Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
This curious flower is just one of the many South African bulbs that may be seen during the winter months in the Palm House, the central greenhouse of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.
It is native to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and blooming can occur any time between late autumn and early spring. The leaves are long, thick and flat and usually last a whole year before being replaced by a new set just after flowering.
The genus Haemanthus contains at least 20 species, each with its own bloom color, ranging from red through orange to pink or creamy-white. H. deformis is the only species that is stalkless; all the others produce their blooms on a sturdy stem. The red-flowered Haemanthus coccineus, known as the paintbrush lily, is the most common in cultivation.
There are many other flowering bulbs from South Africa and they come in all colors and shapes. Keep an eye out for them in the Palm House, where they are put on display as the season unfolds. You might spot them perched on the window sills or squeezed in among the plants on the floor.