Haemanthus coccineus

Haemanthus coccineus (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Liliopsida
Subclassis: Liliidae
Ordo: Asparagales
Familia: Amaryllidaceae
Tribus: Haemantheae
Genus: Haemanthus
Species: Haemanthus coccineus

Haemanthus coccineus ('coccineus': Latin 'scarlet-coloured') is a South African bulbous geophyte belonging to the Amaryllidaceae. Flowering in autumn, its scarlet spathe valves make it a striking plant and would account for its early appearance in Europe. Together with H. sanguineus Jacq., this was the first Haemanthus to be introduced to European horticulture and was described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1762. Despite Linnaeus' description, this same species was described under a host of different names (see gallery), which says more about taxonomic disorganisation than species variability. The plant figured on the left, was first described as Haemanthus hyalocarpus by Jacquin in 1804, and those in the gallery below, which are all H. coccineus, were first described under the caption names.

H. coccineus is widespread throughout the winter rainfall region in South Africa - from the southern parts of Namibia to the Cape Peninsula to the Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape. It is an adaptable species growing in a wide range of soils derived from sandstones, quartzites, granites, shales and limestones, and will survive annual rainfall ranging from 100mm to 1 100mm. Changing altitude does not seem to stress it unduly, and it can be found from coastal dunes to 1 200m mountains. It is a gregarious species and can be found in clumps of hundreds, from the shelter of bushes on flat ground to shady ravines and rocks.

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