Contents of the Spring 2014 Northants News
Haemanthus coccineus Roland Tebbenham
South African bulbs have shared my greenhouse
with cacti, succulents and cycads for many years, but I had failed to
flower a red Haemanthus until 2013.
Finally after a sunny spell in August my patience was rewarded.
The species was Haemanthus coccineus,
which was named by Linnaeus in his book ‘Species
in 1753; though it was first illustrated in 1605 and the lectotype was
defined as an image in Commelin’s book ‘Horti
Rariorum’ of 1701. It is called ‘Blood
Lily’, which suggest its flower colour and shape.
is widespread throughout the Southern Africa winter rainfall region, from
southern Namibia, to the Cape Peninsula and the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
It is adaptable, growing in a wide range of soils and from coastal dunes
to mountains at 1200m (3950ft); the most favoured sites being sheltered kloofs
and rock crevices. I wondered why I
have taken a decade to flower it, given its adaptability!
It is a member of the family Amaryllidaceae,
which tend to have thickened roots that resent disturbance and damage, they
prefer to be ‘slightly potbound’ to flower well.
I grow mine in cactus mix, well-drained and fed with slow-release
The flower bud appeared before the pair of leaves, which is normal. The spotty peduncle elongated and the brightly-coloured spathe valves opened to reveal the full glory of the species. This is an umbel – a compound inflorescence – comprising 25-100 individual flowers coloured coral-red and white with exserted anthers carrying the yellow pollen.
Right: The flower of Haemanthus coccineus.
The flowers lasted almost ten days; they were
well worth the wait. I have enjoyed
the white flowers on other Haemanthus plants for many years, many of which are
evergreen. However this event was
very pleasing owing to the striking colour flowers appearing before the leaves.
If you fancy a challenge, try it; or if you have flowered a red one let
Genus Haemanthus – A Revision’
by Diedre Snijman, J of South African Botany sup vol- ISBN062007339X, see
pp96-105 & plates-18/19
Ed: Funnily enough ‘Amstelodamensis’ is not in Mrs. Dell’s spellchecker, though ‘Amaryllidaceae’ is, (though in a misspelt form that I have now corrected; thanks Roland). This article reminded me that many succulent lovers grow bulbs, especially from South Africa, in their greenhouses. I also grow the common Haemanthus albiflos as well as several species of the bulb Nerine.
picture (left) shows Massonia
growing in the Alpine House at Wisley. Surely this must
as a honorary succulent. I often see them in succulent habitats in South
Africa but never yet in flower. Maybe...