Pancratium is a bulbous genus in the Amaryllidaceae family with species from the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean region, tropical Africa and tropical Asia. It is related to Narcissus and Galanthus. Flowers of Pancratium have a characteristic corona and six elegant white segments and are very beautiful. This genus was the subject of the PBS list Topic of the Week March 2004. Pascal Vigneron provided the very interesting Introduction which is the source of much of the information on this page. He has links to pictures of species on his Website. It was proposed in 2000 that some species formerly included in this genus should transfer to the genus Clinanthus.
Seeds from a form present on the island of La Gomera were distribuited years ago, supposed to be a larger form but it doesn't seem significatively bigger than others. Some differences are visible anyway. Leaves are arranged in an arching fan like Hippeastrum and not erect and weakly spirally twisted as in the normal form, bulbs are more spindle shaped (on the right) compared to the classic round shape (on the left) as shown in photo, while flowers and seeds are just the same. This form from La Gomera gets routinely damage from frost in my yard, while never on the normal form. Text and photos by Angelo Porcelli
Pancratium foetidum is present from Morocco to Tunisie. It resembles a stockier version of Pancratium canariense with broader leaves and more rich umbels, seeds also bigger. The specific name refers to the 'musky' scent of the flowers, but it's not a bad smell. Strictly summer dormant, it blooms in September in Northern Hemisphere. Photos below were taken by Angelo Porcelli in his yard, grown for many years and has withstood light frosts without damage.
Pancratium illyricum comes from Corsica, Sardinia and Capraia. It grows "inland" on rocky slopes and sparse woodland areas, from sea level to more than 1300 m above sea level. Flowering time is May (April-June). The white flowers are fragrant. The Italian name "giglio stella", i.e. Star Lily, is a good description of the flowers. The large glaucous leaves (30-60 cm x 1.5-5.5 cm) appear at the end of winter, while flowering occurs in late spring - early summer, and the plants go dormant after a few weeks. It is the hardiest pancratium: USDA zone 8 and probably 7 in sheltered position with a southern aspect. Full sun, but in the South light shade. The photos below from Hans Joschko were taken in Corsica in May and June where he found them on rocky slopes at 800 m. The first picture is a habitat shot followed by a close-up. Seed on a 10 mm grid photo by David Pilling.
This species has a rather short growing cycle and is slow to reach flowering size. Leaves last about three months only and the flower stalk quickly elongates together with the emerging leaves. Better a cool corner in the hottest climates. Photo by Angelo Porcelli.
Pancratium linosae formerly described as Pancratium angustifolium is a species closely related to P. maritimum but endemic to the small island of Linosa in the Sicilian Channel. Unlike P. maritimum which grows in seashore dunes, P. linosae grows in black volcanic cinder. It's still a species under study to understand if taxonomically distinct from P. maritimum and deserves rightly a specific status. However, the bulbs are quite different from P. maritimum, being smaller, round and without the long neck. Photo and text by Angelo Porcelli
Pancratium maritimum is a very nice species, dwelling along sandy coasts of the whole Mediterranean sea. Although winter growing, it will stay evergreen in moist soils. The flowers are short living, but produced in succession and very scented at evening. It will grow well in ordinary garden soil, but needs full sun. Seeds are thickened, mostly due to the spongy outer layer which helps them float on water. Photo #1 is by Angelo Porcelli. Photos #2-5 by Nhu Nguyen. Photo 4 shows the mature seed pod splitting. Photo 5 shows the whole seed (right), a seed peeled of it's outer spongy layer (lower left), and the spongy tissue that covers the seeds (upper left).
The following two photos by Angelo Porcelli show the bulbs exposed after a sea storm. Most people may not realize how large they are and how deep they grow.
The next series of photographs were taken by Antigoni Rentzeperis on a beach of Laconia, S. Peloponesse, Greece.
Pancratium parviflorum is an Israeli species with the highest concentrations in the Northwestern region. Photo by Gideon Pisanty.
Pancratium sickenbergeri is from Egypt and the Middle East. Photos by Gideon Pisanty.
Pancratium zeylanicum is a small tropical species from Asia: India and the Islands of the Indian Ocean. Rain induces flowering and development of the glossy foliage. The flowers are particularly graceful. It is a tender plant, so, except in tropical climate, it must be grow in pots indoors or in warm greenhouse during autumn-winter-spring and put outside during summer. The small bulbs may be planted in 10-15 cm (4-6 inch) pots in soil with good drainage. The plant has a rest period only if water is withheld. Photos by Alessandro Marinello.