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Crinum pedunculatus, Swamp Lily

By Jeff Howes

Crinum pedunculatus, or the Swamp Lily, grows naturally along the eastern seaboard of Australia. However it is not all that common in the wild.  

I planted my first  plant about 15 years ago in my garden in the northern Sydney suburb of Westleigh and I now have quite a few, as new plants grow readily from the many large seeds that are produced after the late December flowering. 

I have found them to be a hardy plant and while they respond to watering as their common name suggests they still grow well in dry conditions although their flowering is reduced. All my plants receive no additional watering and I have not lost any due to lack of water.

This plant has broad leaves 70cm long that grow from an underground bulb. Over time they will produce a small trunk. The leafless flowering stem rises from the lower leaves and produces up to 20 white flowers (photo 1) in an attractive terminal simple umbel. Many large oval seeds are produced after flowering. They are quite fertile and grow easily.

These plants are susceptible to a few garden pests. Snails can be a problem; fortunately this does not usually happen in my garden as it is normally quite dry and not conducive to a large population of snails or slugs. 

Another problem is that a plant can sometimes be defoliated by the smooth, black and white caterpillars of the moth, Spodoptera picta.  

Both these problems should not deter you from growing them in clumps of three or five as they make and excellent feature plants in the garden with their strong architectural form.

Crinum:  from the Greek  crinon meaning a lily; peduncalutum:  from the Latin peduncalatus meaning with a peduncle, refering to the long flowering stork

By Warren and Gloria Sheather

Crinum pedunculatus is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family in company with the exotic Narcissus and Nerine. The accepted common names are Swamp or River Lily.

Crinum pedunculatus is a large, perennial, bulbous herb. The leaves may be up to 2 metres long by 15 centimetres wide. Leaves spread in a large tussock and may be green or bluish.

The flowers are carried in dense clusters that contain 10 to 25 white flowers. Individual blooms are 10 centimetres across and perfumed. Flowering extends from November to March. Flower clusters are on stalks about 50 centimetres long. Seeds are 2-5 centimetres in diameter with a beak.

Crinum pedunculatus grows in colonies along tidal areas and streams. The species is evergreen, hardy and resists frost in our cold climate garden.

The River Lily has an interesting distribution and is found in New South Wales including Lord Howe Island, Queensland, Northern Territory as well as New Guinea, Keeling Island, New Caledonia and Timor.

Crinum pedunculatus could be cultivated under established trees, in full sun or in containers.

Painful box jellyfish stings have been treated with crushed River Lily leaves.

Propagate from seed that should be kept moist. Seeds sometimes germinate whilst still attached to the plant.

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