Blood Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus)
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is home to many animals, and we also cultivate plants from those animals’ habitats. You may see some of these plants in the animals” habitats or you can see them in our Victorian Greenhouse. Many of the plants are endangered, just like the animals.
This month we are highlighting the Blood Lily, which is also known as the Fireball Lily, the Katherine-wheel, the Oxtongue Lily, the Poison Root, the Powderpuff Lily, the African Blood Lilly, and the Pincushion Flower.
DESCRIPTION: Blood Lilies are unique in that they can be classified as both a perennial and an evergreen. The plants can grow from either bulbs or rhizomes. This makes the species highly versatile and relatively successful. The leaves of the plant generally grow comparatively large and thin in shape. These eaves remain green throughout the entire year. The flower heads develop uniquely, typically showing a bright red color, thus the common name. Each head also consists of nearly 200 small flowers. Each plant grows one head only. The head is 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 almost 10 inches and a height of 4 inches. Each flower is pinkish-orange-red with protruding stamens carrying bright yellow anthers. The flowerheads only last for 2 weeks. The stem and leaves remain green throughout the entire year.
Blood Lilies contain chemicals such as lycorine that are poisonous. Although a Blood Lily is considered to be "relatively low" in toxicity, eating the bulbs can cause discomfort, including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The poison has been used in traditional methods for making poisonous arrowheads, for fishing poison spears and in some traditional medicines.
RANGE: Native to sub-Saharan and tropical areas of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
HABITAT: It occurs in lowland to mountain forest, savannah woodlands and open grassland. It is very common in the shade of trees at riverbanks.
FAMILY LIFE: Splitting or sowing propagates this plant. Splitting occurs when the main bulb produces additional bulbs that can be separated and planted independently.
Sowing is when the seeds from the flowers are planted in good soil after flowering. Sowing seedlings usually take up to five years to produce a flower. 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.
LIFE SPAN: Varies greatly based on habitat.
STATUS: Least Concern but like all living things it is affected by global climate change.