The Orange River lily is a large bulbous plant up to 1m high, which
produces attractive grey green gracefully arching leaves during
the summer months. A tall stem bearing large, hanging, lily-type
flowers which are white with a pink to red stripe in each petal,
is produced early in the growing season. The word "Krinon"
means lily and the specific epithet refers to the bulblike shape
and size of the seed.
Crinum bulbispermum is a highly attractive garden subject
and can be grown all over South Africa provided it is given adequate
water during its growing season. It does prefer the wetter parts
of the country and does very well if planted in soggy soils. This
is a good plant for swamp or water gardens.
Although this plant is widespread, it occurs naturally mainly on
the highveld areas of the eastern hinterland wherever conditions
allow. In nature it grows along stream banks and in swampy grasslands
that usually dry out during the winter months when these plants
The sickly-sweet scented flowers are pollinated by insects. Once
the flowers fall they are followed by the large attractive pink
fruit capsules containing few to many bulbous seeds which germinate
as soon as they fall to the ground. The large bulb is protected
from drying out during the dry winter months by many layers of papery
dry bulb scales.
This plant is used in traditional healing for the common cold,
rheumatism, varicose veins, reduction of swelling and the treatment
of septic sores. It is also used during the delivery of babies and
to stimulate breast milk. Local people believe that this plant protects
homes from evil.
Growing Crinum bulbispermum
The Orange River Lily is easily propagated by seed and is quick
growing, reaching flowering age after three to four years. The large
irregularly shaped seed can be sown in deep trays or directly into
the garden where they should be just covered and watered well. Seed
viability is short-lived, so sow them as soon as possible. The bulblets
are susceptible to attack by Amaryllis caterpillar which will also
attack adult plants and can be responsible for much damage or even
the demise of the plant, especially young bulbs.
Adult plants are best grown in deep soils that receive and hold
a lot of water during the growing season. They can be transplanted
but ideally should be left to grow in the same place without disturbance.
They require full sun and plenty of water although they can endure
periods of drought during their growing season without adverse effects.
They also make good container plants. In nature they survive summer
temeratures of up to 40°C and cold dry winters of -8°C.
This plant belongs to a large group of plants that are found widespread
around the globe with many in Africa, some water loving and many
with astoundingly attractive flowers. They belong to the family
Amaryllidaceae, which includes highly prized groups of bulbous,
lily-like plants that are grown extensively in commercial horticulture
and floriculture. Among the other genera found in southern Africa
are: Brunsvigia, Nerine, Cyrtanthus, Haemanthus, Scadoxus
and Amaryllis. There are about 20 other species of Crinum
in southern Africa.
- Pooley. E 1998. A field guide to wildflowers of Kwazulu-Natal
and the Eastern Region. Natal FloraPublications Trust: Durban.
- Oliver, I.B. 1990. Crinum bulbispermum in Veld &
Flora Vol 76 p.57.
- Smith. C.A. 1966. Common Names of South African Plants. The
Government Printer: Pretoria.
- Jackson. W.P. U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South
African plant genera.UCT Ecolab: Capetown.
- Arnold, T.H. & De Wet, B.C. (Eds) 1993. Plants of southern
Africa: names and distribution. Memoirs of the botanical Survey
of South Africa No 62.
- Du plessis, N. & Duncan, G. 1989. Bulbous Plants of southern
Africa. Tafelberg; Capetown.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden