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082 775 1224 / kerryn@cjmgrowers.co.za

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Crinum bulbispermum

(Syn. Amaryllis bulbisperma / Crinum capense / C. longifolium / C. capense)

  • Orange River Lily

  • Hardy Swamp-lily

  • Vaal River Lily

  • Oranjerivierlelie (A)

  • Vleilelie (A)

  • Vaalrivierlelie (A)

  • umnduze (Z)

  • Mototse (TSW)

Description

  • A robust, tender, long-necked epigeal bulb with large clumps of soft, glaucous, elegantly curving, slender leaves and colossal, pendulous, lily-like, ivory-pink flowers with dark roseate keels that are carried on sturdy, elongated stalks and are arranged in terminal flowerheads of more than a dozen flowers. These stunning native plants belong to a genus of about 60 bulbs from predominantly temperate areas and are the foundation for much of the current breeding work being carried out on this genus across the globe. The Orange River Lily is also one of the biggest of the African Crinums and large, prolifically flowering colonies can often be seen growing along waterways and in marshy areas across much of the country. It is the Floral Emblem of the Free State province. The species epithet, “bulbispermum”, refers to the large, globular, bulbous seeds. It is often mistaken for its close relative, the River-Lily (Crinum macowanii), but can be distinguished by the anthers; those of C.macowanii are black, while those of C.bulbispermum are not.

Family

  • Amaryllidaceae (The Amaryllis family)

Habitat

  • These bulbs are native to the wet, summer rainfall areas of the country, where they can most often be encountered along the banks of rivers, streams and seasonal lakes, as well as in damp valleys, swampy areas and grasslands that dry out during the winter months.

  • They are most abundant in the northern parts of the country and have a scattered distribution in the semi-tropical parts of the east coast and on the Gauteng Highveld.

  • Occasionally also found in Karoo scrub- and grassland.

  • From the North-western Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Natal to the North West province.

Foliage & Bulb

  • Deciduous.

  • C. bulbispermum has a rather large, ovate underground bulb (70 – 110 x 50 – 80 mm) that can often be seen with a stout, thickset, neck-like appendage (140 – 300 mm).

  • The bulb is encased in a multitude of chartaceous scales that act as protection during cold and dry times.

  • From this “neck” typically arises about 10 elongated (500 – 880 x 40 – 80 mm), slenderly ligulate, tapering monocot leaves, each with a faint upwards crease in the centre.

  • The leaves are bluish-green to grey-green in colour, softly textured and hairless, with smooth, undulating margins.

  • They overlap at the base and spread outwards from the bulb in a pleasing, arching

Flowers

  • The inflorescence is a terminal umbel supporting up to 16 pendulous flowers.

  • This flowerhead is carried on a sturdy, thick stem / scape (300 – 1000 mm).

  • A well-established plant may bear up to 4 of these stems at once.

  • The flowers are quite large (up to 150 mm across at the mouths), narrowly funnel-shaped, with a long, slender tube (50 – 110 mm), and lanceolate, spreading or reflexed tepal lobes.

  • The petals are ivory to pale or dark pink, with a characteristically darker, often red or dark pink stripe down the centre and a dark (red) keel.

  • The stamens are white to dark pink and the flowers are hermaphrodite.

  • They have a faint saccharine scent that intensifies at night.

  • September – January.

Fruit

  • The fruits are rather large (50 – 70 mm diameter) rotund, pinkish or green tinged purplish-red capsules, without a hard outer coat, that are crowned with a ring-like structure and coated by a layer of thinly papery scales.

  • Each capsule contains several globular seeds.

Height

  • 500 – 1000 mm.

Spread

  • 500 – 900 mm.

Medicinal

  • C.bulbispermum is a valued medicinal plant in traditional South African medicine.

  • Various biological compounds (mainly alkaloids) have been isolated from different parts (bulb, stems, flowers, roots & leaves) and these have variously displayed numerous anti-microbial, antioxidant, anti-plasmodial, antimalarial, as well CNR effects.

  • Infusions of the leaves are used as a remedy for fever, malaria, rheumatism and rheumatic fever, as well as bladder and kidney infections or complaints.

  • A juice extracted from the leaves is used to reduce earache, and poultices are used as a means of keeping wound dressings securely in place.

  • The flowers and sometimes the leaves are used to reduce swelling caused by sprains by placing them over the affected area.

