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What is Ferraria?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Ferraria is a genus of herbaceous, or flowering plants, that are native to the tropical regions located in the southern part of Africa. This genus of monocotyledonous flowering plants belongs to the family Iridaceae. They have stems, leaves, and flowers that normally grow only up to soil level. At most, these plants can grow up to 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm). These plants are called Ferraria as a tribute to Giovanni Ferrari, an Italian botanist and artist during the 15th century who first described the genus with his drawings.

Plants belonging to this genus are corm-bearing to protect themselves from adverse weather conditions and possible attackers. Corm is a short, vertical, and sometimes swollen underground plant stem. They are used by plants to survive harsh weather conditions such as freezing temperatures during the winter and extreme heat during summer drought. These corms can be dug up, divided into sections — each containing a bud — and replanted to form new plants.

There are 11 known species in the genus Ferraria. The most popular among the 11 are foliosa, glutinosa, and undulata. While most of the species grow during winter rainfall and dry summer climates, the species glutinosa can thrive during hot wet summers and dry cool winters. Glutinosa flowers resemble bizarrely marked mutant starfish, with five petals colored in pale hues, usually sporting dark, random blotches.

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One particular species, the Ferraria undulata, is quite famous because of its sword-like leaves and flowers that can be maroon, cream, or dark brown. These flowers are adorned with speckles, blotches, and a variety of stripes. Ferraria foliosa can grow purple to maroon flowers during early summer or late spring. This plant can be found primarily in Botswana and Namibia.

Though Ferraria originated in Namibia, a country in southern Africa, it is now found growing in many countries around the world. Ferraria are typically grown in flower gardens in subtropical regions such as the United States and certain parts of Asia and Europe. These flowering plants can even be found in some homes due to their unique stem structures and beautiful flowers.

Depending on the species of this plant, there are types of Ferraria that can bear flowers that have a pleasant scent, while some produce a repulsive smell similar to decaying matter. The unpleasant smell distracts animals from going near these plants. Similar to a cactus, plants belonging to this genus can grow thick and thorn-like exteriors for further protection.

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