Cyrtanthus elatus

Cyrtanthus elatus
Cyrtanthus elatus

Cyrtanthus elatus

They are relatively easy to grow and can be grown in pots in either full or part sun. Plant with the neck of the bulb just above the soil level, approximately 10-15cm apart. Lift and divide every 3 years.

Cape Province of South Africa

This bulb was previously known as Vallota speciosa and has common names of George lily, the Scarborough lily and the Fire Lily. The bulb produces narrow stra like leaves that remain in places until affected by the coldest time of the year. The scarlet flowers appear in early December and generally last for 2-3 weeks.

When researching the background to this plant a number of references referred to the background of this bulb’s most common name; The Scarborough Lily. The story goes is that a Dutch merchantman homeward bound from the Cape (the date seems to vary from the late 18th to the early 19th Century) ran into a storm in the North Sea and was driven ashore on the Yorkshire coast near Scarborough.  The vessel broke up, and in the time honoured manner, the cargo was looted by the locals.  It included a quantity of what looked rather like daffodil bulbs, but turned out to be a lot more interesting.  They found their way into local gardens and the bright scarlet flowers became a feature of the area.
The bulbs were certainly of South African origin, probably first collected by Francis Masson & Carl Thunberg in 1770s.  Carl Linnaeus the younger (1741 – 1783) classified the plant as Crinum speciosum, and in the late 19th. century Durand & Schintz re-classified it as Vallota speciosa, the name by which most people still know it.  Officially it is now referred to as Cyrtanthus elatus. Despite its common names, it is not a lily at all, but a member of the Amaryllidaceae – the Amaryllis/daffodil family.

BTW for those wondering about the origin of the other two common names, we are not sure about the name “The Fire Lily” but the George Lily was named after the main town in the Eastern Western Cape region.


Posted on

January 23, 2018