Haemanthus are mostly deciduous bulbs, native to the semi-arid regions of South Africa. Mature plants have one, two, four or rarely six leathery, fleshy strap-like, leaves, upright or pressed flat on the ground. The flowers heads consist of tiny flowers clustered in compact umbel-like heads surrounded by coloured bracts and borne on fleshy stems. The flowers produce nectar and have prominent stamens, but only a faint scent. The berry-like fruit vary in colour from white, orange, pink to red and are aromatic. Haemanthus bulbs were some of the first botanical specimens collected from the Cape and H. coccineus (Cape tulip) was cultivated in the Netherlands in the 17th century.
Haemanthus albiflos (shaving brush plant, white paint brush): This widely-grown evergreen bulb has pairs of broad, usually hairy-edged, strap-like leaves. White brush-like flower heads are borne from autumn to winter, and are 3-7.5cm (1¼-3in) across, consisting of up to 50 tiny flowers with protruding stamens, followed by fleshy white to red fruit.
H. pauculifolius: Resembles H. albiflos, but bears only two, narrow hairy leaves per bulb. The small white flowers are produced on a stout stem and followed by red berries under favourable conditions.
H. coccineus (Cape tulip): Deciduous bulb with two or occasionally three strap-like leaves produced after flowering. The flower heads appear from summer to autumn and consist of up to 100 tiny red flowers with prominent yellow stamens surrounded by large scarlet bracts. Flower heads are 5-10cm (2-4in) across and are followed by fleshy, white to pink fruit.
Scadoxus are native to tropical woodland in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and are closely related to Haemanthus. They have similar flower heads with prominent stamens but are distinguished by their spiral leaf arrangement and rhizomatous bulb.
Scadoxus multiflorus (syn. Haemanthus multiflorus) (blood lily): Evergreen perennial with up to nine leaves with a prominent midribs and wavy margins, produced on a pseudostem that is white with purple spots. The pinkish, red flower head consists of 200 flowers packed into a spherical umbel, up to 25cm (10in) in diameter, with prominent stamens.
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