Cyrtanthus herrei

(F.M.Leight.) R.A.Dyer

Family : Amaryllidaceae
Common name : Richtersveld cyrtanthus

Cyrthanthus herrei

This striking bulb comes from arid parts of southern Africa.

Close up of flowerDescription
Cyrtanthus herrei is a large evergreen bulb with a long neck that protrudes from the surface of the soil; from this neck, long slender leaves are borne. The roots are fleshy. The leaves are linear, 350-450 x 5.5-6.0 mm, and pale green. The leaf has an attractive twist in it that gives the plant some extra character. The leaf tip is rounded. The flower stalk on mature plants is 500-600 mm long. Flowers are dark orange with a hint of green, are borne on an umbel-like structure, and are pendulous. Under ideal growing conditions, 20-25 flowers are produced on a single umbel. Plants flower during the months of March and April.

Distribution and habitat
Cyrtanthus herrei is restricted to the arid winter rainfall areas and occurs in southern Namibia in between the fissures in rocks in the Rosh Pinah area. Other areas where this species occurs is the Richtersveld/Ais Ais Transfrontier National Park and as far south as the Harasberg which is on the northern boundary of the Namaqualand region in South Africa. It tends to grow on eastern and southwestern slopes in full sun.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Cyrtanthus is derived from the Greek word kyrtos, curved, and anthos, flower. The species name herrei is derived from the famous plant collector, the late Hans Herre. Mr. Herre was well known for collecting succulents in the Namaqualand and Richtersveld areas of South Africa and Namibia.

Cyrtanthus herrei is in all aspects a very handsome plant. It is certainly one of the larger species of the genus Cyrtanthus. The plant is considered on a regional level as rare.

In this genus, seed dispersal occurs when the short, stout seed capsule splits open along the sides when dry, releasing the seed. The seeds are black, flattened and produced during October and November. Many of seeds do not always germinate because of the hot arid conditions. Those seeds that are fortunate to be blown under a bush or into a crevice of rock should germinate if the right amount of rain falls at the right time.

Seed capsules forming

Uses and cultural aspects
This plant is not often used in cultivation, but it could be used as a container plant or planted in a rockery.

In Flower

Growing Cyrtanthus herrei

Cyrtanthus herrei can be cultivated as a container plant or grown in a rockery. Propagation can be done by means of seed and division of bulbs. Sow seed in April or May.

Prepare deep seed trays (± 10 cm deep) containing well-drained, coarse river sand. First water the tray with a fine rose spray before sowing. This will settle the seed mixture. The seeds should be sown evenly on the medium and covered with a thin layer of sand of about 5 mm deep. Keep seed tray moist, but not wet. Transplant seedlings in March or April (the following year) in a 1 pint bag in a well-drained mixture of 4 parts fine river sand, 2 parts coarse river sand, 3 parts well-rotted compost, 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite.

Bulbs can be split during the dormant season from late November till early March. The same soil mixture for sowing seed will suffice. Be careful not to plant the bulbs too deep. Remember the slender neck of the bulb should protrude above the surface of the soil otherwise the bulb is likely to rot.

Reference and further reading

  • Du Plessis, N. & Duncan, G. 1989. Bulbous plants of southern Africa. Tafelberg, Cape Town.

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This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website