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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Genus: Apodolirion

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Asparagales > Family: Amaryllidaceae

Six species, all endemic to southern Africa. Very similar in appearance to Gethyllis, the difference lying in the attachment of the anthers. These are bulbous plants that produce a single short-lived tubular flower typically during late summer when it is very hot. The ovary of the flower lies below the ground, which is believed to give it protection in the summer heat (Manning et al. 2002). It swells into a succulent berry but it seems to be unknown as to the disperal agent(s) of these fruit. In most species, the leaves are absent or dried up at the time of flowering. Nothing seems to be known about pollination in this genus but the tubular, fragrant flowers suggest pollination by moths.

Species native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).

Apodolirion amyanum  

Occurs in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.


Apodolirion bolusii

Occurs in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.


Apodolirion buchananii (Natal crocus)

Recorded from South Africa (Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga) and Swaziland. Found scattered in grassland; blooms after fire.

Apodolirion cedarbergense

Distribution is limited to the northern Cedarberg Mountains, Western Cape, South Africa, where it is found on sandy flats and slopes.

Apodolirion lanceolatum

Recorded from Ladismith, Oudtshoorn, Still Bay and Swellendam, all in the Western Cape, South Africa. Grows on south-facing slopes among rocks


Apodolirion macowanii

Recorded from the Eastern Cape, South Africa, where it grows on sandy flats.



  • Burtt, B.L. 1970. The evolution and taxonomic significance of a subterranean ovary in certain monocotyledons. Israel Journal of Botany 19: 77-90.
  • Hilliard, O.M. and Burtt, B.L. 1973. Notes on some plants of southern Africa chiefly from Natal: III. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 32: 303-387.
  • Manning J., Goldblatt P. and Snijman D. 2002. The Color Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs. Timber Press, Portland.

  • Müller-Doblies, D. 1986. De liliifloris notulae 3. Enumeratio specierum generum Gethyllis et Apodolirion (Amaryllidaceae). Willdenowia 15: 465-471.

Text by Hamish Robertson