Eucomis is a southern African genus in the Hyacinthaceae family. Plants are commonly known as Pineapple lilies because in many of the species the blooms resemble a pineapple. Most of the species are found in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa, some at higher elevations. Plants from a-f are found on this page.
Eucomis autumnalis (Mill.) Chitt. from southeastern southern Africa is found on rocky, grassy slopes and has white to greenish flowers and flowers summer into fall. It grows in a variety of habitats and has many forms. It is primarily found in summer rainfall grassland from altitudes 1000 mm to 2500 mm and rainfall varying from 500 to 1200 mm per year. Some populations are in shady forested areas, others in dry Karoo shrub land. There are three subspecies. The first photo was taken by David Fenwick and the second taken by Paul Tyerman of a dwarf white flowering plant David speculates is also this species. The third photo below was taken by Arnold Trachtenberg. The last three photos were taken at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner where there was a mass display of flowers in January 2010.
The first three photos are of pot-grown plants from specific areas, including one that shows the detail of a flower. The first, the Kei Bolo form of Eucomis autumnalis is the latest to flower - flowering in late April to May. It occurs naturally at altitudes of 700 m in the transition between Valley Thicket and Grassland on the slopes above the Kei River Valley in the Stutterheim district of the Eastern Cape. It is found between rocks and in rock crevices, protected from harsh sun and wind. The Triple Streams form of E. autumnalis pictured in the second two photos comes from glades within patches of Afromontane forest in the Stutterheim district of the Eastern Cape where it grows in mottled shade. Photos from Cameron McMaster.
Photos below were taken at Gaika's Kop of the typical robust form of Eucomis autumnalis growing in open grassland in full sun at altitudes above 1000 m. Photos 1 and 2 were taken by Cameron McMaster. Photos 3-4 were taken by Christopher Whitehouse January 2012.
Eucomis autumnalis ssp. amaryllidifolia (Baker) Reyneke is a rarer subspecies that produces reasonably thick ovate prostrate leaves in a rosette fashion and has white flowers. Photo by Cameron McMaster taken at Waainek in the Eastern Cape.
Eucomis autumnalis ssp. autumnalis, syn. Eucomis undulata Aiton, forms a dense rosette of strap-like leaves with undulating edges and white or green flowers on spikes around 60 cm. high. Tony Avent reports that this taxa has leaves with an unusual texture that feels like rubber.
Eucomis autumnalis ssp. clavata (Baker) Reyneke grows to 30 cm and is found in damp grassland, on slopes, or at the foot of cliffs over quite a wide area of the Drakensberg, including KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. It is also found in the Eastern Cape. Leaves of this species have margins that are crisped and wavy. The creamy green flowers are on a stout stem, club-shaped and tightly packed. Photos taken by Mary Sue Ittner at Gaika's Kop and Naude's Nek in the Eastern Cape.
Eucomis bicolor Baker has a large head of white edged with purple flowers that are wider at the top. The flowers are covered in a rosette of smaller bract-like leaves giving this species its pineapple appearance. Plants form a large rosette of wide leaves, to 75 cm across, often spotted purple at the base. This species is found on grassy streambanks and in forests up to 2800 m from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The first photo was taken by David Fenwick and the second by Arnold Trachtenberg of a plant grown outdoors in Northern New Jersey. The last three photos were taken by Cameron McMaster at Sentinel Peak in the Drakensberg.
Eucomis comosa (Houtt.) Wehrh. (syn. Eucomis punctata L'Hér.) is found in grassland and marshes from the southeastern Cape into KwaZulu-Natal. It grows both in dry and damp areas and is 20 to 60 cm tall. It has long strap-like leaves. Many forms are in cultivation, and the leaves can be quite variable in color, from light green to dark burgundy. Flowers are usually white, but sometimes pinky, or purplish. Photo 1 was taken by David Fenwick, photos 2-3 were taken by Bob Rutemoeller and photo 4 was taken August 2004 by Mary Sue Ittner at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
The species also occurs in seepage areas and stream banks at high altitudes in the Amatola Mountain region of the Eastern Cape. It is confined to moist areas where it gets protection from fairly dense vegetation around it. Photos #1-3 were taken by Cameron McMaster. The second photo was taken at Mt. Kubusie. Photos #3-6 were taken January 2010 at Satansnek Pass. Photos #4-5 from Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner.
Eucomis comosa var. striata (G.Don) Willd. is found in swamps and is taller (to 1.2 meters) and has purple stripes rather than spots on the back of the leaves and a spotted spike. Photo by David Fenwick
Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' (or Eucomis comosa 'Sparkling Burgundy') is a selection of this species introduced by Plant Delights Nursery. It came from a seedling that has completely purple leaves. The leaves are a lovely burgundy color when first emerged and will remain purple for many months, slowly turning greenish by the end of summer. Adult bulbs can produce a large inflorescence. It mixes well with many other plants in the garden. Grow this species as you would many other summer growing Eucomis, with good water, sun, and drainage. It also appreciates some fertilizer while in growth but will be fine without it. It goes dormant in the winter but it's not necessary to keep it dry in well-drained soil. The photos below were taken by Nhu Nguyen.