
    Target: 150 growers
  • To plant the first 1,000 bulbs in public garden sites that form part of our corridors and that will enhance the coverage of nectar-rich plants for the sunbird and sugarbird project (February-March - year 2)
    Target: 20 sites
  • To grow the seeds into larger bulbs in the first winter season (April-October - year 2)
    Target: 4,000 bulbs measuring 3-5 cm in storage in summer
  • To plant the next 4,000 bulbs in public sites (February-March - year 3)
    Target: 60 sites

This project will be meticuously documented, and as per Communitree standards detailed records will be kept of the number of seeds and bulbs harvested, of the origin and destination of each of them, and of the performance of the growers. Furthermore, timelapse photos will be made to record the changes over time and to show the visual impact of the cobra lilies. Finally, the impact on the birds will be studied by having our animal monitors document sightings of birds and other animals in a number of patches. 

If the project proves successful then this work can continue to run, with more and more cobra lily seeds available each year.

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