History of the Genus in Cultivation

The genus Hypoxis contains species which are nearly all yellow-flowered and it was the reddish Hypoxis baurii described by Baker in 1876, which later undoubtedly prompted the botanist G. Nel to describe a new genus for this plant in 1914 called Rhodohypoxis. 'Rhodo' originating from the word 'Rhodon' meaning rose/red from the language spoken by the people of Greece around 1000 B.C.

Of the six species only four are readily available in cultivation with the best know being R. baurii and R. milloides and it is from these that today's cultivars have originated.

The introduction of the earlier cultivars is largely down to Mrs. S. K. Garnett-Botfield who was sent a few plants of the red and white variants of R. baurii in the 1920's and then proceeded to propagate them and select various colour forms to which cultivar names were given. In 1927 both the white (var. platypetala) and pink (var. baurii) variants received the Award of Merit when exhibited by her at the Chelsea Flower Show. Her daughter Mrs. Ruth McConnel inherited part of the collection and carried on the selection work, first at her garden and nursery at Knockdolian in Ayrshire and later at Park Lane House on Castle Hill in Farnham. On Mrs. McConnel's death the collection was passed on again this time into the hands of Valerie Finnis who unfortunately died in October 2006.

The first record of their appearance in commerce appears to be in 1935 when they were offered by Messrs Baker of Codsall, Wolverhampton, from stock received from Mrs. Garnett-Botfield.

There appear to be relatively few introductions of living material to Europe; the first seems to have been in the 1870's when Mr. J. Baker (1877) noted that the collector MacOwan sent plants of R. baurii to the German nurseryman Max Leichtlin of Baden Baden. There is no evidence of this introduction being particularly successful and Mrs. Garnett-Botfield's activities constitute the most significant contribution to the horticultural history of the genus. She visited the Underberg in Natal in November 1937 and according to Mrs. McConnel introduced further material of R. baurii and its white variety platypetala to Britain which she described in the Alpine Garden Society's bulletin of December 1939 as sprinkling the ground 'like daisies in a lawn'.

Mrs. Helen A. Milford well known for her collections of living material in the Drakensberg also introduced further plants of R. baurii and is attributed to the introduction of R. milloides; however the description of the plant which received a Preliminary Commendation in 1949 seems to apply to R. thodiana.

The true milloides was not introduced until 1971 when Miss. C. Williamson sent some plants to Mr. W. Marais at Kew. Mrs. Milford was apparently the introducer of R. rubella, sometime in the 1930's; however this species is no longer in general cultivation.

More recent introductions of living material have been made by Miss C. Williamson, collecting in Lesotho between 1969 and 1971, by Mr. J. Holmes in Natal, by Dr. A. Jacot-Guillarmod and by B. L. Burtt and O. M. Hilliard who have made extensive studies of the genus and published their findings in Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Volume 36. (1978).

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