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Products > Talbotia elegans
Talbotia elegans - False Dracaena
Image of Talbotia elegans
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Velloziaceae
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Synonyms: [Xerophyta elegans, Vellozia, Barbacenia]
Height: <1 foot
Width: 1-2 feet
Exposure: Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): High Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 15-20° F
Talbotia elegans (False Dracaena) – A small evergreen perennial to 6-8 inches tall with weak trailing stems that spread outward slowly to 1 foot or more wide. It has leathery green 5 inch long by 1 inch wide leaves, that are strongly pleated in the middle to appear v-shaped in cross section and are arranged in 3 ranks to form a rosette. If this plant is dry the natural reaction is for the pleated leaves to fold together and turn a purple green color. The 1 inch wide star-shaped white flowers with prominent yellow stamens rise just above the foliage singly on a delicate 4 inch tall inflorescence in late spring to early summer. Plant in light to moderate shade (even on the coast) with regular irrigation in a well-drained soil – as with others in this family it does not need rich soil and can even tolerate clay so long as it can drain freely. Hardy to at least 16°F - it survived temperatures almost this low (18°F) with no damage in our garden in 1990. Great as a small scale groundcover or an accent plant in a shaded rock garden or container. In its native habitat, in seeps on cliffs in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, there are reports of other color and larger flowering forms, but the plant that has been in cultivation in California for many years is this smaller white flowering form. We first received this plant as Vellozia elegans in 1984 from John Bleck at the University of California Biology Greenhouses. Mr. Bleck was maintaining this plant as a representative of the Velloziaceae family for use by the plant taxonomy courses at the University. Velloziaceae is a family related to the Screw Pines, Pandanus sp. (Order Pandanales) from the southern hemisphere (Africa and South America) that was named to honor a Portuguese naturalist named Velloz. Vellozia elegans was a name first described by the British botanist John Gilbert Baker in 1875. The old world species of the family were reclassified and placed in the genus Talbotia in 1975 in a monograph of the Family in The Kew Bulletin by Lyman Smith and Edward Ayensu (V.29 N1). Interestingly, Talbotia was the name the plant was actually first described as by the Scottish botanist John Hutton Balfour in 1868 and the name honored British scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society, the Honorable William Henry Fox Talbot, who bought the specimen of this plant to Balfour from his garden in 1866. It was believed to have been raised from seed from either the Cape or from Madagascar. Plants from the Botanical Gardens at Edinburgh were sent to Kew where it first flowered in 1869. The name Barbacenia elegans had also previously been applied to this plant but all in the genus Barbacenia are now plants from South America. It has also been previously known as Hypoxis barbacenioides, though the genera Hypoxis is now considered only distantly related in its own family, or in the Asparagaceae, with similarities due to convergent evolution.In the April 2013 issue of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society there was an article titled "A revision of African Velloziaceae based on leaf anatomy characters and rbcL nucleotide sequences" (V. 172 N. 1) that included all of the African Velloziaceae in the genus Xerophyta, making the current name for this plant Xerophyta elegans. The name Xerophyta is from Ancient Greek words 'xeros' meaning "dry" 'phutón' meaning plant in reference to how dry this plant can grow - studies on these plants indicate that under dry conditions the leaves it able to revive and restart their photosynthetic processes. The specific epithet refers to the overall elegant nature of this plant. The name change to Xerophyta has been generally but not universally accepted and we continue to use the name Talbotia elegans for this plant that we have grown since the mid 1980s when we first received it from then University of California Santa Barbara greenhouse curator John Bleck as Vellozia elegans. 

This information about Talbotia elegans displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.