Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Sparaxis bulbifera (L.) Ker-Gawl.

Frost-hardy cormous perennial with up to 9 lance-shaped, ribbed leaves, to 30cm, and erect, dainty, rarely branched stems, with up to 6, white to yellowish cream, trumpet-shaped flowers in spring.  [RHSD, Hortus, Grey].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘[Ixia bulbifera] is also termed by the Dutch Vluweel Bloemje, or Velvet-flower, as well as Ixia grandiflora of the last number, to which it is very closely allied, but generally taller, leaves paler or more tinged with yellow. […] Propagates fast by seeds, stem-bulbs, and root-bulbs, and is become one of the commonest species in our gardens, yet has never before been figured, except in the Botanist’s Repository.  Preserves its colour, when dried, unimpaired.  Cultivated by Miller in 1758. 

It has been supposed that many remarkable varieties in this genus have been produced by the industry of Dutch gardens, but this is very doubtful, for certain it is that scarcely a variety, or what is supposed to be such, has been imported from Holland, that has not been produced also from bulbs that were undoubtedly gathered wild or discovered in specimens collected at the Cape.  Whenever therefore a plant affords marks of distintion from its congeners, exceeding those alloted to variety by Linnaeus, and is not known to have been raised from the seeds of the identical species of which it is pretended to be a variety, we, without hesitation, record it a distinct species: as studiously avoiding, on the other hand, to enumerate as such, those that merely differ within the rules prescribed by our great master.  When, as in this instance, we are but slightly acquainted with the local economy and precise habitat, this rule requires to be strictly attended to.’  [BM t.545/1802]. 

It is also figured in Andrews’ Botanical Repository [ABR pl.48/1799], perhaps the earliest depiction in an English language publication.  Introduced to Britain in 1758.  [JD].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.413/1843].  Received per ‘Sovereign’ February 1831 under the name Sparaxis bulbifera.  [MP A2948].  Seeds or bulbs presented to the Sydney Botanic Gardens by Messrs. Macarthur in the same year.  [RBGS AB1].


Published Nov 17, 2009 - 04:41 PM | Last updated Jul 24, 2010 - 05:13 PM

Figured are a basal fan of leaves and yellowish cream, trumpet-shaped flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Cabinet t.545, 1802.

Sparaxis bulbifera (L.) Ker-Gawl. | BM t.545/1802 | BHL

Family Iridaceae
Region of origin

South Africa

  • Ixia bulbifera L.
Common Name

Harlequin flower

Name in the Camden Park Record

Sparaxis bulbifera 

Confidence level high