Micranthus is a cormous genus in the Iridaceae family originating in the Cape Province of South Africa. This genus has small flowers in a spike that are blue, white, or purple. Commonly known as combflowers for the regular arrangement of the flowers. Growing mainly on sandstone soils, often in damp places, they mostly flower in early summer. This genus is visited by a variety of insects and is attractive to butterflies.
In addition to these species, natural hybrids are known to occur in the wild where the species grow close together.
Micranthus alopecuroides grows from 25 to 40 cm high and has sword-shaped leaves and pale to deep blue flowers in two-ranked spikes. It is found on sandstone soils in the southwestern Cape. The first four photos were taken in habitat in the western Cape September 2006. The last photo is of corms on a 1 cm. grid of plants yet to flower. Photos by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller.
Micranthus cruciatus grows in the northern Cedarberg and Bokkeveld mountains. It's similar to M. plantagineus but has solid leaves and produces fewer cormlets. It grows in rocky seeps and blooms as they go dry in December.
Micranthus plantagineus (formerly M. junceus) has slender hollow and terete leaves and usually dark blue flowers. It grows on wet, seasonally marshy sites on granite or sandstone soils in a broader range (Bokkeveld Mountains to Riversdale.) Blooming time is late spring to early summer. The first two photos by Cameron McMaster were taken in the Overberg. The next three photos were taken by Andrew Harvie near Tulbagh. Last two photos by Christopher Whitehouse in the Phillipskop Nature Reserve near Stanford.
Micranthus tubulosus grows on clay and granitic soils in renosterveld in the northwest and southwest Cape. Flowers in two ranked spikes are blue to mauve and fragrant. Leaves are tubular and hollow. Photos below were contributed by the UC Botanical Garden.