Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Boat Lily

AN ASSORTMENT of vivid plants can enliven the interiors. A delicate looking indoor plant that grows well even in warm Chennai or Hyderabad with an unexplained generic name Boat Lily, Rhoeo spathacea (Rhoea discolour), is a member of the family Commelinaceae. A native of Mexico, it was named Rhoeo by R.P.Hance a British botanist.
The specific name spathacea refers to the large bracts that enclose the flowers and discolouring explains the double colour nature of the leaves, dark green on the upper surface and purplish underneath.
The leaves are erect and lance shaped up to 25 cms long and 5 cms broad produced in conical rosettes, with flowers in boat shaped bracts found below the leaves. Owing to the shape of the bracts, the plant, although not a lily, is also known as the Boat Lily. The small white flowers are not showy but they present a curious appearance like a child peeping from its cradle and hence the common name `Moses-in-the-cradle'.
The leaves are fleshy and can easily be broken. The plant, thus being delicate, should be kept in a place where it will not be disturbed. . A semi shady, moist place will be ideal for the plant. In summer, the plant should be given more shade and water but water logging around the roots should be avoided.
Mature plants produce plenty of offshoots and they come in handy to propagate the plant. A loose compost mixture in which an extra amount of leaf mould is added will be ideal for the plant.
Rhoeo spathacea (Vittata) with yellow lengthwise stripes on the upper side of leaves with a red tinge is a variegated variety of the plant.

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