Hymenocallis calathina: Basket Flower, Lily Basket, Spider Lily

The southern states of America, Antilles and Central and South America are the home of a genus of plants that only few others can rival in elegance of flower. In the wild they are found growing in the sand of the seashore like the European genus Pancratium, which they greatly resemble.

The fantastic shape of the flowers has given them the name of spider lily — the outer segments are narrow or ribbon-like, the inner ones form a low, funnel-shaped cup.

Some 40 species have been described to date, practically all of them white-flowered (a few have yellow flowers). The yellow H. amancaes is from Peru and the flowers measure about 15 cm (6 in) across. It is very beautiful but not common in cultivation. More widely grown is the H. calathina (syn. Ismene calathina) from Peru and Bolivia with a bulb about 8 cm (3 in) across and strap-shaped leaves up to 50 cm (20 in) long. The flowers, more than 20 cm (8 in) across, are borne in an umbel of six flowers on an approximately 60-cm-(2-ft-) high stem in June and July. Because this species was often crossed with the other similar species one sometimes comes across practically identical plants listed in catalogues as H. x hybrida, or H. x stofforthiae. Similar are H. caribaea from the Antilles; H. littoralis from all of tropical America; H. speciosa from the West Indies; and the lovely H. undulata from Venezuela.

Requirements in cultivation are not excessively demanding, only H. caribaea, H. macrostephana and H. undulata do better in very warm rooms. The other species, including the one shown in the illustration, have more or less the same requirements as eucharis. In winter they should be left in the pot in a warm place, but water should be withheld. The plants are readily propagated by offsets of the bulb as well as by seeds, which, however, only develop into flower-bearing specimens after about four years.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hymenocallis calathina: Basket Flower, Lily Basket, Spider Lily

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