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.

Pancratium canariense is native to the Canary Islands. It grows on cliff faces. Photos below were taken by Nhu Nguyen at the UC Botanical Garden.

Pancratium canariense, Nhu NguyenPancratium canariense, Nhu Nguyen

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 damaged from frost in my yard, while the normal form never does. Text and photos by Angelo Porcelli

Pancratium canariense leaves, Angelo PorcelliPancratium canariense La Gomera leaves, Angelo PorcelliPancratium canariense bulbs, Angelo Porcelli

Pancratium foetidum is present from Morocco to Tunisia. 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 the Northern Hemisphere. Photos below were taken by Angelo Porcelli in his yard, grown for many years and has withstood light frosts without damage.

Pancratium foetidum, Angelo PorcelliPancratium foetidum, Angelo Porcelli

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 a 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.

Pancratium illyricum, Hans JoschkoPancratium illyricum, Hans JoschkoPancratium illyricum seed, 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 illyricum, 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 it is taxonomically distinct from P. maritimum and rightly deserves 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 linosae, 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 lived, 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 its outer spongy layer (lower left), and the spongy tissue that covers the seeds (upper left).

Pancratium maritimum, Angelo PorcelliPancratium maritimum, Nhu NguyenPancratium maritimum, Nhu NguyenPancratium maritimum, Nhu NguyenPancratium maritimum, Nhu Nguyen

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.

Pancratium maritimum, Angelo PorcelliPancratium maritimum, Angelo Porcelli

The next series of photographs were taken by Antigoni Rentzeperis on a beach of Laconia, S. Peloponnese, Greece.

Pancratium maritimum, Antigoni RentzeperisPancratium maritimum, Antigoni RentzeperisPancratium maritimum, Antigoni RentzeperisPancratium maritimum, Antigoni RentzeperisPancratium maritimum, Antigoni RentzeperisPancratium maritimum, Antigoni Rentzeperis

Pancratium maximum syn. Mizonia maxima. Photographs by Dylan Hannon who reports "This one flowered late October 2020 after last blooming c. 2002. It likes heat! Pancratium cf. maximum, collected by John Lavranos in Yemen: Wadi Surdud, Bani Sa'ad, above Khamis."

Pancratium maximum, Dylan HannonPancratium maximum, Dylan HannonPancratium maximum, Dylan Hannon

Pancratium parviflorum is an Israeli species with the highest concentrations in the Northwestern region. Photo by Gideon Pisanty.

Pancratium parviflorum, Gideon Pisanty

Pancratium sickenbergeri is from Egypt and the Middle East. Photos by Gideon Pisanty.

Pancratium sickenbergeri community in the desert, Gideon PisantyPancratium sickenbergeri, 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 grown in pots indoors or in a 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.

Pancratium zeylanicum, Alessandro MarinelloPancratium zeylanicum, Alessandro Marinello

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