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Peeling off the Layers

Posted by love_the_yard z9A Jax FL (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 17, 11 at 9:52

I've noticed that in some photos, the amaryllis bulbs are peeled down to the shiny white, sometimes even green, layers of the bulb. Is the science behind that? It makes sense if the bulb is thought to have disease or rot. However, is there a reason to do it under normal, healthy circumstances?

I have observed that the bulbs planted in the ground are never that way. They don't shed their own layers down to a white/green onion appearance. It seems to me that they have those many layers for protection and insulation. In the natural setting, those dead layers (like human skin) act as a barrier, insulating and protecting them. It prevents rot. It prevents easy insect access. It provides extra layers of insulation against extreme cold and direct sun. When layers are removed, the bulb has to spend extra energy protecting itself and forming new layers.

The only time I have seen it in the natural setting is on new bulblets. On many bulbs, the new offsets emerge green and add the layers as they mature.

This is one of those things that I wonder if people do because they see that others doing the same. Is it is similar to "crape murder" performed every spring on crape myrtle trees in the south? Each spring, crape myrtles all over the south are "hat-racked" - all limbs cut off very short, straight across the top, so that you could hang a hat on any one of them. This is done because homeowners and landscapers have seen so many others do it, so they think it is the "right" thing to do. Many folks actually think they are supposed to do it. It is very harmful to the trees, and all of the gardening experts and columnists write about it, but it is a custom that persists.

Like the crape myrtles, I'm trying to think through a lot of the processes that have become the norm with hippeastrum. Is there any real science for peeling off all of the layers on a normal, healthy bulb?

Carol


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Peeling off the Layers

Peeling the layers on Hippeastrum isn't especially harmful, when people sell bulbs many will peel the dead brown layers from the bulb to show that they're healthy or to check for disease.

A Hippeastrum bulb is a mystery, any time I buy a new bulb I peel all the dead layers to inspect for insects, rot, red blotch or whatever else. A lot of things could be hiding in those dead layers.

Many growers peel these layers off annually to prevent disease and hiding insects. Veronica Read recommends in her book to tidy up the bulbs, especially around the necks to prevent insects from hiding in these dark places.

In all reality I don't think there is any harm in peeling the dry papery layers off, if you notice there are only a few at a time. Over time these layers decompose into the earth, what these layers happen to be are old bulb scales.

I've also noticed that when soil is kept a bit too moist these layers will rot very quickly and if not controlled will invite rot further into the bulb.


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

Carol,

Funny that you should ask this question. I have two bulbs that after blooming were just sitting there for months doing nothing. I finally decided to check under the several dried layers to find out if everything was all right. One bulb was fine, but after pealing off several layers on the other I found mold on the the freshest layer. I was able to just wipe it off with a damp paper towel and dust lightly with Captan. Now there was no rot..yet..but I can't help but think that I helped this bulb by exposing the air to it. I have several more that I intend to do this to in the next few days.

Almost always when I buy a new bulb I peal it down..it's just a habit and occasionally I find mold.

In your case where you plant directly in the ground you may be correct that these dried layers protect the bulb, but it can also harbor hiding places for unwelcomed guests. I guess it's just a matter of what each of us likes to do and the appearance of the bulb skin. If the skin is really tight and a medium brown, then I feel it all over and leave it on but if there is some shrinkage under several layers, off it comes.

Donna


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

That outer layer is technically refered to as the tunic and in most bulbs especially in amaryllidaceae they serve many important purposes. In actuality all they are is the oldest scales of the bulb that have outgrown their usefulness and have been absorbed by the basal plate. In some members of the family the tunics can get quite thick and may make up a sizable portion of the bulb, ie boophane. The tunics help to insulate the bulb from cold and heat and protect against insects as well as retain moisture. I don't see any reason at least in regards to hippeastrum not removing the tunics of new bulbs to check for hidden problems. I would not however make it a regular thing as they create them obviously for a reason and should be respected as such. Sure you can take the bark off a tree and it might look nice and shiny but it is certainly not good for it, at least that is my justification.


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

Boophone and other S. African bulb species actually have that thick latex like substance that makes it almost indestructible! I think the outer layer serves a much greater purpose as the area's a lot of the S. African bulbs grow is very undesirable and rain isn't predictable, I think these layers are used to contain moisture to keep the bulb living and to prevent bugs from consuming them. The outer layers of these plants are very tough and fibrous.

While Hippeastrum only have a few layers many of the S. Africa species have several layers which I think would be a huge mistake to remove! Hippeastrum's dried out scales are MUCH more brittle and nearly fall apart once moved or messed with.

I do agree that removing the papery outer layers are all a matter of personal preference, I like to check for bugs and disease so I do feel it serves a purpose, I don't do it for looks, I actually find the papery layers to be visually satisfying. I've had many bulbs that have started to rot from under the outer layers from trapped water, unless I removed them to inspect I'm sure they wouldn't have made it.

Josh


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

Good points josh, I guess I am just spoiled since I grow a lot of my hippis in the ground and never even see the tunics. Yesh I'm rubbing it in. ;-)

P1020401


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

HAHA, luck you! Sadly you'll have to be up north with us shortly and you'll get to experience the sadness we have :(

BUT I know several people around me that grow several Hippeastrum! WE MUST EXPERIMENT :)

I have an H. x ackermanii that I got from another person around me that they have in the ground year round, when it's large enough I'll plant it!


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

Ah yes, I am moving, but I havent updated you yet. They changed my relocation to Arkansas so thankfully it wont be more than a half a zone colder! I should be able to grow my favorites and then some! Im defintily going to take a couple johnsoniis with me. Ackermanii seems to be one of those old heirlooms that has lots of different faces. Hopefully you have the true blue one. If I can get my hands on one of these burgaro grandes I think it might be another super hardy variety.


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

I had a related query. I notice that if reveal the white layer, it turns green under sun light after a few days, like the leaves and flower stalk which are originally pale.

Does this mean the scales are engaging in photosynthesis too?


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

If the bulb scales become green then they are engaging in some photosynthesis, but probably not enough to contribute substantially to growth. The leaves have little holes (stomata) that allow the leaves to take up carbon dioxide, which is needed for photosynthesis. The bulb scales probably have few, if any, of these stomata. Onion bulb scales do have a few of these. If Hippeastrum is similar, the green bulb scales would be able to produce at least a little food through photosynthesis.


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RE: Peeling off the Layers

As always back to basics. What are the bulb scales? They are the lower portion of tbe leaf that stays protected inside the bulb and survives as the external portion of the leaf is replaced each year. These retained lower leaf portions are white storage unitsfor the bulb sugars and starches and protect the center growing point, bulb core,and the flowering layer which follows each third leaf layer. The bulb is built from these retained leaf bases that store energy, protect the bulb core, protect the growing point , and protect the flower layers.You have seen but not noticed the first leaf of sprouted seeds wraps around the bulb core that is on top of the tiny basal plate and root crown. For the rest of its life each leaf starts from the top of the core and as each leaf that follows forms at the growing tip each leaf expands and wraps completely around the bulb as it and the whole plant grows. Leaves
alternate from one side to the other. The normal offsets alternate from opposite sides of the bulb also. Bill


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