Chlorophytum

Chlorophytum is a genus of around 150 species found mainly in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. It is considered by some to belong to the Anthericaceae family but the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group II, 2003 suggests that family be included in the Agavaceae family or optionally in the Asparagaceae family. Plants are perennial with stiff or swollen roots. Rhizomes are often short and inconspicuous, but sometimes thick and elongate. Leaves are mostly in a rosette or in two ranks. The inflorescence is a raceme and the white flowers have jointed pedicels. Chlorophytum comosum, a native of South Africa known as the Spider Plant is a very popular houseplant.


Chlorophytum blepharophyllum native from West through Central, East and Southern Africa. Plants growing either singularly or in clumps to approximately 50 cm tall from a small rhizome that is covered in the remains of old leaf bases. Roots spongy with swellings towards the tips. Leaves linear-lanceolate held prostrate to erect, up to 60 cm long. Inflorescence erect usually unbranched. Flowers small, yellowish-brown to brownish-green. Seed capsule obovoid, 3-angled, up to 10 mm long. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken north of Lusaka, Zambia.

Chlorophytum blepharophyllum, Nicholas WightmanChlorophytum blepharophyllum, Nicholas Wightman

Chlorophytum bowkeri is found in damp grassland from the Eastern Cape to Zimbabwe. It grows to 1 m tall, often forming colonies. Leaves are channeled and lanceolate and the white short lived flowers in small clusters are in an unbranched raceme. Photos taken in the Eastern Cape January 2010 by Mary Sue Ittner illustrate the leaves, flowers, seed pods and bracts.

Chlorophytum bowkeri leaves, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum bowkeri, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum bowkeri, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum bowkeri bracts, Mary Sue Ittner

Chlorophytum brachystachyum native from West through Central, East and Southern Africa. Plants clumped growing 30 to 45 cm tall from a short vertical rhizome. Roots spongy with swellings towards the tips. Leaves oblong- lanceolate, in a rosette, up to 40 cm long with ciliate margins. Inflorescence erect usually unbranched, dense. Flowers small, whitish. Seed capsule globose, 3-angled, up to 5 mm long. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken in Eastern Province, Zambia.

Chlorophytum brachystachyum, Nicholas WightmanChlorophytum brachystachyum, Nicholas Wightman

Chlorophytum comosum is native to southern and tropical Africa. Photos taken January 2010 at Glen Avon by Mary Sue Ittner of a plant growing in the rocks.

Chlorophytum comosum, Glen Avon, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum comosum, Glen Avon, Mary Sue Ittner

Chlorophytum crassinerve syn. Anthericum crassinerve is a Northern Cape species growing to 40 cm that blooms August to October. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster near Carolusberg in Namaqualand August 2011.

Chlorophytum crassinerve, Carolusberg, Cameron McMasterChlorophytum crassinerve, Carolusberg, Cameron McMaster

Chlorophytum macrophyllum native from West Africa Central, East and Southern Africa. Plants large, usually clumped growing to 90 cm tall from a short rhizome. Roots thick with swellings towards the tips. Leaves narrowly to broadly lanceolate, in a rosette, up to 90 cm long. Inflorescence erect, unbranched, dense. Flowers white. Seed capsule shallowly deltoid, up to 8 mm long. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken in Eastern Province, Zambia.

Chlorophytum clarae, Nicholas WightmanChlorophytum clarae, Nicholas Wightman

Chlorophytum pusillum native from West through Central, East and Southern Africa. Plants small, up to 3 cm tall growing either singularly or in patches from an indistinct rhizome. Roots short, spongy with elongated tubers. Leaves in a rosette, pressed flat to the ground, 1-4, oblanceolate with crisped margins. Inflorescence unbranched, short and dense. Flowers white. Seed capsule shallowly deltoid, approximately 4 mm long. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken in the Munali Hills in Southern Province, Zambia.

Chlorophytum pusillum, Nicholas WightmanChlorophytum pusillum, Nicholas Wightman

Chlorophytum rubribracteatum native from Central through East and Southern Africa. Plants grass-like, up to 45 cm tall growing from a short horizontal rhizome. Roots slender with swellings towards the tips. Leaves in 2 rows, linear, up to 50 cm with slightly ciliate margins. Inflorescence unbranched with individual flowers sparsely arranged. Flowers white to pinkish-white. Seed capsule shallowly deltoid, approximately 7 mm long. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken in Lilayi, Zambia.

Chlorophytum rubribracteatum, Nicholas WightmanChlorophytum rubribracteatum, Nicholas Wightman

Chlorophytum saundersiae syn. Anthericum saundersiae is a native of the Eastern Cape of South Africa and Swaziland, grows on the coastal forest floor and in grassland. Photo from Alessandro Marinello of a plants grown from seed from Silverhill Seeds and blooming in about a year from seed.

Chlorophytum saundersiae, Alessandro Marinello

Chlorophytum subpetiolatum native from Ethiopia south through Central, East and Southern Africa. Plants highly variable, growing singularly or in clumps from a thick rhizome covered in the fibrous remains of old leaf bases. Roots spongy, swollen at the base and tapering towards the tips. Leaves in 2 rows, linear-lanceolate to lanceolate, up to 70 cm long with ciliate or scabrid margins. Inflorescence unbranched, dense, up to 35 cm long. Flowers 1 to 3 per node, white. Seed capsule rounded to deltoid. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken in Lilayi, Zambia.

Chlorophytum subpetiolatum, Nicholas WightmanChlorophytum subpetiolatum, Nicholas WightmanChlorophytum subpetiolatum, Nicholas Wightman

Chlorophytum undulatum is a rhizomatous geophyte to 50 cm with slender roots sometimes with short tubers. Leaves are linear or lanceolate, usually in a rosette, straight or crisped. Flowers are white with dark keels in an unbranched raceme. It grows on clay flats and slopes and in rocky places from Namaqualand to the Karoo and Stellenbosch, flowering July to October. Photos taken by Mary Sue Ittner of what she believes is this species in the BokkeveldPlateau, in the Cederberg area of the northwest Cape, and near Calvinia, September 2006.

Chlorophytum undulatum, Bokkeveld, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum undulatum, Bokkeveld, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum undulatum, Bokkeveld, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum undulatum, Cederberg, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum undulatum, Calvinia, Mary Sue IttnerChlorophytum undulatum, Calvinia, Mary Sue Ittner

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