Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katherinae

John Grimshaw
Thu, 31 Jul 2008 11:34:06 PDT
This is quite a useful note in the Flora of Tropical East Africa (I. Nordal, 
1982) account for S. multiflorus:

"S. multiflorus subsp.  multiflorus is widespread and heterogeneous, 
occuopying a wide range of habitats. Lack of discontinuity prevents further 
delimitation. Only in the lowland rainforests of Sierra Leone to Gabon and 
in the coastal areas from Swaziland to the East Cape is differentiation 
sharp enough to justify separation  of subsp. longitubus and subsp. 
katherinae respectively. In East Africa [ i.e. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania] the 
typical savanna form is slender with flowers before the leaves, the mountain 
form more robust with flowers and leaves contemporary. Intervening habitats 
have intermediate forms, and the differences disappear in cultivation."

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with regional floras, taxa occurring 
outside their limits are not described, and the only clue to the distinction 
of subsp. multiflorus provided by Nordal here is  the line "Perianth tube 
usually less than 1.5 cm long; segments usually narrower than 2.5 mm."

The dimensions for the whole species, however, are: perianth tube 0.4-2.6 cm 
long, segments 0.5-5 mm broad.

In the absence of comparable detailed descriptions of South African material 
it is difficult to define subsp. katherinae but Elsa Pooley's Field Guide to 
the Wild Flowers of Kwa-Zulu-natal has a go, although not providing strictly 
comparable descriptions:

katharinae: Deciduous, robust, to 1.2 m. Coastal & swamp forest. Lamina c. 
350 x 150 mm, pseudostem c. 600 mm, produced before flowers. Inflorescence 
c. 200 mm diameter, stem c. 650 mm, flower tube c. 22 mm, pedicels c. 45 mm

multiflorus: Deciduous, robust, to 1 m. Light shade in bushveld, grassland, 
coast to 2700 m. Lamina c. 450 x 410 mm, shiny, margins wavy, produced after 
or with flowers, pseudostem and two reduced leaves speckled red-brown at the 
base ;  Inflorescence round,  c. 150 (-260) mm diam, stem speckled towards 
base; flower tube c. 15 mm, tepal lobes c. 30 mm.

So it seems that there are significant morphological differences, and also 
in habitat. My impression from illustrations (I have not grown katherinae) 
is that katherinae has a flatter and possibly less densely-flowered 
inflorescence than the big round ball of multiflorus. Hopefully Jonathan 
Hutchinson will be able to provide further comments and more details.

East African subsp. multiflorus can be essentially evergreen in the wild 
(and in cultivation) - certainly in the Kilimanjaro forest I frequently saw 
the new shoot spearing through the pseudostem of the previous year's shoot - 
this would be more or less prostrate, though still green and active. But the 
deciduosity of the foliage will depend very much on the site and available 
moisture. I have seen it flowering (without leaves) in the dry savanna of 
the Serengeti - where the big balls of flowers are a striking sight - and 
have to say that I don't think the inflorescences were much, if any, smaller 
than those from the forest.

John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Sycamore Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP

Tel. 01242 870567

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Douglas Westfall" <>
To: "Pacific Bulb Society" <>
Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2008 6:40 PM
Subject: Re: [pbs] Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katherinae

"Jim wrote:  "I’ve often wondered what differences there are between S.
multiflorus  multiflorus and S. multiflorus katherinae"

> From what I've read, it sounds like one is evergreen and one is
> deciduous."

Doug, what say you?

Basically, that is true. 75 to 80% of S. m. k hold their leaves and
pseudostem through the year until the "new" is ready to appear.  At
that time, the old "dies" away and the "new" starts up. Shortly
thereafter, the "flower spike" appears. The "bulb" of this one is
somewhere between a bulb and a risome.

Scadoxus multiflorus forms more of a bulb, and it "buries" itself in
the planting medium. DO NOT "OVER WATER" this bulb as it will rot if

There is also "miniature"/"dwarf" form of S. multiflorus. It is also
more of a bulb, buries itself, and goes completely "dormant".

I hope this "non-scientific" answer helps to distinguish between the

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