Giant red lily a sight for sore eyes

And speaking of very red flowers, as we were last week (with the Blood Lily), this is a Candelabra Lily from Melton Botanic Garden. Again, encountered before the pandemic, back in late March.

The flowering apparatus of Brunsvigia has a certain inelegance I feel. Those 'arms' spraying around like an inexperienced dancer, and just too many of them.

Celebrity gardener and oboist, Simon Rickard instagrammed one from his garden in the same week I photographed this plant. He called his Brunsvigia josephinae.

Simon provided a few developmental pictures culminating in a self portrait of him and the inflorescence, for galanthophiles. A galanthophile is someone who collects snowdrops (Galanthus), in the same family - Amaryllidaceae - as our Candelabra Lily. And daffodils for that matter.

People do go oh and ah over this lily. It is often described as having the largest flower cluster of any bulb, and the largest bulb of any bulb. Certainly in South Africa.

In the western Karoo and other parts of South Africa where it grows naturally, these (giant) flowers emerge (as they do here) in late summer after the (lavishly large) leaves have died down. What makes it suitable for Melton and many other places in Australia is its tolerance to drought, low winter temperatures and fire. 

The genus name is the Latinised form of Braunschweig (Brunswick), a Duchy in the German confederation, to honour Karl, the Duke of Braunshweig at the time and a great promoter of plants. The species name of Simon Rickard's plant, josephinae, celebrates the most famous of Napoleon's two wives.

In turns out - and I only discovered this through a later exchange with the curators of the Southern African Garden, Steve and Ella Parker - that the species I photographed is Brunsvigia litoralis (meaning the coastal Brunsvigia) rather than the one named after the famous Josephine.

Both Brunsvigia litoralis and Brunsvigia josephine have leaves that - when present (which is not during flowering sadly) - are upright and twisting, rather than lying flat on the ground as in a species with similar-looking flowers, Brunsvigia orientalis.

As an aside, orientalis means from the east but that species grows along the west and south of the south-west corner of South Africa, so hardly from the east. It turns out Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeaus thought it was from East India, to the far east of where he sat...

Brunsvigia litoralis has 20-40 flowers in each cluster, a similar number to Brunsvigia josephinaeBrunsvigia orientalis has up to 80, but can have as few as 20. Steve and Ella have confirmed that my photographs here with open flowers are Brunsvigia litoralis, and that the following picture with spent flowers is Brunsvigia josephinae. I'll leave the nomenclature there, and in the safe hands of the Parkers!

The common names for these species are also intriguing. From I see that some of the local common names for Brunsvigia orientalis refer to when it flowers (in February and March; e.g. Maartblom), the possibility that its tumbling flower cluster might spook horses (e.g. Perdespookbossie).

The English common name, Sore-eye Flower, has been romantically attributed to the sore eyes you might get from staring at the striking flower for a long time or more pragmatically to the irritation the pollen might cause if it gets into your eye.

There are 18 more species of Brunsvigia, all from south-eastern and southern Africa, but only these two are grown relatively commonly, if you are a bulb enthusiast or botanic garden, in Australia. Not too common though and Simon was justly proud of nurturing his plant from bulb to flower after a decade in his garden. It took five weeks to progress from bud to full bloom.

If you are out shopping for Brunsvigia bulbs do watch out for something called Brunsvigia rosea. Pretty enough but as noted in our on-line HortFlora, this is a misapplied name (in horticulture) for what is better, and correctly known, as Amaryllis belladonna (the Belladonna Lily or Naked Lady).

Another species sometimes sold under the name Brunsvigia is a hybrid between Brunsvigia josephinae and Amaryllis belladonna, more correctly called ×Amarygia 'Tubergenii'.

If you can't grow it, at least head over to Melton Botanic Garden next summer or early autumn, and check out the leaves to make sure I've got the right name on my Perdespookbossie.


Julianne said…
🙂 oh Ah and Wowzers !
Unknown said…
It is Huge and Beautiful, I didn't know about this flower , thank you for sharing this