fire lily

fire lily

Cyrtanthus ventricosus

Scientific name

This plant, a true fire lily, defies the elements by producing its beautiful, salmon to scarlet blooms just nine days after the seemingly destructive effects of fire.

Each flower remains open for approximately five to six days then finally loses turgor, becomes narrowly tubular and turns dull red. Individual plants in the population flower more or less at the same time and the entire flowering period lasts approximately two weeks. The three-chambered, inferior ovary, which has 40-60 ovules, develops into a capsule which takes about seven weeks to mature.

Unique to this and many other Cyrtanthus species is the hollow scape which is structurally strong and light on resources for its development. In effect, the hollowness of the scape may be key to enabling the plant to put forth flowers so promptly after fire. Aeropetes tulbaghia, the Table Mountain Pride butterfly, frequently visits the flower heads of C. ventricosus.

Propagation instructions

By seed

In general Cyrtanthus species from the dry areas of the Cape are difficult to grow and easily succumb to overwatering. They are best grown in pots which can be kept dry in summer and allow for the provision of good drainage, a necessity for successful cultivation. The seeds of Cyrtanthus have a short period of viability and are best sown as soon as they are harvested. As a true fire lily, C. ventricosus is best left to grow in the wild.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Image credit: Callan Cohen

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Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

This is a bird-friendly species

Good potplant

Attracts butterflies

It provides food for:

Southern double-collared sunbird

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