  • Poultices made from various parts (mainly bulb & leaves) of the plant are placed on septic sores to speed up recovery.

  • Extracts are also used against the common cold and scrofula.

  • The bulbs are sometimes broiled and used to treat glandular swellings, joint and back pain, rheumatism and are said to help reduce the appearance of varicose veins.

  • The plant is used in various preparations to ease childbirth and increase the production of maternal milk.

  • Extracts of the plant are typically used in conjunction with other ingredients, rarely alone, but as these bulbs are known to contain highly toxic compounds, their long-term use is not recommended, and extreme care should be taken before attempting to use any part internally.

  • Many species of Crinum have been used as effective arrow poisons.

Practical

  • Certain local cultures use this plant as a charm to ward off evil forces from their homesteads as they believe it has magical properties.

Warnings

  • Crinum bulbs are known to contain toxic compounds and care should be taken when handling.

  • These beautiful plants are also facing threats to their wild populations due to their popularity in traditional medicine and lack of conservation and sustainable harvesting.

  • C. bulbispermum is prone to attack from various pests (especially the Amaryllis caterpillars which inflict severe damage) and specimens should be regularly scrutinized for signs of infestation.

  • They resent being disturbed or transplanted and need a substantial period in which to become established.

  • Unnecessary tampering may adversely affect flowering and general development.

Wildlife

  • The highly scented flowers attract a vast number of insects, bees, moths and butterflies.

Advantages

  • These striking and unconventional bulbs make marvellous focal or feature plants and are also beautiful additions to mixed flowerbeds.

  • Perfect for border planting.

  • The flowers are highly fragrant, especially as night approaches, so they can be planted underneath a window or close to a patio where their sublime scent can be fully appreciated.

  • They are frost and drought hardy once established.

  • A resilient, easy to care for species that needs little to no special attention or maintenance, preferring to be left undisturbed.

  • Makes a lovely cut flower.

  • Does well in a container and tolerates semi-shade, so it can be grown on the patio or indoors in bright light.

  • Fast growing.

  • Tolerates soggy soils and damp, shady conditions, making it ideal for water and rain gardens, as well as for planting next to a water feature or in wet spot where other plants, especially bulbs, may struggle.

  • Excellent specimen for the ornamental garden.

Tolerance

  • A very hardy Crinum species, perhaps one of the most cold hardy off all the Crinums, tolerating temperate as low as -8°c once established.

  • Lower temperatures or unseasonal colds may damage the foliage, but this will grow back rapidly.

  • In areas where very severe colds are common, it should be planted in a sheltered position or the surrounding soil should be covered with a thick layer of dry mulch.

  • Although it prefers moist conditions, it is also a very drought hardy species, especially during the colder months when it enters a phase of dormancy.

  • They can endure periods with little to no water, even in their growing months, and are also able to withstand high temperatures (up to 38°c).

Growth Rate

  • A relatively fast grower, able to produce flowers in its second or third year from seed.

Lighting

  • They grow and flower best in a sunny position but will accept part shade.

  • At least 3-5 hours of strong sunlight per day is required.

  • In excessively shady conditions, flowering may be hindered as will the appearance and proper development of the foliage.

Soil & Water

  • These bulbs grow best in deep, moist but well-drained soils and will benefit from added compost or fertiliser in the growing season.

  • They will accept sandy, loamy or clay soils, preferring a neutral to slightly acidic ph., but tolerating somewhat alkaline conditions.

  • Has medium to high water needs, preferring to be kept moist, especially in spring and summer.

  • Give more water on very hot and dry days.

  • Keep dry in the winter when they go dormant.

Propagation

  • Easily propagated from seeds which should be sown while fresh in early spring.

  • Place the seeds in deep trays or directly into their permanent positions in the garden, do not cover the large seeds with additional soil.

  • The preferred growing medium is a light, well-drained mixture of compost and fine river sand (1:2).

  • Place the trays in a well-lit and warm, temperate are and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

  • These bulbs can also be grown from bulb division.

  • Mature and established plants typically form large clumps, and these can be separated in spring by gentle extraction.

  • Place the bulbs taken from the parent clump with their necks exposed (above soil level) and pat the surrounding soil gently, thoroughly covering the roots but not compressing the soil too much.

  • Water sparingly but often.

  • Do not disturb once planted.

  • Fertiliser can be added one a month in the active months.

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kerryn@cjmgrowers.co.za

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