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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers)

The Red-hot Pokers (Kniphofia) in my garden are in full bloom and I never noticed the baby Praying Mantis on this one until I up-loaded the photograph to my MAC. Upon closer inspection, I saw that many of the blooms had babies on them, Mother Praying Mantis has been busy! Praying mantises usually breed during the summer season and do not give birth but lay eggs that come out in a white froth. Each praying mantis egg case will hatch about 100-200 tiny mantises, all at once and when the babies hatch, they're entirely self-sufficient and on their own.

The name Kniphofia is a tongue twister (pronounced nee-FOF-ee-a) but these plants are easy to grow. Once established, these Red Hot Poker plants can also manage drought, although mine tend to grow better and bloom more profusely with supplemental water. Full sun is a must as they get very scraggly and hardly flower at all in shade.

Red Hot Pokers flourishing at the side of my wildlife pond where it over-flows.

These plants, which are native to Africa, produce spikes of upright, brightly-colored, red-to-orange flowers. This gives names such as "torch" and "red hot poker" to many of them. The flowers produce copious nectar while blooming and attract sap-suckers such as the Black Sunbird to my garden. Besides the flowers of my Aloe ferox, this seems to be their most popular feeding spot and every year I look forward to the Black Sunbird and his wife (Chalcomitra amethystina - Amethyst sunbird - Swartsuikerbekkie), who spend most of the day visiting from flower to flower.

Red-hot pokers are grown in temperate gardens around the world. Ranging in colour from reds, oranges through yellow to lime green and cream, numerous cultivars and hybrids have been developed from species originating in South Africa. Most species of Kniphofia are evergreen while a few are deciduous and sprout again in the early summer. They bear dense, erect spikes (elongated inflorescence with stalkless flowers) above the level of the leaves in either winter or summer depending on the species. The small, tubular flowers are produced in shades of red, orange, yellow and cream.

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.


Some of my first Red Hot Pokers I planted way back in 2004


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