A Bowiea volubilis
in my collection

     Bowiea is a monotypic genus of semi succulent bulb found in tropical areas of southern Africa. It is related to Hyacinths. Bowiea volubilis, known as "Climbing Onion" or "Sea Onion" is a unique bulb in that the actual leaves are very short lived. The foliage that it is known for is actually an inflorescense (a flower structure) resembling sea weed and can climb through other foliage to a height of 8 feet. It takes over the process of photosynthesis. The small flowers are either greenish white or white and shaped like a 6 pointed star. The bulb is mainly above ground, it should not be exposed to direct sunlight. The bulb itself can reach ten inches around and will produce bulblets around the base.
     Bowiea should be grown in a succulent plant mix and allowed to dy between waterings. Because it is a water storing bulb it can handle short periods of drought. It has a short dormancy period between blooming in summer and the fall. Water should be reduced at this time. In cultivation it is beneficial to occassionally peel off the dried onion like skin to expose the bulb surfaces. It looks better. Propagation is by seeds or offsets.
     Mine is about two inches across and grew well this year. The picture below is a nice clump of it at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

All images and text are copyright 2005 to present, D.S. Franges, unless otherwise noted.