Crinum bulbispermum

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Botanical Name
Crinum bulbispermum
Amaryllidaceae - The amaryllis family.
KREE-num / KRY-num bulb-ee-SPUR-mum
Common Name(s)
English: Orange River Lily; Vaal River Lily;
Afrikaans: Oranjerivierlelie; Vaalrivierlelie; Vleilelie
IsiZulu: Umnduze
Sesotho: Lelutla; Mototse
Setswana: ,Mototse
Plant Group
  • Bulb / Corm / Rhizome / Tuber / Epigeal bulb Bulbs: are made up of fleshy scales as in an onion Corm: a short, swollen, underground stem that is hard and not fleshy as in a gladiolus Tuber: a solid, fleshy, underground, storage organ as in a potato Rhizome: an underground, horizontal, swollen stem at the base of the plant as in an iris Epigeal bulb: bulbs that rest above the ground with only the roots anchoring the plant to the earth as in albuca
Plant Size
  • Large
    Tree18m to 25m
    Shrub3m to 4m
    Perennial/ground cover75cm to 1m
    Bulb80cm to 1.2m
    Succulent1m to 1.5m
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous Plants which completely lose their foliage for part of the year.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Fragrant / Aromatic These plants posses a strong, usually pleasant odour.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Water Loving Plants need a regular supply of water and must not be allowed to dry out for any length of time.
Specific Information

Crinum bulbispermum is a large bulbous plant which is easily recognised in spring and summer by the blue- to grey-green, gracefully arching tapered leaves which cascade about the plant.

The bulbs are large (8 to 10 cm wide), oval shaped and may have a neck of about 15 cm long. They are covered by many layers of papery dry bulb scales, which protect them from drying out during the dry winter months. The plants begin to bloom early in the growing season in spring, lasting for a month or more. The flowers are heavily scented, often being described as 'sickly-sweet' and are pollinated by insects. The flowers are followed by large, fleshy seeds contained in a covering that becomes papery as the seeds ripen. As the flower stem becomes heavier, it keels over and the seeds are released to fall onto the ground where they immediately begin to germinate.

The foliage grows to about  0.5 m with the flowering stems reaching up to a meter, with a spread of over a meter in mature plants. As autumn approaches the leaves turn from yellow to brown and papery and remain as a mulch around the bulbs to return the nutrients to the soil and to protect the bulbs during the winter months.

Crinum bulbispermum is threatened by harvesting for the medicinal plant trade which has resulted in a continuing decline of numbers in its natural environment. 

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large, funnel-shaped, lily-type flowers about 15 cm across, in clusters of 5 - 8, at the top of a thick, fleshy stalk up to  a meter in height

  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • white
  • pale pink
  • dark pink
Growth Rate
  • Moderate to Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Border A strip of ground, at the edge of a driveway or path in which ornamental plants or shrubs are planted.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Mass Planting Plants useful for filling a large area with just one or a few kinds of plants spaced close together. Creates a bold, dramatic effect and to reduces maintenance.
  • Water Features These plants may have dramatic, lush foliage or graceful form. They do not shed excessive leaves and do not have invasive root systems.
  • Wetland

    An area of land that is saturated with fresh or salt water and is a distinct ecosystem, with plants and wild life specifically adapted to and dependent on, a bog, fen, march or swamp.

  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

from the Northern Cape Province, eastwards  to the provinces of the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and  North West as well as in Lesotho, in grasslands and Savanna, on the banks of freshwater  rivers, streams, dams, seasonal pans, permanent to seasonal swampy grasslands and in damp depressions, in deep soils

Planting Suggestions

Crinum bulbispermum is happiest in full sun with plenty of water in spring and summer. Bulbs are best grown in deep, heavy soils that receive and retain a lot of water during the growing season. Plant the bulbs with the top of the bulb just above the soil surface and keep moist from the time the foliage appears until the the flowers have finished. Withhold water during the dormant seasons of autumn and winter. This is a greedy feeder: from time to time surround the plants with compost and a thick covering of mulch and if needed, use an organic, slow release fertiliser according to the manufacturer's instructions.

The plant can endure periods of drought during the growing season without adverse effects. It is also frost hardy and will tolerate periods of icy weather. In their natural environment they survive summer temperatures of up to 40°C and cold dry winters to -8°C. In areas where temperatures drop below this level it would be wise to use containers to afford protection from freezing ground.

Careful consideration should be given to positioning as the bulbs should be left to grow in the same place without disturbance for a few years. With age the bulbs will form a clump and after some years the bulbs can be lifted and gently separated.

Propagation from seed is easy and successful and plants will flower after three or four years. Seeds must be planted fresh. Sow in deep trays or directly into the garden. They can be covered with a light layer of soil but I simply place them on the soil mixture and cover them loosely with some of the dead leaves from the mother plants.

The leaves, seeds and bulbs are highly susceptible to attack by Amaryllis caterpillars which cause a great deal of damage or death of even well established plants. Ensure that these pests do not get the opportunity to burrow down into the bulb. An organic compound for the control of caterpillars is now available for those who prefer to keep poisonous chemicals out of the environment.
Medicinal Uses

Crinum bulbispermum​ is used in traditional healing for the common cold and to stimulate breast milk.  Roasted bulbs are used for aching joints, rheumatism, varicose veins and backache. Poultices are applied to septic sores. The leaves are used to keep dressings in place and the flowers are placed on sprains to reduce swelling. It is also planted to protect homes from evil.

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thanks, wondered what it was called and now I know ;)

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