Amaryllids of Southern Africa  

Conservation and Habitat

                                                              Last updated on 09/25/2006

An image of Haemanthus montanus in the wild. This particular form if from the Bedford Area in South Africa. There are green and glaucous leaf forms of this beautiful Amaryllid. The flower colour is white fading to pink with age.

 Amaryllid Habitat  Amaryllis belladonna  Ammocharis coranica and Boophone disticha  Brunsvigia  Clivia  Crinum  Cyrtanthus  Haemanthus  Nerine   Smaller Amaryllids

Habitat Spectacular       Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape  Amaryllidaceae Seeds

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Greetings and welcome to the south African Amaryllid pages. This collection of pages is dedicated  to these wonderful Amaryllidaceous bulbous plants found in this country. Many Amaryllid species are under threat from extended farming practices, urbanization, dam building and collectors.  Mainly Amaryllids Garden recognises this threat with an effort to conserve and disseminate  many of the Amaryllid species that will grow in our area.

While it is recognized that the botanist and taxonomist, in most cases, do indeed classify the bulb, it is generally the enthusiast that does most of the conserving in plants. This can be found the world over as many Amaryllid collections exist in many countries, and some of these collection are quite extensive!

Images on Amaryllids of Southern Africa site are from the wild and from cultivation and I am pleased to bring you these wonderful images. Especially the images of South Africa. It is a truly majestic country, with panoramic views, from desert to rainforest, vast grass plains, diverse flora and fauna and I find the people lovely.

Cultivating these wonderful bulbs, I can't help feel some sort of affinity with the South Africa. I would dearly love to visit the country and plan to one day. For now, I am busy cultivating as many of these beautiful bulbs as possible because time is running out! The faster we get to and grow these botanical treasures, the more that will be saved from extinction. I hope that you get the Amaryllid bug and join in too, they really are fascinating bulbs to grow and care for.

Best wishes,



  A disk of images and cultivation information called  'Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape' is available from Cameron McMaster. This disk is a highly informative and extremely pictorial collection, captured by Cameron whilst collecting seeds out in the field. Cameron McMaster is one of South Africa's most noted naturalists, whose enthusiasm shines through on this information available. His love of the plants and the surrounding environment resounds through this disk. I consider myself very lucky to have a friendship with such a dedicated and personable gentleman. The following are excerpts from the  'Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape' disk, just enough to whet your appetite. The disk can be purchased for AU$75.00 (Included postage) here. Simply include 'Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape' disk in the 'subject' heading. Order Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape disk


Excerpt 1.


Almost all the bulbous genera, which occur in Southern Africa, are represented in the Eastern Cape.  The region is particularly rich in Amaryllidaceae, some species being endemic.  Both Clivia miniata and Clivia nobilis from the coastal regions have become exceedingly scarce as a result of poaching from wild populations.  The ubiquitous Boophone disticha has flowering times of different populations varying from August to November. A particularly robust form with long straight leaves occurs in the Kei River Valley.  The bulb scales are extensively used by the Xhosa people to treat circumcision wounds and are consequently heavily exploited.   Brunsvigia is represented by two species – B. gregaria and B. grandiflora.  Both are widespread, occurring from the coast to the high mountains. B. gregaria varies from pale pink in the eastern and southern populations to bright scarlet in the drier regions of the Karoo. Inland populations flower in February, while those near the coast flower as late as mid-April.  Because of its upright leaves, B. grandiflora has been severely affected by grazing livestock.  This magnificent plant is now confined to small areas where livestock has been excluded by fences i.e. road reserves and areas adjacent to arable land. 

The most widespread and common Amaryllid is the beautiful Ammocharis coranica.  It is stimulated to flower by fire and spectacular stands of blooms occur soon after early spring burns.  Like B. gregaria, westerly populations are darker in colour.  Although extremely rare, pure white specimens of both B. gregaria and A. coranica do occur in the wild. Scadoxus puniceus is also widely distributed, ranging from lowland acacia veldt to the summits of the high mountains.  It flowers in spring and is always confined to shady, sheltered spots under trees and bushes or between boulders.

