Hymenocallis caroliniana (L.) Herb.

Spider Lily

Hymenocallis caroliniana plant

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 basalsBasal leaves.

Hymenocallis caroliniana leaf1Leaf adaxial.

Hymenocallis caroliniana leaf2Leaf abaxial.

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_inflorescence2.jpgInflorescence base, with bud.

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.



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


Flowering - July - August.

Habitat - Swamps, wet bottomland forests.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This bizarre but beautiful species is found in Missouri only in the bootheel region. 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, and Duck Creek Conservation Area, Stoddard County, MO, 8-12-2015 (SRTurner).