Cyrtanthus ventricosus

Image: Callan Cohen


This plant, a true fire lily, defies the elements by producing its beautiful, salmon to scarlet blooms just nine days after the seemingly destructive effects of fire.

Each flower remains open for approximately five to six days then finally loses turgor, becomes narrowly tubular and turns dull red. Individual plants in the population flower more or less at the same time and the entire flowering period lasts approximately two weeks. The three-chambered, inferior ovary, which has 40-60 ovules, develops into a capsule which takes about seven weeks to mature.

Unique to this and many other Cyrtanthus species is the hollow scape which is structurally strong and light on resources for its development. In effect, the hollowness of the scape may be key to enabling the plant to put forth flowers so promptly after fire. Aeropetes tulbaghia, the Table Mountain Pride butterfly, frequently visits the flower heads of C. ventricosus.

Propagation instructions - seeds

In general Cyrtanthus species from the dry areas of the Cape are difficult to grow and easily succumb to overwatering. They are best grown in pots which can be kept dry in summer and allow for the provision of good drainage, a necessity for successful cultivation. The seeds of Cyrtanthus have a short period of viability and are best sown as soon as they are harvested. As a true fire lily, C. ventricosus is best left to grow in the wild.

Sources and references

Scientific name

Cyrtanthus ventricosus

Common name(s)

fire lily