Crinum is represented by three species in the Eastern Cape.  C. moorei occurs in the frost-free coastal dune forest.  C. macowanii is widespread in the grassland and bushveld areas with colder and drier winters but it is also severely threatened by......... Order Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape disk

 Amaryllid Habitat Amaryllis belladonna  Ammocharis coranica and Boophone disticha  Brunsvigia  Clivia  Crinum  Cyrtanthus  Haemanthus  Nerine   Smaller Amaryllids

Habitat Spectacular   Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape  Amaryllidaceae Seeds

Excerpt 2.


The region is particularly rich in Cyrtanthus species, some endemic to the region and some as yet undescribed.  Dyer (1939) states that with the concentration of species in the Eastern Cape, it may be regarded as the headquarters of the genus.  Most species put out their flowers before their leaves, but some are evergreen.  The most widespread is C. contractus,  which extends from inland areas of the Eastern Cape northwards.  It seems to have no preference as to habitat, occurring sporadically in open grassland where it flowers in October, or earlier if stimulated by fire, its brilliant red umbels being most conspicuous in its usually drab surroundings. 

A further species of the open grassland referred to as C. mackenii var. cooperi occurs southwards from Stutterheim, where it overlaps C. contractus.  It is the earliest of the genus to flower in this area with sparse dull yellow to pinkish flowers.  Although widespread it favours marshy ground where large populations are concentrated, making an impressive sight in early August.  This species is referred to as C. ochroleucus in the book by Batten & Bokelmann “Flowering Plants of the Eastern Cape”.  C. ochroleucus is however the name of a species from the West Cape which it resembles, but which does not occur here (Dyer, 1939).  It is difficult for me to accept that this Cyrtanthus is a variety of C. mackenii, the well known garden subject also called Ifafa lily.  Both in habitat and growth pattern, it is very different to C. mackenii...... Order Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape disk


Nerine is a genus which is very well represented in the Eastern Cape. Most species make excellent garden subjects and require little effort to grow.  Nerine masonorum, which occurs in the area formerly known as the Transkei, is the smallest of the group.  It has tiny compact flower heads and fine filiform leaves.  It is the earliest to flower, from late January.  Bulbs multiply profusely.  N. gibsonii occurs in the highlands of the Transkei between Lady Frere and Cala.  Its habitat is severely degraded and, as it is confined to such a small area, it is possibly doomed to extinction.  It is remarkable in that the colour of this species in the wild varies from pure white to purple with all the shades of pink in between, with no one colour dominant.  Leaves are filiform, fairly robust, both leaves and flowers being of a similar shape and size to N. angulata. 

Nerine filifolia occurs widely in various spots in the East Cape always between rock slabs or in shallow poorly drained soil overlaying rock slabs.  It flowers in April and is almost evergreen. A diagnostic feature is the hairy peduncle.  N. filamentosa is a........... Order Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape disk


A review of the Haemanthus in the Eastern Cape will complete this brief overview of East Cape Amaryllidaceae.  At least five species of this fascinating genus with many varieties, occur here,.  The most widespread is H. albiflos which is amazingly adaptive and versatile in its habitat.  It is a particularly desirable and easy to grow garden subject and is also suitable as a ground cover in areas of semi-shade.  It is equally at home in deep shade on forest floors, on rocky sea shores exposed to salt spray, in coastal dune forest, on cliff faces in hot river valleys where it clings in large clumps to crevasses in full sun, and in shady places on high altitude inland mountain ranges.  It is evergreen and multiplies vegetatively, as well as from seed.  The attractive white flowers appear in May and the ripe seeds are carried in equally attractive clusters of scarlet fruit.  An interesting dwarf form with oval leaves occurs as single individual plants on bush clad hillsides in the Keiskama River valley.

