Veltheimia bracteata is a beautiful deciduous bulb, with
a moderate to fast growth rate. The inflorescence is a dense raceme
of tubular flowers carried on a long stalk, reaching a height of
up to 600 mm.
The colour of the flowers is variable, and could be pale pink, dusky
pink, orange-pink or deep rose pink, and is occasionally greenish-yellow.
The flowers are held upright when in tight bud and are pendent when
open. The tips of the flowers are sometimes green or spotted with
forest lily flowers during late winter to spring (July to October)
and each flower-head lasts about a month. The handsome glossy green,
fleshy leaves, are broadly strap-shaped with crisped or wavy margins
and form an approximately 250 mm high by 350 mm wide rosette at
the base of the flower stem.
Veltheimia bracteata is winter-growing, the leaves dying
back in summer, and the new leaves appearing in late-summer to autumn,
after a short period of dormancy. In frost-free regions that have
rainfall throughout the year, Veltheimia bracteata is almost
evergreen. The flowers are bird pollinated, and will thus attract
birds to the garden. The pear-shaped, ±6 mm long black seeds
are produced in large, membranous, inflated capsules which are ready
for harvesting when the capsules are dry and papery, usually during
Veltheimia bracteata can be found growing wild in the forests
and coastal scrub of the Eastern Cape.
The genus is named in honor of a German patron of botany, August
Ferdinand Graf von Veltheim (1741-1801). There are only two species
in this genus, the other being Veltheimia capensis, the sandlelie
(sand lily) or quarobe. Veltheimia bracteata 'Lemon Flame'
is a greenish-yellow flowering form of the species. Two former species,
viz. Veltheimia undulata and Veltheimia viridifolia
have been sunk into Veltheimia bracteata and are now synonyms
for this species. Similarly, Veltheimia glauca, V. roodeae
and V. deasii are synonyms for Veltheimia capensis.
The family Hyacinthaceae was formerly part of the Liliaceae family
and is well represented in southern Africa, the Mediterranean region
and in southwestern Asia. Hyacinthus and Muscari are
genera from the Northern Hemisphere. Several other genera, such
as Ornithogolum, Scilla, Urginea and Dipcadi have
a wide distribution and occur in both southern Africa, Europe and
Asia. Horticulturally the most important genera from South Africa
are Eucomis, Galtonia, Lachenalia, Ornithogalum and Veltheimia.
There are also other monotypic genera which occur here, such as
Amphisiphon, Daubenya and Whiteheadia.
Growing Veltheimia bracteata
The forest lily is easily cultivated and grows well in semi-shade
or shade. The bulb should be planted at or just below ground level,
and left undisturbed for many years. It does best in acid to neutral,
humus-rich, well-drained loamy soil. A general purpose slow release
granular fertilizer and/or seaweed derived liquid fertilizer can
be used during the growing season. Veltheimia bracteata does
not tolerate severe frost, but will be unharmed by light frost where
it is protected from the early morning sun, by for example overhanging
This plant makes an excellent pot plant for a shady patio, conservatory
or a window sill and is suitable for indoor cultivation in bright
light but not in direct sun. Use a container that is large enough
to accommodate a few season's growth. It is a valuable addition
to the shade garden, planted in clumps or en masse under trees,
and grows well in conjunction with Clivia species, Asparagus
species, Plectranthus species, Streptocarpus species,
Scadoxus species, many Crassula species and many ferns.
Propagation is by offsets, leaf cuttings and seed. Offsets should
be removed in summer when the foliage has died down and replanted
immediately, 30 - 40 mm deep. If grown in a pot the bulbs can be
lifted every two to three years to remove the offsets from the parent
bulb. These new bulbs should flower after one season. The leaves
of the plant can also be used to propagate more bulbs. The leaf
of a well-established plant can be removed, planted in a sandy soil
mix, and bulblets will form at the base of the leaf. Propagation
by seed is very successful. The seed should be sown in autumn, thinly
to allow the seedlings room to develop, 3 - 4 mm deep, in deep (min.
10 cm) trays and kept moist and shaded. A recommended sowing medium
is equal parts river sand or industrial sand and fine compost, fine
bark or loam. Germination takes two to three weeks and the seedlings
should be fed with dilute liquid fertilizer every two weeks after
germination. The seedlings generally take three to four years to
flower, and can be set out in the garden at the beginning of their
third season, during which some may flower for the first time. In
vitro propagation of Veltheimia bracteata has also been performed.
Leaf and bud explants were taken to initiate bud formation in a
tissue culture lab.
The forest lily has no particular pests or diseases, but requires
protection from slugs and snails which can cause considerable damage
to the leaves, and caterpillars which may eat the flower buds.
There is no reference to Veltheimia bracteata being used
medicinally in South Africa, but its close relative Veltheimia
capensis, the sandlelie or quarobe, was mentioned in Van der
Stel's journal of his Namaqualand trip in 1685 as being used by
the inhabitants of the area north of Vanrhynsdorp for its purgative
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Southern Book Publishes
- Bryan, J, 1989. Bulbs Volume II, I-Z, Christopher Helm
- Doutt, R L, 1994. Cape Bulbs, Timber Press
- Duncan, G, 1996. Growing South African Bulbous Plants,
National Botanical Institute
- Joffe, P, 1993. The Gardeners Guide to South African Plants,
- Mathew, B, 1997. Growing Bulbs, B.T. Batsford Publishers
- Pienaar, K, 1991. Gardening with Indigenous Plants, Struik
- Rix, M, 1983. Growing Bulbs, Timber Press
- Smith, C.A., 1966, Common Names of South African Plants,
Dept. of Agricultural Technical Services, Botanical Survey Memoir
No 35, Government Printer.
Author: T. Adams & A. Notten