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What is Haemanthus?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Haemanthus is a genus of about 22 flowering bulb plants native to Southern Africa. Its name comes from the Greek for "blood flower," since the first two species identified, H. coccineus and H. sanguineus, feature red flowers. Some Haemanthus species have white or pink flowers. The flowers of most species are brush-like. Haemanthus also features round, aromatic fruits ranging from bright red to white.

Three species of Haemanthus, H. albiflos, H. deformis, and H. pauculifolius, are evergreen, meaning they have leaves year round. Their bulbs are also partially exposed, and the exposed portion is bright green. All other species are deciduous, with leaves appearing only seasonally. Haemanthus grows best on rocks or in well-drained soil. Evergreen species prefer partial shade, while deciduous species do best in full sun. Many species naturally grow in clumps that can reach hundreds of individual plants, while others can be solitary.

The leaves of Haemanthus plants are very diverse. They can range from one to six in number and may be smooth, hairy, or sticky, and broad or narrow. Usually, flowers appear before leaves. The flowers produce nectar and pollen in great quantities and may have a faint smell often considered unpleasant to humans, with which they attract insect pollinators.

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H. albiflos has the widest geographical range, being the only species to grow both in winter rainfall and summer rainfall areas. They have white blooms which flower during the spring. H. albiflos is tolerant of neglect, making it an easy houseplant to maintain.

H. amarylloides has pale to dark pink flowers that bloom from late spring to early fall, and two long leaves that grow annually. H. avasmontanus has similar leaves, but its flowers are white. H. barkerae features pink flowers that bloom in the spring, and one or two annual leaves striped with dark green and maroon. H. dasyphyllus has bright red flowers and twisted leaves with red spots at the base and fine, white hairs. H. pubescens also has downy leaves and red flowers.

H. canaliculatus has bright red to pink flowers. Its leaves are red at the base and feature a distinctive groove on the upper surface, giving the species its name, canaliculatus meaning "grooved." H. crispus, with a species name meaning "crinkled," has leaves with crinkled edges, sometimes red. The leaves are also striped and spotted with red, and sometimes hairy, while the flowers are red or pink and bloom in the spring.

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