Birds, Bugs and Bushes

Written By: The Lowdown - Dec• 31•12

Blood Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus)


As we move into December and January, the bloom of the Blood Lily or Common Fireball will be seen in the Zambian bush.


The Blood Lily is an evergreen rhizomatous perennial, producing up to nine leaves per season whose tubular leaf bases form a pseudostem, a false stem formed by the sheathing leaf bases which overlap closely and are pressed flat against each other. The pseudostem is sturdy and fleshy with a diameter of up to 25 mm, and is usually purple spotted but can be plain and almost white.


The leaves are large and thin-textured with a distinct midrib and an undulating margin. They encircle the pseudostem giving a single plant an overall symmetric shape. The leaves of a well-grown plant can stand up to 70 cm high with a spread of up to 110 cm.


The spectacular flowerhead is a huge spherical umbel consisting of up to 200 flowers, held clear of the foliage at the end of a solitary stem. Each plant will produce only one flowerhead in a season. A flowerhead can reach a diameter of 25 cm and a height of 110 cm. Each flower is pinkish-orange-red with protruding stamens carrying bright yellow anthers. The flowerheads last for 1 or 2 weeks and make superb cut flowers. Flowering is in late summer to early autumn (December-March).


The seed develops in the inferior ovary which is visible as a swelling of the flower stalk below the flower, at the tip of the pedicel. These will swell to form a green berry that will turn scarlet as it ripens during winter-spring (July – September). These decorative berries can remain on the plant for up to 2 months.


Scadoxus multiflorus has a wide distribution and varying habitat and is found predominantly in tropicalAfrica. It occurs in lowland to mountain forest, secondary forest, forest margins, savannah woodland, open grassland and is very common in the shade of trees at river banks.


The bulbs contain Lycorine and other alkaloids and are poisonous if eaten, causing only low toxicity. Symptoms include salivation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.



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