CrinumGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts.  This week we’re focusing on a member of the Amaryllidceae (Bulbous lily) family.

Crinum bulbispermum (Orange-River Lily in English, Vleilelie in Afrikaans and Lelutla in Sesotho) is a perennial bulb of up to 900mm tall, usually observed at moderate altitudes of 1600 m A.S.L. in damp areas such as wetlands and streams. This plant occurs from the Western Cape – Limpopo. Crinum has its origins in the Latin Krinon – Lily, whilst bulbispermum means “bulblike seed” or “bulbous seed”.

Photographed in close proximity to our Spruit hiking trail, this lily is unmistakable and beautiful to behold. Closer inspection of the flowers yielded a faint yet pleasantly sweet scent. Sometimes confused with the River-Lily Crinum macowanii, they can be told apart by looking at their anthers. Those of C. macowanii are black whilst those of C. bulbispermum are not.

The leaves of C. bulbispermum are long (appr. 450X40mm), flexible, gracefully arched and basally sheathed. The inflorescence is born on a stem of height almost equal to leave length. The flowers are tubular and narrow to a stalk of 110mm in length. The tepals measure 100X30mm. When viewed as a whole the flowers appear wilted. The flowers are white to off-pink with a pink-red keel. The fruit are 70mm in diameter and tipped by a ring-like structure. Flowering occurs from spring-early summer (September to December).




This moderately sized herbaceous bulb would make for a highly attractive garden ornamental, especially in areas of partial shade with rich moist soils. It is a fast growing and relatively resilient plant that grows readily from seed.

Traditional uses

The bulb is used medicinally to treat a wide assortment of ailments including colds, rheumatism, varicose veins, is said to reduce swelling and is used in the treatment of septic sores. It is also used during the delivery of babies and reportedly stimulates breast milk. The Sesotho believe that it can be used as lucky charm protecting against evil entering into their homes.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for C. bulbispermum is listed as Declining. This plant is threatened by development, but most notably through uncontrolled over harvesting for medicinal purposes.

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Author: Damien Coulson