Plant Collector- Lycoris aurea

Lycoris aurea - the golden spider lily

Lycoris aurea - the golden spider lily

No, it is not a golden nerine in flower. Nerines do not come in yellow or gold and they hail from South Africa. The lycoris is a close botanical relative (both are from the amaryllidaceae family) but a distant geographic one. It comes from China through to Japan and is sometimes called the golden spider lily. Its native habitat is described as limestone country, which is interesting. Maybe it could be naturalised around Te Kuiti? It is a plant of the grasslands and forest margins in southern China and it has apparently naturalised in California.

The lycoris is not rare, it is just not widely available. But when you think about it, there are not many autumn flowering bulbs available commercially. Along with other members of the amaryllis family, it has a relatively large bulb although it prefers to be fully buried, unlike belladonnas and nerines which like to bake with their necks exposed. The lycoris does like a bit of summer heat to ripen the bulb which springs into growth in early autumn by putting up its flower spikes first. These will be followed by strappy green leaves which stay until the bulb goes dormant in late spring. It is renowned as an excellent cut flower.

It appears that lycoris was named for the Roman woman (not of noble birth) who counted various notable lovers including Mark Anthony. Aurea just means yellow.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.