The Crinum lily is a large bulbous plant up to 1m high, which produces attractive grey green gracefully arching leaves during the summer months, and is often seen in the Crocodile River Reserve. 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.
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 are dormant.
The word “Krinon” means lily and the specific epithet refers to the bulblike shape and size of the seed.
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.
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.
Photograph by Anthony Stewien