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Amaryllidaceae

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Amaryllidaceae   Jaume Saint-Hilaire 1805

Scadoxus multiflorus
Cyrtanthus sanguineus var. sanguineus

The Amaryllidaceae is a family of about 870 species in around 50 genera of bulbous or rhizomatous (Clivia, Cryptostephanus and Scadoxus) perennial herbs, with alternate strap-shaped leaves which may be semi-succulent. The bulbs and rhyzomes may also be thought of as succulent storage organs, enabling these plants to survive dry seasons. Species are found throughout the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world including Australia (3 genera), Mediterranean (8 genera) South America (28 genera), South Africa (18 genera). In Southern Africa, the bulbs often sit on the surface rather than below it, but species that grow with sub-surface bulbs maintain them at a proper depth with contractile roots.
 
Many species are cultivated for their decorative umbels of attractive bisexual flowers, which in some cases are produced before the leaves. Flowers have six segments and vary from star-shaped to tubular or trumpet-shaped. Many are heavily scented. Seeds have a characteristic black or blue crust of the pigment phytomelanin and are contained in berries or loculicidal capsules. Many members of the Amaryllidaceae contain the poisonous alkaloid Lycorine with lesser amounts of other alkaloids and should not be eaten.
 
Cultivation: The soil should be free-draining, but with more organic material than with other succulents. Species whose bulbs grow on the surface should be placed on a layer of sand or grit to protect them from moisture in the soil.
 
Choice Amaryllidaceae from desert habitats often find a place among collections of succulent plants, but would not normally be exhibited as succulents. As with other succulents, there are both summer and winter growers, and watering regimes should respect periods of dormancy. When leaves are present, regular applications of high nitrogen or balanced fertilser helps to plump up the bulbs.

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Amaryllis   Linnaeus 1753
Name: Greek   amarysso = to sparkle

This is the type genus for the Family Amaryllidaceae. The genus Amaryllis includes two to four species of bulbs native to the Winter rainfall area of South Africa. The large bulbs produce flower stems before the appearance of the leaves.
 
The name Amaryllis is also commmonly and incorrectly used in horticulture for cultivated hybrid bulbs that should be known as Hippeastrum.

Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna  Linnaeus 1753 (Naked Ladies)  
Bulbs up to 4in diameter produce leafless flower stems bearing a cluster of pink or white with pink veins, trumpet-shaped flowers. Flowers have three outer sepals and three inner petals of similar appearance. When growing amongst vegetation, flowering is promoted by bush fires clearing the scrub. In open areas, flowering is annual. Following flowering, two rows of strap-shaped leaves are produced.  
Native to Winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape Province, but has become naturalised in many parts of the world with Mediterranean climates. Amaryllis are not frost tolerant. The common name refers to the appearance of the pink to white flowers before the leaves develop.  
Left: Naked Ladies naturalised in New Zealand.
Photo: F. Caviggia 2013

 
 

Boophane   Herbert 1821 (Oxbane)

is a small genus including five species of large bulbs from which arises a short stem with a dense head of many flowers. The fans of grey-green strap-like leaves are usually produced after flowering. The large seed heads break off at the top of the flower stem and driven by the wind, roll across the landscape distributing the seeds.
 
Different species of Boophane are widely distributed across South Africa to Kenya and Uganda. They are drought tolerant but not cold-hardy. These plants are very poisonous to livestock, hence the genus name (Greek: bous = ox + phonos = murder) and the common name. They have been used as ingredients in traditional arrow poisons, medicinal dressings for skin lesions and to induce visions. Numerous spellings of this genus have crept into the literature but Boophane has been conserved.

Boophane haemanthoides Boophane haemanthoides Boophane haemanthoides  

Above: Boophane haemanthoides  Leighton 1947
a widespread plant of the Western Cape and Namaqualand. Bulbs grow on the surface among rocks. Heads of a hundred fragrant, cream flowers turning pink with age, are produced from November to February. Linear fans of blue-green leaves with undulate margins are produced after flowering.
 
Seen here near Nieuwoudtville, Dec. 1998.

