Crinum pedunculatum

swamp lily


Crinum pedunculatum

R.Br. 1810

pronounced: KRIN-um ped-un-kew-LAH-tum

(Amaryllidaceae — the amaryllis family)

synonym — Crinum asiaticum var. pedunculatum

(R.Br.) Fosberg & Sachet. 1987

pronounced: KRIN-um ay-see-AT-ik-ug variety ped-un-kew-LAH-tum

common names: swamp lily, river lily, mangrove lily, giant spider lily

native 4Crinum is from the Greek κρινον (krinon), a lily, and pedunculatum from the Latin pedunculatus, having a peduncle, referring to the long flower stalks. Asiaticum is 'fram Asia'. Authorities are not agreed as to the accepted name for this plant. Kew considers it to be what I have shown as the synonym, but most other authorities disagree.

The plant is found naturally along coastal Queensland and New South Wales, as far south as Newcastle, along streams and tidal areas. It is also found in Papua New Guinea and on some of the Pacific islands.

This large lily is a very versatile and hardy plant. It can be grown in a wide range of conditions from full sun to half shade or more. It tolerates poor drainage and clay soils, and can be planted successfully under established eucalypts. It is suitable for coastal areas, being tolerant of salt winds. It also flowers well in containers. It is hardy enough to use in street planting and around commercial shopping precincts. The ones photographed are either growing naturally on the island, or planted around the IGA Supermarket in Nelly Bay.

Crinum pedunculatum is a large, perennial, bulbous herb that may reach 2 or even 3 metres high, with a 2–3 m spread. The leaves may be up to 2 m long by 15 cm broad and thickened, with blunt points. The leaves spread in a large tussock and may be green or bluish.

The flowers are carried in dense clusters containing 10 to 25 white flowers. Individual blooms are about 10 cm across, and perfumed. They flower from about November to March. Flower clusters are on stalks about 50 cm long.

They are followed by rounded, beaked seed capsules 2–5 cm in diameter. The plant may be propagated from seed that should be kept moist. Seeds sometimes germinate while still attached to the plant. The bulbs may also be transplanted.

There is much confusing information written about the propagation of Crinum species. Some websites refer to ‘bulbils’ forming on the flower heads, but what they are referring to are actually fruits.

Small seeds are produced within the fruits. These seeds grow to be large, fleshy seeds taking up the whole space within the fruit wall.

As the fruit ripens and the seeds mature, the inflorescence stem begins to wither, and allows the remains of the flower head, carrying the fruits, to fall over on to the ground, the fruits now being 50 cm or so away from the parent plant. Here the seeds begin to put out roots and shoots, and new bulblets are formed.

Under the ground, bulblets are also formed by division from the original bulb, and the plants will clump. These clumps may periodically be broken up and replanted.

Though hardy, these plants can end up as food for a couple of garden pests. The smooth black, white and yellow striped caterpillars of the moth Spodoptera picta (the Lily Caterpillar moth) can demolish a young plant very quickly. Snails and slugs also find the large fleshy leaves tasty, so young plants may need some protection from them.

The crushed leaves have been used to treat box jellyfish stings, but I am unable to say how effectively.


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2008, 2015, Picnic Bay 2006, West Point Road 2011
Page last updated 1st December 2018