Black Flag

October 12, 2022

Punk is no stranger to the airwaves in our office, although it’s more likely to be a New Orleans band, Special Interest, or the punk electronic sounds of T. Raumschmiere than Black Flag if I’m in charge of things. Whilst preparing Vernacular, David Straight and I argued our way through large parts of the country about the comparative merits of British and American punk and post-punk.

This journal article isn’t about music, however, and is of course about a South African genus of geophytes (plants with bulbs, corms or other underground storage organs) called Ferraria. Its title is rooted in the fact that the most well-known species, Ferraria crispa (pictured below), is sometimes known by the name, Black Flag.

I can be quite dismissive about the value of common names for plants (which often blur diversity and provide inadequate information), but Black Flag is a great name for a plant. Obviously, David Straight will be receiving a plant of F. crispa for his garden, but it is other species that have interested me over the last 2 months as they have inched their ways towards flowering – including the chocolate brown wonder at the top of this article, called Ferraria foliosa.

Ferraria crispa has blotted its copybook in Western Australia by making a nuisance of itself in some of the distinctive ecosystems from that part of the world, yet has never shown similar tendencies here (although I would not advocate planting this species on sand dunes).

The blue-flowered species shown above, Ferraria uncinata, is an extremely rare plant in New Zealand, and I was lucky enough to be given some corms earlier this year by Lynne Atkins (one of the most accomplished plantspeople in NZ). The opportunity to buy the equally rare Ferraria densepunctulata arose at the same time, meaning that we now have a wide cross-section of this fascinating genus that we can observe within the garden adjacent to our studio.