Clivia  Lindley 1828 (Bush Lilies)
Named for: Lady Charlotte Florentia Clive, Duchess of Northumberland 1787-1866

Six species of large bulbs with strap-like leaves and showy heads of large trumpet-shaped flowers. Their natural habitat is in the understory of South-African forests where their fleshy roots enjoy the ample, free-draining leaf-litter and leaf mould.
 
Clivias generally prefer light shade to full sun and a very open potting mix. The leaves of Clivias are prone to burn if exposed to full, mid-day sun. Composted bark e.g. Orchid compost is preferable to a soil-based mix. A cool, dry winter promotes flowering but the plants must be kept frost-free. Numerous hybrids have been made with "improved" flowers from white and shades of yellow, orange and red to saturated colours. Leaves of modern cultivars vary in width and variegation.

Clivia gardenii

Clivia gardenii Hooker 1856 (Major Garden's Clivia)
Named for: Major Robert J. Garden of the 45th Regiment who collected the original plants.
The pendulous, slightly-curved flowers are produced in late Autumn to mid-Winter in the natural range and are are in shades of orange with greenish tips. Flowers are followed by bright red berries. This species is native to the East coast North of Durban into KwaZulu-Natal growing in both well-drained and marshy habitats but generally under light shade. Very deep shade may inhibit flowering. Hybrids have been created between Clivia gardenii and Clivia miniata.

Clivia miniata
Clivia miniata var. citrina
Clivia miniata 'Kirstenbosch yellow'

Clivia miniata  Regel 1864 (Bush Lily, Boslelie)
miniata = colour of red lead
 
Probably the most widely-grown species, originally described as Vallota Miniata Lindley (1854). It is native to evergreen forests from Morgan's Bay in the Eastern Cape Province to northern KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland.
 
Flower colours range from cream to dark orange-red although bright orange is the most common. The sweetly-perfumed flowers are followed by bright red berries containing up to 20 seeds. The rhyzomes spread freely to form large clumps or they can be propagated by division. All parts contain the poisonous alkaloid Lycorine.
 
 
Clivia miniata var. citrina Syn. Clivia miniata var. flava
has pale yellow flowers followed by yellow berries but is otherwise the same as the orange flowered Clivia miniata. This yellow form was discovered in 1888 in forests around Eshowe in Zululand.
 
Lower left: Clivia miniata 'Kirstenbosch yellow'.

Clivia nobilis
Clivia nobilis fleshy roots

Clivia nobilis Lindley 1828 (Kafir Lily)
The type species for the genus. It is a slow-growing bulbous plant that forms a suckering rhyzome, eventually forming a large clump. The leaves have slightly serrated edges and notched ends. The cluster of pendulous flowers ranges from orange-green to redalthough cream-coloured cultivars are known. Stamens and style are exserted. The flowers are followed by a cluster of large, glossy, red berries.
 
It is native to the Summer rainfall areas of the East coast of South Africa but the range extends inland including both dunes and dense forest, with some variation in the length of the leaves according to light levels.
 
 
Lower left: Fleshy roots of Clivia nobilis.

Crinum  Linnaeus 1754 (Marsh Lilies)
Name: Greek Krinon = white lily

This genus of large bulbs (60 - 100 species) is popular for the fragrant, funnel-shaped flowers of many of its species. Members of the genus are distributed through the tropics worldwide, but most are in sub-Saharan Africa. These plants should be regarded as poisonous.


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Crinum amabile

Crinum amabile  Donn 1811 (Giant Spider Lily)
This robust clump-forming bulb has large strap-shaped leaves. The inflorescence is a head of pink flowers with long tubes and a darker pink stripe down the middle of each petal.
 
Native to Sumatra. Crinum amabile may be a natural hybrid of C. asiaticum x C. zeylanicum. The flowers are sterile.

Crinum asiaticum

Crinum asiaticum  Linnaeus 1753 (Poison Bulb)
This robust clump-forming bulb has large strap-shaped leaves. The inflorescence is a head of white flowers with long tubes and narrow petals.
 
Native to South-East Asia.

Crinum purpurascens

Crinum purpurascens  Herbert 1837
Native to tropical West Africa.

