• Cape Coast lily
  • Cape Lily
  • Sabie Crinum
  • Common Vlei Crinum
  • Common Vlei-lily
  • River Lily 
  • River Crinum
  • Rivierlelie (A)
  • Boslelie (A)
  • Sabielelie (A)
  • intelezi (X)
  • umduze (Z)


  • A robust and stately, rather large geophyte, with a variable growth habit over its wide distribution. It has a fairly strange, necked bulb from which long, fleshy, whip-like, wavy-edged leaves radiate, and its bright, rosy-white, tubular flowers contrast sharply with the bluish-green foliage. The spring borne flowers are very showy, being quite large, open, trumpet-shaped, and coloured in different shades of pink, with ebony anthers and dark, sweet pollen. The strongly fragranced flowers are held erect above the plant on a slender yet sturdy stalk, usually open in the twilight hours, and last about two days. The genus name is derived from the Greek word for lily – krinon, and these are hardy, rewarding garden plants.


  • Amaryllidaceae (The Amaryllis family)


  • This is one of the most widely distributed species of Crinum indigenous to South Africa.

  • It favours summer rainfall areas of the southern, eastern and central parts of the country, and can be found from the coast to montane regions of about 2000 m above sea-level.

  • It frequents a wide variety of habitats, from wet grasslands and vlei-like areas, to woodlands and coastal scrubland.

  • It is also often found on rocky outcrops and near rivers or along streambanks.

  • From the Eastern cape to Zimbabwe, with a scattered distribution in Gauteng, the Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Foliage & Bulb

  • Deciduous.

  • The often large, globose bulbs, which can vary in size from 60 to about 280 mm diameter, typically narrow into a short neck-like feature, and give rise to a low, almost basal rosette or clump of fleshy, strap-like leaves.

  • The spreading and slightly arched leaves (600-800 x 1450-160 mm), are heavily channelled with a prominent, scabrous midrib and faintly undulating margins.

  • They have a bluish-green colour, usually form a short stem, and can grow quite large and lengthy in shady, damp environments.


  • Each plant produces a long (800-1200 mm), sturdy stalk from which 2-25, upwards opening flowers emerge.

  • Older and larger specimens have been seen with up to 5 of these flower stems, which are erect at first, and gradually recline.

  • The flowers are very beautiful; large and trumpet or bell-shaped, with short tubes and petals that curve backwards at the tips.

  • The slender flowers are pale to dark pink and white, with slightly darker crimson stripes and a dark keel.

  • The anthers are black tipped, and the pollen is black.

  • They have a strong, lovely fragrance and typically bloom at the start of the rainy season.


  • After the flowers, at the ends of the flower stalks, attractive, green to yellow, fleshy, gnarled and slightly beaked, layered seed capsules (40-60 mm), appear.

  • Each seed head contains up to 20 small, smooth, silvery grey-green seeds which are scattered when it splits open.

  • The uneven, somewhat corky surface of the seeds acts as a natural water-deterrent and helps them stay afloat for extended periods of time, thus enhancing seed dispersal in their natural environment.


  • 500 – 1100 mm.


  • C.macowanii has a rich and diverse history of use in traditional medicine and has been used to treat various afflictions in both animals and humans.
  • Several alkaloids have been isolated from the leaves and parts of the bulb, and these have a wide range of biological activities.
  • Extracts have shown various antifungal, antitumor, antiviral, antispasmodic, analgesic and hypotensive effects, and are even said to influence the cardiovascular and central nervous system.
  • The plant is typically not used on its own but is mixed with other ingredients.
  • Concoctions are used for cleansing the blood, to treat bladder and kidney ailments and to reduce fever and swellings.
  • It is also used to treat diarrhoea, urinary tract problems and pain in the lower back.
  • The leaves are made into a bandage to treat swellings and wounds, and mixtures of the different parts have been used to treat rashes, boils, sores, acne and other skin ailments.
  • Several animal diseases are also treated with concoctions of this plant, and it is popular in traditional veterinary medicine.
  • Crinamine, which is a powerful respiratory depressant and transient hypotensive for dogs, also occurs in many Crinum species.
  • Further investigation into the various biological activities efficacy, toxicity and clinical relevance are needed, and continued use of extracts is not currently recommended, as it does contain toxic substances.


  • The bulbs do contain certain highly toxic compounds, and some species of Crinum have traditionally been used as arrow poisons by local people.
  • Due to its alleged miraculous medicinal properties, it has been extensively and unsustainably harvested over the last few years.
  • It is now facing a continued threat with regards to its natural population.
  • These fleshy plants are a prime and favoured target of the Amaryllis caterpillar, and the little worms should be removed as quickly as possible.


  • The strongly scented flowers attract bees, butterflies and a host of other insects.
  • The insects that flock towards the flowers will lure certain insectivorous bird species.


  • These stately lilies are the perfect addition to a mixed flower border, and they can tolerate slightly adverse conditions.
  • The highly perfumed flowers, which are at their most fragrant towards the evening, can be planted close to a window or patio where their lovely scent can be fully appreciated.
  • They make lovely and strikingly beautiful garden plants, and if planted as focal or accent specimens, they are sure to attract attention.
  • An established and happy Crinum can produce more than 3 inflorescences in succession.
  • They do not like to be disturbed, do not require too much maintenance, and are ideal for smaller spaces.
  • Due to its ease of cultivation, and the fact that it readily produces masses of seed, it is a very popular choice for a great many landscaping applications.
  • The River Lily makes a wonderful container specimen, and also looks very pretty in a rockery or wild/jungle themed garden.
  • As they tolerate very wet and poorly drained soils, they are the perfect choice for planting next to or in close proximity of a water feature such as a pond, where other bulbs may struggle.


  • It is frost tender but can survive outdoors in areas that experience only occasional and mild frosty spells.
  • In areas that experience regular, severe colds and frosts, it is better suited to indoor planting in large containers or should be planted in a very sheltered position.
  • The Sabie Crinum is a water-loving bulb, but also has a relatively high drought tolerance, as it can store some moisture in its underground tuber.
  • During the winter months it requires no extra water, and should be kept as dry as possible, especially in colder climates.

Growth Rate

  • This is a moderately fast growing bulbous perennial that will typically reach flowering age after about 3 seasons.
  • It is also quite long-lived under ideal conditions and does not take well to being moved or disturbed.


  • These bulbs prefer a sunny position, and will grow best there, but may accept very light shade.

Soil & Water

  • These bulbs are very tolerant to a wide range of soil conditions, and in nature they can be found growing in moist alluvial and hard, dry shale-like, sandy soils.
  • They even tolerate somewhat brackish and clayish soils.
  • However, for the best flowering and plant development, they prefer a moist, humus (nutrient) rich, very well-drained loamy or peaty soil, with a slightly acidic ph.
  • It is a heavy-feeder, and benefits greatly from a regular dose of liquid fertiliser or enriched compost, which will be most beneficial if given in early spring.
  • During the active growing months, make sure it has a steady supply of water, this can be reduced during late summer, completely stopped in winter, and should commence as soon as temperatures start to rise again.


  • This species is most often grown from seed, as it produces these readily and in a great number.
  • The seeds however do not have a long viability period and should be sown very soon after harvesting.
  • Sow the seeds into deep seedlings trays filled with a well-drained and nutrient rich medium.
  • Place the trays in a bright, warm, temperate area and keep the soil moist.
  • Germination typically occurs within 2-3 weeks.
  • After about 2 season the bulbs should be moved to their permanent positions, and then left undisturbed.
  • Plant the bulbs with the necks slightly exposed and just above ground level and remember to check them regularly for signs of bug infestation.