Years ago in East Africa we had a very beautiful plant that flowered during the rainy season. We called it the Pyjama Lily due to its Pink and White striped flowers. I was delighted , the other day, to see that we have significant numbers of this beautiful flower here, at Pamuzinda. There are still many of the pink and white form but large numbers of just pure white ones as well.
Here they are called Common Vlei Lily and the technical Latin Genus under which they come is Crinum. Crinum macowanii appears to be one of the commoner species within this genus but there are some 22 species recorded in the Southern African region. Some of the differences are virtually microscopic so I am not brave enough to postulate that my boyhood Pyjama Lillies were one species or another. Suffice to say they are all remarkably similar and a joy to behold
They are fairly widespread from Central Africa Southwards and occur in a number of different habitats. Given a choice the species we have here prefers to have its feet in water when possible. This causes it to proliferate in run-offs and spillways, where it seems content to wait for the rains when it knows it will be in boggy ground. It doesn’t seem to be a flower for picking for a vase display. Once opened, the enormous bell shaped blooms last barely 24 hours. That said, the greatest danger and threat to it’s continued distribution comes from being dug up for medicinal purposes. Its bulb is the sought after part of the plant which, of course, means it is a one off use with no chance of regeneration. Different parts of Africa attribute different curative properties to the plant and anyone so interested will find that Wikipedia is very informative on the issue.
I made the mistake, when I first noticed them this year, of deciding to return in a couple of days when I expected more plants to be in flower. Of two sizeable populations one had been completely grazed and flattened, probably by a herd of Impala. The other had flowered and “gone over” in what can only have been about 48 hours. Fortunately, next time it actually rained, some more came out and, having learnt my lesson, I “got in quick”.