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What is Eucomis?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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Eucomis is a genus of flowering bulbs in the hyacinth family, Hyacinthaceae. There are about 11 species, all native to southern Africa. Common names include pineapple lily and pineapple flower because of the shape of the plant.

The most commonly cultivated species is Eucomis autumnalis. There are three recognized subspecies: E. autumnalis autumnalis, E. autumnalis amaryllidifolia, and E. autumnalis clavata. The plant, which can reach a height of 2 feet (60 cm), features a cylindrical stem covered with hundreds of yellow-green flowers, topped with a tuft of leaves. It is thought to resemble a pineapple, from which the plant takes its common name. When the flowers mature into fruit with shiny, black seeds, the plant is still decorative.

E. autumnalis is relatively easy to grow and is good for planting in garden borders, large pots, or rockeries. It can be grown from bulbs, seeds, or leaf cuttings. Plants grown from seeds may require up to five seasons to begin blooming after the seedling appears.

E. autumnalis prefers full sun and moist soil, though it tolerates partial shade. It does best with lots of well-rotted compost in the spring and lots of water throughout the blooming season in the summer. The plant is dormant during the winter and tolerates frost moderately.

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Eucomis vandermerwei is another popular decorative plant, native to the town of Steenkampsberg in Mpumalanga, South Africa. It is one of the smallest plants in the genus, growing to only about 4 inches (10.16 cm) tall. E. vandermerwei features summer blooming, burgundy flowers, and its leaves are wavy and blotched with purple. It has a similar shape to E. autumnalis

E. vandermerwei was first described in 1944 by South African botanist Inez Clare Verdoorn. It is tolerant of cold temperatures and can be propagated by seeds or leaf cutting. Unfortunately, it has become a threatened species due to over-collecting.

Eucomis bicolor and Eucomis comosa are among the most visually striking species. They both feature yellowish green to white flowers with purple to lavender accents. E. pallidflora, E. pole-evansii, and E. punctata are all quite similar in appearance, having very pale green flowers, with a spot of purple in the center. With the exception of E. vandermerwei, which has an extremely limited natural range and a very small size, Eucomis species grow throughout southern Africa, are similar in height, and require similar care when grown in a garden or as a houseplant.

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