Cyrtanthus   Aiton 1789 (Fire Lilies)

This is a large genus of about 60 species of small bulbs from South Africa, including species from moist stream banks to dry desert. Flowers are tubular or trumpet-shaped in shades of red and yellow to white and often sweetly scented. The common name reflects the rapid appearance and flowering of several species including C. contractus, C. ventricosus, C. odorus after bush fires.
 
There are both Winter-growing and Summer-growing species of Cyrtanthus. Watering needs to be sensitive to their growth habit. Other species are evergreen and need water throughout the year. Cyrtanthus elatus = Vallota speciosa (Scarborough Lily) is widely grown for the cut flower market.

Cyrtanthus brachyscyphus

Cyrtanthus brachyscyphus  Baker 1888 (Dobo Lily)
The leaves are evergreen with clusters of orange flowers in early Summer. This species grows alongside streams and in moist grassland of the Eastern South-African Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, but requires a free-draining compost. A dry resting period should be allowed after flowering, but otherwise water moderately through the year.

Cyrtanthus elatus

Cyrtanthus elatus  (Jacq.) Traub 1969 Syn. Vallota speciosa (Scarborough Lily, George Lily)
Brought to England and presented to the Royal Horticultural Society by Mr John Woodall Woodall (1831-1905) banker, biologist and noted freemason of Scarborough, England, who travelled widely in his yacht "Valleta". However, the obsolete genus Vallota is named for the French botanist Pierre Valot.
 
This well-known bulb has deciduous strap-shaped leaves and produces spectacular clusters of scarlet trumpet-shaped flowers on leafless stems in mid-Summer. White-flowered forms may be available. The bulbs offset freely and clumps should be lifted and split after flowering to promote flowering the next year. Native to the Southern South African Cape but grown in many countries for cut flowers. Not frost hardy but said to be unattractive to deer. Pests include the amaryllis lily borer, a black and yellow banded caterpillar, and Vallota mosiac virus.

Cyrtanthus falcatus

Cyrtanthus falcatus  Dyer 1939 (Fire Lily)
In the Spring or early Summer, the large pear-shaped bulbs produce four strap-like leaves and a stout 12in maroon flower stem, curved onto a hook at its upper end and bearing up to ten pendant, tubular orange flowers. The flowers are followed by oblong dehiscent capsules containing papery black seeds.
 
Native to the Drakensberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal, growing on vertical cliffs at elevations of up to 5800 ft. The bulbs usually grow horizontally or hang down in which case the flower stem bends upwards at its base. The flowers are attractive to sunbirds.

Cyrtanthus sanguineus

Cyrtanthus sanguineus var. sanguineus  (Lindley) Walp. 1853 (Fire Lily)
A free-flowering evergreen bulb with narrow strap-shaped leaves and clusters of medium-sized trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of red. Widely distributed across South-Eastern Africa.

Haemanthus   Linnaeus 1753

includes 22 species of bulbs from South Africa and Namibia, usually growing at or just below the soil surface. Their large strap-like fleshy leaves are pubescent or hairy in some species. Flowers have prominent stamen filaments giving the inflorescence of some species the appearance a shaving brush. After flowering, soft, pulpy berries are produced, each containing a few sticky seeds.
 
Most species (15) are native to the winter rainfall region of the Western Cape and Namaqualand with the rest from summer rainfall areas. Haemanthus albiflos is distributed through both climates in its range of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Provinces, reflected in its tolerance of cultural conditions.
 
Haemanthus bulbs should be planted in very free-draining compost and are tolerant of poor soil. Winter rainfall species generally prefer to be buried and should kept dry during the summer. Summer rainfall species appreciate a little water even when dormant. Evergreen species such as H. albiflos should be planted with their bulbs partly exposed and watered throughout the year.
 
The genus Haemanthus has been combined with Scadoxus in the past but is now considered separate. The popular greenhouse bulb Scadoxus multiflorus is sometimes labelled as H. multiflorus.

Haemanthus albiflos

Haemanthus albiflos  Jacquin 1797
A bulbous plant with strap-like leaves, the edges of which are slightly pubescent. The inflorescence is a "shaving brush" umbel of many small flowers whose white stamens bear golden pollen. The flower is enclosed by a cup of greenish-white bracts. Flowers are followed by a cluster of large red berries.
 
