Diascia (plant)

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Diascia
Diascia barberae ÖBG 2012-07-08 (04).jpg
Diascia barberae
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Tribe: Hemimerideae
Genus: Diascia
Link & Otto
Type species
Diascia bergiana
Link & Otto

Diascia is a genus of around 70 species[1] of herbaceous annual and perennial flowering plants of the family Scrophulariaceae,[2] native to southern Africa, including South Africa, Lesotho and neighbouring areas.

The perennial species are found mainly in summer-rainfall areas such as the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg; about 50 species, mostly annuals, are found in the Western Cape and Namaqualand, winter rainfall areas.

Their common name is twinspur, in reference to the two (usually downward-pointing) spurs to be found on the back of the flower. These help to distinguish them from the similar (and closely related) genera Alonsoa and Nemesia. The spurs contain a special oil, which is collected in the wild by certain species of bees that appear to have coevolved with the plants, as they have unusually long forelegs for collecting the oil.[3][4]

In gardens, Diascia cultivars (mostly hybrids) have become extremely popular as colourful, floriferous, easily grown bedding plants in recent years.[5]

Etymology[edit]

A raceme of Diascia 'Little Tango', a hybrid cultivar. The spurs on the back of the corolla can be seen.

Surprisingly, the generic name (from the Greek di = two and askos = bag, pouch or sack) does not refer to the spurs, but to the two translucent sacs, or pouches, known as 'windows', found in the upper part of the corolla of the original type specimen, Diascia bergiana. Diascia species in the section Racemosae have similar windows, but in some species they merge into one. The windows may help oil-collecting bees to find the correct position within the corolla when gathering oil from the glands within the spurs.[6]

Description[edit]

Most diascia species are short-growing, straggling plants, reaching no more than 30–45 centimetres (12–18 in) in height, although Diascia rigescens can reach 60 cm (24 in), and the rather similar D. personata (with which it is often confused)[7] up to 120 cm (47 in) or so. Some Diascia species spread by means of stolons, while others produce multiple lax stems from a single crown. The flowers are borne in loose terminal racemes. The corolla is five-lobed, and normally pink or rose-coloured in the perennial species most commonly seen in cultivation. Dark purplish patches of oil glands may make the flowers of some species appear bicoloured.

Species[edit]

Around 60–70 species are currently recognised in the genus Diascia:[8]

Coevolution with Rediviva bees[edit]

The two spurs found on the back of a Diascia flower (from which it gets the common name twinspur) contain a special oil, which is collected in the wild by at least 8 species of bees of the genus Rediviva. The bees appear to have coevolved with the plants, as the females have developed unusually long, hairy forelegs with which they collect the oil from Diascia spurs to feed their larvae (and sometimes to line their nests with).[9] The spurs vary in average length from 5.3 millimetres (0.21 in) to as much as 13.9 mm (0.55 in), mainly between species (although those of D. capsularis can vary widely between populations); the bees' forelegs vary similarly. [3] The spurs of Diascia longicornis are about 25 mm (0.98 in) in length, but the existence of a suitably equipped pollinator, Rediviva emdeorum, with forelegs of the same length, was only confirmed in the 1980s. Rediviva longimanus has also been observed pollinating D. longicornis in the Western Cape.[10]

Rediviva neliana, a widespread species, collects from at least 12 species of Diascia, but in general, few different Diascia species grow together in the same locality. As a result, local populations of R. neliana have been found to differ from each other, as each has developed legs that match the spur length of the diascias that are available to them in that locality. This indicates that local populations of R. neliana are coevolving with the flowers on which they depend.[3]

Garden uses[edit]

'Coral Belle', a cultivar used for summer bedding

Diascia cultivars have become extremely popular worldwide as bedding plants, suitable for hanging baskets, window boxes and other containers, as well as rockeries and the fronts of herbaceous borders. This explosion of interest is largely thanks to the breeding work done by the late Hector Harrison of Appleby, North Lincolnshire, England. From 1985, he raised hundreds of hybrid seedlings, from which several excellent cultivars have been selected and named. He increased the colour range to include shades of apricot, pink, coral, lilac, red and white. Other nurseries and breeders have continued to build on his pioneering work.[5]

