What's Blooming May 23-29: African Blood Lily

African Blood Lily (Amaryllis family)
Scadoxus multiflorus (Amaryllidaceae)
Origin: Africa

Found in the same family as the commonly cultivated Amaryllis, Scadoxus is very similar in that it is a bulb which spends much of the year underground before pushing up flowers, then leaves, and then returning to dormancy.  The flower form is quite unique, resembling a reddish-orange puffball the size of a large grapefruit. The “flower” is actually an inflorescence of up to 200 flowers, with each plant producing a single inflorescence per year. Here at Selby Gardens we have blood lilies planted along the bay front, from just west of the Tropical Conservatory all the way up to the shell mound. They are popular house plants up north, and make glorious cut flowers.

Many plants in the Amaryllis family contain poisonous alkaloids, and the African Blood Lily is no exception. Used in Africa as a fish and arrow poison, the plant has garnered a bit of a reputation in the west as a “bad plant.” Apart from skin irritation caused by the sap, the plant has relatively low toxicity to humans, and many gardeners in our climate grow it with no problem. When they are blooming here at the gardens, they are one of our most-asked-about plants, and bulbs can be purchased in the Plant Shop.

Text by David Troxell