This is an easy plant to grow and flower in a position with diffuse sun or light shade. The bulbs clump up and are best left undisturbed as long as they continue to grow and flower well. Not frost hardy, but tolerates a cool winter and generally flowers at this time of year. Native to coastal scrub along the Eastern coast of South Africa into KwaZulu-Natal.

Haemanthus humilis

Haemanthus humilis  Jacquin 1797  ssp. hirsutus (Baker) Snijman 1984  Syn. H. Hirsutus
The leaves, especially leaf margins and the flower stem of this rare form are pubescent. This is a late-Summer-growing plant.
 
H. humilis ssp. humilis  Jacquin 1797   has pink to white flowers.

Scadoxus Rafinesque 1836 (Blood Lilies)

Nine species of bulbs with spherical umbels of red flowers, usually with narrow petals. The thin leaves are lanceolate, often narrowing at the base to form a sheath. All species are from tropical to Southern Africa with two species from the South African Cape.
 
The genus Haemanthus has been combined with Scadoxus in the past but is now considered separate (Friis & Nordal 1976 ) on the basis of chromosome numbers, some species with rhizomeatous roots or thin leaves with distinct midribs. The popular greenhouse bulb Scadoxus multiflorus is sometimes labelled as H. multiflorus.
 
Scadoxus cinnabarinus and Scadoxus multiflorus are traditional components of arrow and fish poisons and should not be eaten or given to livestock.

Scadoxus cinnabarinus

Scadoxus cinnabarinus  Friis & Nordal 1976
A rare bulb from the Cameroon. The large lanceolate, linearly veined leaves are supported by petioles with a channel on their upper surface. The spherical inflorescence contains many orange-red flowers with narrow oval petals.
 
These Summer-flowering bulbs should be planted below the surface in shaded conditions and require constant warmth.

Scadoxus membranaceus

Scadoxus membranaceus  Friis & Nordal 1976  Syn. Haemanthus puniceus var. membranaceus Baker
This is a relatively small Scadoxus with a 2 in bulb. The spherical inflorescence contains many orange-red flowers surrounded by greenish-red bracts. Flowers are followed by red berries.
 
Native to coastal sand dunes of the South-Eastern Cape of South Africa. These late Summer-flowering bulbs should be planted mostly below the surface and kept moist throughout the year.

Scadoxus multiflorus Scadoxus multiflorus

Scadoxus multiflorus  Rafinesque 1836 (Blood Lily) Syn. Heamanthus multiflorus
This is the best known Scadoxus and widely available through the horticultural trade. Native to Eastern Southern Africa. The inflorescence is a spectacular spherical cluster of many scarlet flowers with narrow petals and long stamens. The flowers are pollinated by large butterflies.
 
This is a Summer-growing plant but prefers light shade. The bulb should be buried just below the surface of the potting compost and watered once growth has begun. The lanceolate leaves are generally produced after the flower and persist for a limited time. While they are present, feed with high nitrogen fertiliser to fatten the bulb for next year. Reduce watering when dormant.

Scadoxus puniceus Scadoxus puniceus

Scadoxus puniceus  Friis & Nordal 1976 (Paintbrush Lily)
This species is distributed in ravines and forests from tropical Africa to the KwaZulu Natal, North-Eastern provinces of South Africa. The large underground bulbs with fleshy foots produce large, stalked, pointed leaves and umbels of many small orange to scarlet flowers. Forms with white flowers are known. The brightly coloured stamens contrast nicely with the surrounding cup formed by broad green bracts. Flowers are followed by red berries that are attractive to birds and monkeys.
 
This is a slow-growing plant for shady conditions, that does well in pots. It is best left to form a clump and not re-potted too frequently. Water during the Summer growing season and reduce watering during Winter dormancy. The bulbs are very poisonous.

Stenomesson  Herbert 1821

small bulbs from Chile, Columbia, Ecuador and the Peruvian Andes.
 

Stenomesson miniatum

Stenomesson miniatum  Ravenna 1978   Syn: Urceolina peruviana
In the early Summer produces a cluster of pendant tubular orange flowers, with exserted yellow stamens, followed by leaves. Native to Peru and Bolivia.