Several species and cultivars have been given the Award of Garden Merit by the British Royal Horticultural Society. The AGM includes a hardiness rating: most have been rated as intermediate between H3 (hardy outside in some regions or particular situations or which, while usually grown outside in summer, needs frost-free protection in winter – e.g. dahlias) and H4 (hardy throughout the British Isles).[11][12]

Cultivars[edit]

The species and cultivars commonly grown in gardens include the following (those awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit are marked agm):[12]

  • 'Appleby Apricot'
  • D. barberae:
    • 'Belmore Beauty'
    • 'Blackthorn Apricot' agm[13] H3–4      
    • 'Fisher's Flora' agm[14]
    • 'Ruby Field' agm[15] H3–4
  • 'Blue Bonnet'
  • 'Coral Belle' H3–4
  • 'Dark Eyes' agm[16]
  • 'Elizabeth' agm[17]
  • D. fetcaniensis
  • Flying Colours Series
    • 'Flying Colours Appleblossom'
    • 'Flying Colours Apricot'
    • 'Flying Colours Coral'
    • 'Flying Colours Red'
  • 'Ice Cracker'
  • 'Ice Cream'
  • D. integerrima agm[18]
  • 'Jacqueline's Joy'
  • 'Joyce's Choice' agm[19] H3–4      
  • 'Katherine Sharman'
  • 'Lady Valerie' agm[20] H3–4
  • 'Lilac Belle' agm[21] H3–4
  • 'Lilac Mist' agm[22] H3–4
  • 'Little Dancer'
  • 'Little Tango'
  • 'Pink Panther'
  • 'Red Ace'
  • 'Redstart'
  • D. rigescens agm[23]
  • 'Rupert Lambert' agm[24] H3–4
  • 'Salmon Supreme'
  • 'Twinkle' agm[25]
  • D. vigilis agm[26]
  • Whisper Series
    • 'Whisper Apricot Improved'
    • 'Whisper Cranberry Red'
    • 'Whisper Pumpkin'
    • 'Whisper Tangerine'
    • 'Whisper White'
  • Wink Series
    • 'Wink Garnet'

References[edit]

  1. ^ Plantzafrica Diascia integerrima
  2. ^ "Genera of Scrophulariaceae tribe Hemimerideae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  3. ^ a b c Google Books: Thompson, John N., The Coevolutionary Process
  4. ^ PlantSystematics.org Diascia (Scrophulariaceae)
  5. ^ a b Horticulture Week: Diascia, by Graham Clarke
  6. ^ Kim E. Steiner (1990). "The Diascia (Scrophulariaceae) window: an orientation cue for oil-collecting bees". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 102 (2): 175–195. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.1990.tb01874.x. 
  7. ^ Google Books: The European Garden Flora
  8. ^ "Diascia". The Plant List. Retrieved June 11, 2013. 
  9. ^ Peter W. Price (1997). "Pollination ecology". Insect Ecology (3rd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. p. 248. ISBN 9780471161844. 
  10. ^ Stefan Vogel & Charles D. Michener (1985). "Long bee legs and oil-producing spurs, and a new Rediviva (Hymenoptera, Melittidae; Scrophulariaceae)". Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 58 (2): 359–364. JSTOR 25084648. 
  11. ^ RHS Online: Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
  12. ^ a b RHS Plant Finder 2009-2010. Dorling Kindersley. 2009. p. 242. ISBN 978-1-4053-4176-9. 
  13. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia barberae 'Blackthorn Apricot'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia barberae 'Fisher's Flora'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  15. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia barberae 'Ruby Field'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  16. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Dark Eyes'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  17. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Elizabeth'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  18. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia integerrima". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Joyce's Choice'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Lady Valerie'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Lilac Belle'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  22. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Lilac Mist'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  23. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia rigescens". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  24. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Rupert Lambert'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  25. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia 'Twinkle'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  26. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Diascia vigilis". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 

External links[edit]