Crossyne guttata (L.) D. & U.Müll.-Doblies
Common names: parasol lily, April fool lily (Eng.); sambreelblom (Afr.)
This is a popular winter growing bulb, chosen mostly for its broad leaves that are fringed with brown hair-like bristles.
Crossyne guttata has glaucous or deep green leaves that are absent at the time of flowering and lie flat on the ground, usually in pairs or fours. The leaves are somewhat narrow, smooth and leathery, but with coarsely bristly, brownish maroon margins and maroon spots underneath. The hairs are quite noticeable even on seedlings, and are brown.
The plant reaches up to 450 mm tall when in flower. The flowers are as many as 200, presented in large, rounded heads, on rigid, radiating pedicels.
The flowers are small, dusky pink to purple-maroon, with the petals curling back and soon turning brown. The density and colour of the flowers, create a striking impression and can be seen from afar and usually appear in late summer to autumn, from February to April. The plants flower best in the first few years after a fire, but they are not totally dependent on fire to flower. Like most members of the Amaryllidaceae, the seeds have a characteristic black or blue crust of the pigment phytomelanin, and are contained in berries or spherical capsules.
According to the website http://redlist.sanbi.org, checked on 6 July 2016, the conservation status of this plant is Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Crossyne guttata is a widespread species, found on shale and granite flats and lower slopes in Renosterveld, in the western and southern Cape of South Africa.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Crossyne is the new name for two species of bulbs belonging in the Amaryllidaceae family. These plants were previously thought to be of the genus Boophone. The difference between the two, is that the bulbs in the genus Crossyne are underground, whereas, with Boophone, the bulbs are usually somewhat exposed. They also differ from the genus Boophone, in capsules and seeds. Crossyne species have many small flowers in each inflorescence. There are two species of Crossyne, this one and C. flava, the yellow parasol lily. There are two species of Boophone, B. disticha and B. haemanthoides.
Guttatus is a Latin word meaning ‘spotted’ or ‘speckled’, referring to the spots on the leaves.
Crossyne guttata is pollinated by small butterflies, wasps, honeybees and short proboscid flies. The flowers age sequentially, so the attractiveness of the umbel is prolonged. The seed capsules are perfectly spherical and are dehiscent (break loose and tumble in the wind). The seed coat is covered with stomata, whereas, with species of Boophone, the seed coat is corky, another distinguishing factor between the two.
This plant makes an interesting and rewarding potplant. The dried infructescenses are lovely as suspended ceiling decorations.
The bulb is extremely poisonous.
Growing Crossyne guttata
Crossyne guttata ismost suited to grow in pots or in dedicated rock garden pockets, that are kept absolutely dry in summer. Like most bulbs, mass planting is always a good option for a nice display. They require full sun or very bright light for as much of the day as possible. The bulbs are planted with the top of the neck at, or just below the soil level, needing sporadic drenching, approximately once every 2 weeks, in winter.
When growing it in congtainers, plant in large pots, preferably one in each pot, as the bulb has a large inflorescence. This will also give the grower full control of the plant as it needs to be kept completely dry in summer. Also take note to place the bulbs in sunny positions as they prefer full sun.
Sow seed in autumn, in deep containers as soon as the seed is ripe. The seedlings normally reach maturity in a minimum of 7 to 8 years under ideal conditions, thereafter will flower intermittently. An ideal soil mix for this bulb is river sand and bark, in a ratio of 2:1.
In cultivation the plants are irregular in flowering. Some forms of C. guttata flower consistently every year in cultivation, whereas, others hardly ever flower. In the wild, the species blooms in abundance within weeks of wildfires.
These plants are normally attacked by lily borer caterpillars, with the bulb tunics sometimes infested with mealy bug. These can be treated by over the counter insecticides or home remedies.
- Duncan, G. 2010. Grow bulbs. A guide to the cultivation of bulbs of South Africa and neighboring countries. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town.
- Manning, J., Goldblatt, P. & Snijman, D. 2002. The color encyclopedia of Cape bulbs. Timber Press, Cambridge.
- Vlok, J. & Schutte-Vlok, A.L. 2010. Plants of the Klein Karoo. Umdaus Press, Hatfield.lo
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Bulb
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Autumn, Sporadic/All year
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Purple, Pink
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average