Urginea

Urginea is a genus in the Hyacinthaceae family that is/was mostly African with some Mediterranean species with white to pale yellow or pink flowers growing from a bulb. It has been now been included by Goldblatt and Manning in Drimia along with other genera once separated.

Seeds of this genus should be sown as soon as possible because they are ephemeral (Rachel Saunders).


Drimia altissima (syn. Urginea altissima) is a widespread species in tropical and southern Africa. Photos 1-3 were taken by Nicholas Wightman of a plant initially from the Eastern Province, now growing in Lilayi, Zambia. Photo 4 was taken by Cody Howard near Octavi, Namibia.

Drimia altissima, Nicholas WightmanDrimia altissima, Nicholas WightmanDrimia altissima, Nicholas WightmanDrimia altissima, Cody Howard

Urginea macrocentra syn. Drimia macrocentra This rather strange plant is known colloquially as the 'snake's head' (Slangkop) as its sinuous inflorescence is said to resemble the flared hood of a rearing cobra. The hollow, deep green cylindrical leaves are very striking when encountered in the moist grasslands of the Drakensberg foothills of KwaZulu-Natal where summer temperatures are cool. Habitat photograph by Rogan Roth.

Drimia macrocentra, syn. Urginea macrocentra, Rogan Roth

Urginea maritima syn. Drimia maritima is the giant among all Mediterranean geophytes. In spite of the specific name, this species is by far more common inland than on the sea. It grows in open spaces on shallow stony soils, with the bulbs totally above the ground. Several layers of papery tunics protect the bulbs from the sun and occasional fires don't harm them at all. Rodents don't eat the bulbs since they are poisonous. The bulbs split dichotomously from the apex rather than forming basal offsets and in time they grow to massive clumps up to 20 heads, each one reaching up to 30 cm in diameter. Two forms are known. The one pictured in these photos, with brown reddish outer tunics, is sometime referred as var. rubra. This form is usually found inland and gets to be a bigger size. The other form has whitish outer tunics and is referred as var. alba. Both forms have whitish inner tunics. Variability is also present in the flowers, which appear from the bare bulbs in late August. Some individuals have white flowers with a distinct pink midrib on the tepals and in extreme cases the flowers are all pinkish; others have totally white flowers. Leaves are dull green with a bluish waxy bloom and are a towering presence in winter, above seasonal short grasses. This species has the same growing cycle of many winter rainfall South African species like Amaryllis or Brunsvigia, but foliage resembles the foliage of Mexican agaves. Photos 1-2 by Angelo Porcelli and photos 3-4 from Jacob Uluwehi Knecht, give a sense of scale for how large the bulbs and foliage can become (the fourth picture includes a friend's hand for scale). Photo 5 demonstrates how tall the inflorescences can grow, also from Jacob Uluwehi Knecht. Photo 6 taken by Nhu Nguyen demonstrates how a single bulb could split into a large clump when planted in the ground.

Drimia maritima, Angelo PorcelliDrimia maritima, Angelo PorcelliDrimia maritima, Jacob Uluwehi KnechtDrimia maritima, Jacob Uluwehi KnechtDrimia maritima, Jacob Uluwehi KnechtDrimia maritima, Nhu Nguyen

Native to the Mediterranean coastal regions, where it grows in sand and gravel often under very harsh conditions. The sea squill is easily grown in a dry and sunny position. Flowering late summer or late autumn. Broadly sword-shaped, erect, basil leaves appear in autumn, after a long spike of star-shaped, white flowers, each 1 to 1.5 cm across has developed. Photographs 1-2 by Bill Dijk and 3-5 by Nhu Nguyen.

Drimia maritima, Bill DijkDrimia maritima, Bill DijkDrimia maritima, Nhu NguyenDrimia maritima, Nhu NguyenDrimia maritima, Nhu Nguyen

Urginea undulata, syn. Drimia undulata, is a small species native to North Africa, has remarkable foliage. These plants, purchased as bulbs from Monocot Nursery several years ago, are kept in an unheated bulb frame in northwestern Oregon. They produce their leaves in late fall and have not yet flowered. They are kept dry during their summer dormancy. Photo by Jane McGary

Drimia undulata, syn. Urginea undulata, Jane McGary

The photos below are of vegetative and reproductive parts of plants from Corsica, contributed by Roland

Drimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma Geverink
Drimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma GeverinkDrimia undulata, Roland de Boer and Gemma Geverink

Drimia groups besides Urginea in the expanded genus: Drimia -- Litanthus -- Rhadamanthus -- Tenicroa


For a listing of all the species in the expanded genus see the Drimia index


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Page last modified on March 27, 2014, at 06:37 PM