Crinum is a fascinating genus of the large and equally captivating Amaryllidaceae family. Larger in stature than most other species of Amaryllidaceae, most crinums are suitable as landscape plants in or near water features while most of the smaller species can be successfully cultivated even in a small garden.
With due care against their one major pest, crinums are easily cultivated and provide a regular dramatic focus point with their large, bright inflorescences.
The name Crinum originates from the Greek Krinon, which means white lily. As most species have white or whitish flowers the name seems especially appropriate.
There are between 60 and 100 species of Crinum world-wide, occurring in America, Africa, southern Asia to Australia. Africa has the most species.
A dwarf species with a umbel of one or two (rarely three), comparatively large and fleshy flowers that are strongly scented. The peduncles are underground and therefore the fruit are usually partially buried. The segments are white, with a pink flush, usually keeled with deep pink. The fruit is beaked and the seeds are large, blackish and distinctly papillose. It is a rare endemic to Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal.
Crinum bulbispermum orange river lily (Eng.), oranjerivierlelie (Afr.)
Frequently confused with Crinum macowanii in nurseries, the leaves are greyish green and not the brighter green or less glaucous (pale bluish green) colour characteristic of the latter species. One of the largest of the South African species, the bulb is very large and the sheathing leaves usually form a thick false stem up to 400 mm long, glaucous green. Flowers 5 to 16, the perianth segments form a narrow funnel shape with the apical portion slightly recurved, white with a dark red keel or uniformly pinkish, becoming red as the flowers fade.
A smaller plant often found in large numbers in vleis. The vlei on the Sandhof Farm in Namibia is a small natural wonder when a million plants are in flower simultaneously. It has a scattered distribution from KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique, to Namibia. The leaves are light green and gracefully arch outwards ‘like young mealies’. Flowers 5 to 11, white to pink, sometimes with a darker pink keel.
Crinum stuhlmannii candy-striped crinum
Until recently known as Crinum delagoense or Crinum forbesii. The species occurs from KwaZulu-Natal to East Africa along the coastal region and along the low-altitude Zambezi and Limpopo Valleys. The species is similar to Crinum graminicola but with a long erect peduncle and with numerous (up to 30) flowers. The perianth segment usually has a prominent deep pink keel which gave origin to the above-mentioned common name. The fruit is not beaked and the pericarp is thick and fleshy, eventually turning bright red.