Scadoxus puniceus

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Paintbrush lily
Scadoxus puniceus2.jpg
Scadoxus puniceus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Amaryllidoideae
Genus: Scadoxus
Species: S. puniceus
Binomial name
Scadoxus puniceus
(L.) I.Friis & I.Nordal
S. puniceus in Magaliesberg
Plate by Walter Hood Fitch
in Curtis' Botanical Magazine

Scadoxus puniceus, commonly known as the paintbrush lily,[1][2][3] is a species of bulbous plant. It is native to much of southern and eastern Africa: Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, and South Africa (the Cape Provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the Northern Provinces).[4] Scadoxus puniceus can be found in cool, shady habitat such as ravines and forests, where it is often found in moist leaf litter. Other common names include snake lily, royal paintbrush, King-of-Candida,[1] African blood lily (English),[2] rooikwas (Afrikaans), isisphompho, and umgola (Zulu).[3] There are nine species of Scadoxus of which three, S. puniceus, S. multiflorus (with 2 subspecies) and S.membranaceus, occur in South Africa.


The bright red, round fruits are about a centimeter wide, and each produces a single opalescent seed.


The genus was named by the polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, who did not explain its etymology. The name is possibly from doxus meaning "glory" or "splendour" in Greek, referring to the scarlet flowers; the prefix sca means "obscure" or "hidden", or from the Greek "skia" = shade.[3][5] One source reports the origin of the name to be unclear.[6] The species name puniceus means "reddish-purple". Previously classified as part of Haemanthus, it was separated mainly because of its stalked leaves.


  • Gyaxis puniceus (L.) Salisb.
  • Haemanthus fax-imperii Cufod.
  • Haemanthus goetzei Harms
  • Haemanthus insignis Hook.
  • Haemanthus magnificus (Herb.) Herb.
  • Haemanthus natalensis Hook.
  • Haemanthus orchidifolius Salisb.
  • Haemanthus puniceus L.
  • Haemanthus puniceus var. fortuita Herb.
  • Haemanthus puniceus var. magnificus Herb.
  • Haemanthus redouteanus M.Roem.
  • Haemanthus redouteanus var. subalbus M.Roem.
  • Haemanthus rouperi auct.
  • Haemanthus superbus Baker


The plant is cultivated as an ornamental. It was popular in the Netherlands as early as the beginning of the 18th century.[3]


Some artificial hybrids between Scadoxus puniceus and S. multiflorus subsp. katherinae are known. Johannes Nicolai raised S. 'König Albert', which flowered for the first time in 1899. Although rare in cultivation, it multiplies rapidly. Of the same parentage is S. 'Andromeda', which was raised by C. G. van Tubergen around 1904.[7]


While the bulb is considered poisonous in significant amounts,[3] it is used traditionally to treat "coughs, gastro-intestinal problems, febrile colds, asthma, leprosy, sprains and bruises," and "as an antidote to poisons.'"[1] It is also used as a diuretic. The leaves are applied to sores and ulcers to aid healing and act as an antiseptic. The plant is also traditionally consumed during pregnancy as part of an herbal regime to ensure safe labour. The alkaloids in the plant include haemanthamines, haemanthidine, 6-β-hydroxycrinamine, scapunine, and scadoxucines.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Koorbanally, N. A.; Raghoo, M. & Crouch, N. R. (2006). "Amaryllidaceae alkaloids from Scadoxus puniceus" (PDF). The American Society of Pharmacognosy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 January 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Scadoxus puniceus (L.) I. Friis & Nordal". Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Connecticut. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Scadoxus puniceus (L.) Friis & Nordal". South African National Biodiversity Institute. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Scadoxus puniceus". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Coombes, Allen J. (1994). Dictionary of Plant Names. London: Hamlyn Books. ISBN 978-0-600-58187-1.  p. 167
  7. ^ Hutchinson, J. (2007). "Scadoxus of South Africa". The Plantsman n.s.. 6 (1): 10–14. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Scadoxus puniceus (L.) Friis & Nordal". eMonocot. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  • Du Plessis, Niel & Duncan, Graham (1989). Bulbous Plants of Southern Africa: A guide to their cultivation and propagation. Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers. ISBN 978-0-624-02659-4. 
  • Van Wyk, Ben-Erik; Van Oudtshoorn, Bosch & Gericke, Nigel (1997). Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Pretoria, South Africa: Briza Publications. ISBN 978-1-875093-09-0.