Crinum scabrum

Jim Lykos
Sat, 23 Sep 2006 22:44:56 PDT
Hi Joe and Rob,

The question of what is C. scabrum is one that I realise has as yet to be resolved.  A couple of experienced Crinum growers that I know have the joint opinion that what is currently grown and sold in the USA as C. scabrum are now actually garden hybrids between scabrum and zeylanicum probably dating from the 1890's when C. zeylanicum and kirkii were introduced to the US by the Royal Palms nursery and used in hybridising.  Scabrum in this scenario being a naturalised Crinum that grows along the east coast of  Southern America and is likely to have been introduced by African slaves or European seamen early in the Spanish/Portuguese period of colonialisation of Central and Southern America. Zeylanicum on the other hand is from the islands of tropical  Southern Asia and not tropical Africa. Crinums sent to Kew by Dr John Kirk from Zannibar and at the time identified as C. zeylanicum are now known as C. kirkii.

Having grown both C. frimbriatulum from Angola  and as yet unflowered C. scabrum forms from USA and Brazil I have found that C. frimbriatulum is considerably more cold tolerant in zone 9b than scabrum - which needs winter protection in my area. Furthermore C. frimbriatulum is a different looking plant - it has glacuous-green  leaves that are thin and lorate and has different shaped spathe valves than scabrum. However in other respects the description of both species is very close.
I have illustrations of  C. scabrum from the Botanical Magazine and Botanical Register, these plants were both from St Michael's in the Azores. At that time it was considered that this Crinum was probably a native of Brazil.  In his Amaryllideae handbook of 1888, Baker mentions that  C. scabrum is allied to fimbriatulum from Angola and was widespread in coastal tropical Africa from Guinea northwards. From the descriptions in his Handbook scabrum is quite distinct from kirkii and zeylanicum.  

I'm growing Crinum cultivars  under the name C. macowanii that have a range of  flowering characteristics, one of them distributed by Mainly Amaryllis as an undescribed species, is exceptionally fertile and has superior flowers and floriferousness to the typical macowanii. However, this Crinum which has lots of offsets and closely resembles macowanii are in my mind natural macowanii hybrids.  I mention this as its possible that the scabrum brought to South America may have been a hybrid or,  two related milk and wine species from tropical Africa were introduced to Sth America, naturalised and hybridised and distributed for garden culture over the centuries so that their hybrid origin is now masked.
As the west coast of tropical Africa hasnt not yet been widely botanically explored I suppose the question of whether a Crinum more closely resembling scabrum or its precursor exists is yet to be confirmed.
Jim Lykos

More information about the pbs mailing list