Hymenocallis caroliniana (L.) Herb.

Spider Lily


CC = 8
CW = -5
MOC = 9

© SRTurner

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial with large, stout bulbs.

Stems - Aerial stems erect, to 75 cm, unbranched, glabrous, slightly flattened.

Leaves - Basal, to 65 cm, linear and straplike, slightly folded longitudinally, glabrous, often glaucous.

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_basals.jpg Basal leaves.

© SRTurner

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Terminal at the tips of aerial stems, umbels of 2-6 flowers, subtended by a whorl of 2-6 bracts, these 3-5 cm long, linear to narrowly triangular, white and papery at maturity.

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sessile, ascending to spreading. Perianth 12-25 cm long, fused into a narrow tube in the lower half, the lobes linear, spreading, white. Broadly funnelform corona of petaloid tissue 3-4 cm long present inside the perianth lobes at the top of the perianth tube. Stamens 6, fused to the corona. Style 1, slender, the stigma capitate. Ovary inferior, with 3 locules, each with 2 ovules.

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_flowers1.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_flowers2.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_corona.jpg Corona and stamens.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Ovoid, soft-walled capsules, 15-25 mm long.

Hymenocallis_caroliniana_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - July - August.

Habitat - Swamps, wet bottomland forests.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - None.

Other info. - This bizarre but beautiful species is found in Missouri only in the bootheel region. Beyond Missouri its range extends southeastward into the Deep South. When flowering the plant is impossible to mistake for anything else in the state. The seeds are relatively large and soft, with the capsules frequently appearing lumpy because of uneven seed development within each locule. The flowers are fragrant, and the plant deserves wider cultivation as a striking addition to the ornamental garden.

Photographs taken at Otter Slough Conservation Area, Stoddard County, MO, 7-31-2015, 4-22-2019, 8-15-2021, and 8-07-2022, and Duck Creek Conservation Area, Stoddard County, MO, 8-12-2015 (SRTurner).