Haemanthus montanus and H. humilis are much more localised in their distribution.  H. montanus prefers small areas of poorly drained shallow soil with an impervious substratum.  It completes its annual cycle in four months, the period during which its fairly hostile habitat remains moist.  It occurs in dense stands, the large cream flowers appearing in early January, rapidly followed by two or three upright leaves.  The seed ripens by mid February and germinates rapidly around the parent plants.  The leaves dry off and blow away by the end of May when all signs of the bulb population have vanished.  It adapts well to gardens and containers, and despite its long dormancy, is an attractive subject.  H. humilis humilis has fairly round flat leaves and occurs in isolated colonies on steep slopes between protective rocks.  It is extremely variable with regard to size, the degree of hairiness and the colour of leaves and flowers.  For instance a colony in the Kei River Valley growing under acacia trees in semi shade have small grey hairy leaves and cream flowers, while another colony, growing in full shade on a south facing cliff less than 10km distant, has massive dark green leaves as large as dinner plates, almost hairless, and gorgeous large deep pink flowers.    The rare H. carneus is very closely related to H. humilis, the differences being........ Order Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape disk

Excerpt 3.

      Growing Indigenous Bulbs in the Eastern Cape

Rhoda and Cameron McMaster
formerly The Croft Wild Bulb Nursery
PO Box 26, Napier 7270, RSA
Tel/Fax: +27 (0)28 423 3651
Mobile: +27 (0)82 774 2075

The Eastern Cape as a repository of bio-diversity.

The Border region of the Eastern Cape is so named because it was historically the border between the Cape Colony and the traditional homelands of the Xhosa tribes.   It lies between the Great Fish and Great Kei Rivers comprising the former Ciskei homeland and the area south of the Great Winterberg range from East London to Queenstown.  It is a region of exceptional natural beauty but because it is off the popular tourist routes, its botanical richness and diversity are not as well known as regions such as the Western Cape and Namaqualand.  The purpose of this paper is to highlight the floral wealth of this region, the threats to the survival of rare species and the role of propagation for preservation.

Being situated at the convergence of major African Plant Kingdoms, namely the Afro-montane, Sub-tropical Maputoland-Pondoland, African-Namib, and the Cape Fynbos, the flora is influenced by elements of each region, giving rise to very high biodiversity with a large number of endemic species. The province contains a vast variety of landscapes, from the stark Karoo (the semi-desert region of the central interior) to mountain ranges with lush grassland and forest and gentle green hills rolling down to the sea.  The climate and topography give rise to the great diversity of vegetation types and habitats in the region.

Except along the coast and along the southern slopes of the mountain ranges that form a series of escarpments, the annual rainfall seldom exceeds 500mm and occurs mostly in summer. The topography is hilly and in places rugged, with a series of mountain ranges extending from east to west, rising to altitudes of up to 2000 metres.   Considerably drier areas of rain shadow occur to the north of the escarpments as well as in a number of deep river valleys, such as the Great Fish and Kei Rivers.  Fire is an integral part of the grassland ecology,..... Order Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape disk



 Amaryllid Habitat Amaryllis belladonna  Ammocharis coranica and Boophone disticha  Brunsvigia   Clivia  Crinum  Cyrtanthus   Haemanthus   Nerine   Smaller Amaryllids   Amaryllidaceae Seeds

Habitat Spectacular  Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape

Order Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape disk


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I would like to acknowledge Cameron McMaster from African Bulbs in Napier, RSA,  for use of the images and kind assistance with information for this site.

Content and Images on these web pages are the property ofMainly Amaryllids Garden © Copyright.

All images and information supplied from the disk 'Wild Bulbs of the Eastern Cape', remain the property of Cameron McMaster © Copyright.

Reference = (Duncan/DuPleiss, Bulbous plants of Southern Africa)