T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Kaffir lily (Crimson Flag) Hesperantha coccinea

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Iridaceae
Genus: Hesperantha
Species: H. coccinea
Binomial  name Hesperantha coccinea.
Syn: Schizostylis coccinea 
Common name: Kaffir lily, Crimson Flag,  River Lilly , Scarlet river lilly

The name Hesperantha means 'evening flower' and the genus comprises 65 species which are distributed through both the summer and winter rainfall areas of South Africa and Zimbabwe. The river lily Hesperantha coccinea is a flowering plant a member of the family Iridaceae (Iris family) from the summer rainfall area and is widely distributed through the eastern provinces of the country. The species name coccinea means 'scarlet' and refers to the bright red flowers produced by this species but there are also pink and white forms. Until fairly recently this species was known by its old name Schizostylis coccinea. It grows from rhizomes and can spread rapidly, if it finds a place to its liking. In its native countries it is always close to water on the sandy saturated soils on stream banks growing in full sun where it was discovered in the 19th century by two plant explorers—Backhouse & Harvey. The flowers often overhanging the stream. It is an herbaceous perennial plant growing to 60 cm tall, with slender lanceolate leaves up to 40 cm long and 1 cm broad. The flowers normally bright red but there is also pink and white forms. 30–35 mm long, with six petals; they are produced four to ten alternately on a spike in late summer to autumn. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens for its flowers and is used in floristry.

Hesperantha coccinea flowering on the banks of the Te Henui stream early April


Buds just opening