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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Liliaceae

50. Hymenocallis Salisbury, Trans. Hort. Soc. London. 1: 338. 1812.

Spider-lily [Greek hymên, membrane, and kallos, beauty, in reference to the corona]

Gerald L. Smith & Walter S. Flory†

Herbs, perennial, scapose, from bulbs. Bulb 1, ovoid or globose, tunicate, often extending into neck of clasping, distichous leaf bases. Leaves 2–16, deciduous or evergreen, sessile, rarely petiolate; blade narrowly to widely liguliform or oblanceolate, rarely ovate to elliptic. Scape: bracts 2–3, triangular, ovate, or lanceolate. Inflorescences umbellate, bracteate; each flower with subtending, often narrowly lanceolate bract. Flowers 1–16, usually sessile, erect or slightly diverging, large and starlike, fragrant; perianth connate basally into short or long tube, surmounted by conspicuous staminal corona; tepals extending from base of corona, free portions reflexed or ascending, often distally recurved, linear; stamens adnate basally into showy funnelform or rotate corona, margins between free portions of filaments often dentate or lacerate, portions of filaments inserted on margin of corona, erect to incurved, filiform; anthers versatile, introrse, pollen yellow, often golden, or orange; ovary inferior, globose, ovoid, oblong, or pyriform, ovules 2–10 per locule; style exserted beyond stamens, deflexed laterally, filiform; stigma capitate. Fruits capsular, green, subglobose to elongate, 3-locular, large, leathery. Seeds large, green, fleshy. x = 20, 23.

Species ca. 50 (15 in the flora): se and sc United States, West Indies, Central America, and South America.

The species of Hymenocallis are some of the most difficult to identify from herbarium specimens. Distinguishing field characteristics such as position, surface, texture, and color of the leaves, and three-dimensional shape and margin of the staminal corona, are undeterminable on most herbarium specimens. These characteristics, as observed in the field, are discussed in the treatment of each species, and distinguishing features are emphasized for their usefulness in identification. With the exception of dimensions for fruits, seeds, and some bulbs, all measurements presented are from pressed, dried specimens. Variations in habitat and distribution are also emphasized, and they are often used in the key to support character distinctions.

The first eight Hymenocallis species treated here were classified by H. P. Traub (1962) in the Caroliniana Alliance. Species in this group primarily have 1–3 ovules per locule and deciduous, sessile, liguliform or oblanceolate leaves. They are distributed in northern Florida and throughout wetland areas of the southeastern United States. Species studied to date have a base chromosome number of x = 20.

Hymenocallis rotata, H. godfreyi, H. puntagordensis, H. palmeri, and H. henryae (species 9–14) were all classified in Traub’s Henryae Alliance. They have distinctly larger ovaries than the species classified in Traub’s Caroliniana Alliance, having 4–8 ovules per locule, as well as coriaceous, suberect to erect, liguliform leaves. All species in the Henryae Alliance treated here occur in Florida. There is considerable chromosome diversity among these taxa, but the base number of many is x = 23.

Hymenocallis latifolia is the only spider-lily in the flora that is classified in Traub’s Caribaea Alliance. Species in this alliance are characterized by sessile, liguliform, evergreen leaves. Many have 2–3 ovules per locule and a base number of x = 23.

D. S. Correll and M. C. Johnston (1970) and D. S. Correll and H. B. Correll (1972) recognized three species of spider-lilies in Texas, and L. H. Shinners (1951) recognized two. We recommend a thorough investigation of Hymenocallis in Texas and adjacent states to achieve a clearer understanding of the southwestern spider-lily species.

Like many other amaryllids, Hymenocallis species contain various alkaloids. It is not recommended that plant parts be eaten or even touched by allergic individuals (J. A. Bauml 1979).

The precise localities of the bulb collections of Hymenocallis collected by Mary G. Henry from which Traub described numerous new species of Hymenocallis were determined from the field diaries of Mary G. Henry, courtesy of Josephine de N. Henry, President Emerita of the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research. This treatment would not have been possible without this critical information.


Flory, W. S. 1976. Distribution, chromosome numbers and types of various species and taxa of Hymenocallis. Nucleus (Calcutta) 19: 204–227. Flory, W. S. 1978. Known distributions of Hymenocallis Salisbury in North and Middle America and the West Indies. Pl. Life 34: 47–59. Morton, C. V. 1935. A check list of the bulbous Amaryllidaceae native to the United States. Year Book Amer. Amaryllis Soc. 2: 80–83. Sealy, J. R. 1954. Review of the genus Hymenocallis. Kew Bull. 1954: 201–240. Shinners, L. H. 1951. The north Texas species of Hymenocallis (Amaryllidaceae). Field & Lab. 19: 102–104. Traub, H. P. 1962. Key to the subgenera, alliances and species of Hymenocallis. Pl. Life 18: 55–72.

1 Leaves evergreen; perianth tube (6–)7.5–20 cm; s Florida and West Indies.   (2)
+ Leaves deciduous; perianth tube rarely exceeding 13 cm; se United States including n Florida.   (3)
2 (1) Leaves 5–10 dm × 4–9 cm, blade broadly liguliform; margins between free portions of filaments wavy, prominent projections absent; ovary ovoid, 0.9–1.6 cm × 5–10 mm.   15 Hymenocallis latifolia
+ Leaves 3.5–7.5 dm × 1.5–3 cm, blade narrowly liguliform; margins between free portions of filaments with 1 or 2 prominent lacerations; ovary pyriform, 1.5–2.4 cm × ca. 10 mm.   12 Hymenocallis puntagordensis
3 (1) Ovules 4–8 per locule; ovary 1.4–3 cm × 6–15 mm.   (4)
+ Ovules 1–3(–4) per locule; ovary 0.7–1.5 cm × 5–10 mm.   (8)
4 (3) Corona 6 cm or wider.   9 Hymenocallis rotata
+ Corona rarely wider than 6 cm.   (5)
5 (4) Tepals yellow-green to pale green.   (6)
+ Tepals white.   (7)
6 (5) Flowers 1 per inflorescence; tepals ascending, equal to or shorter than perianth tube.   13 Hymenocallis palmeri
+ Flowers 2 (rarely 3) per inflorescence; tepals long-spreading, nearly always longer than perianth tube.   14 Hymenocallis henryae
7 (5) Longest leaf not exceeding 4 dm at anthesis; free filaments to 3 cm; anthers 1.2–1.5 cm.   11 Hymenocallis godfreyi
+ Longest leaf exceeding 4 dm at anthesis; free filaments to 4 cm; anthers 1.5–2 cm.   10 Hymenocallis tridentata
8 (3) Staminal cup 4.5 cm or longer; habitat rocky river shoals in Piedmont.   2 Hymenocallis coronaria
+ Staminal cup 4.5 cm or shorter; habitat wetland areas or mesic upland woods.   (9)
9 (8) Leaf blades oblanceolate, distinctly wider beyond middle before tapering.   (10)
+ Leaf blades liguliform to narrowly lanceolate or narrowly oblanceolate.   (11)
10 (9) Leaves noncoriaceous, glaucous; scape bracts 4–7 cm, apex long-acuminate; bulbs nonrhizomatous.   1 Hymenocallis occidentalis
+ Leaves coriaceous, not glaucous; scape bracts 3–4(–6) cm, apex acute but not long-acuminate; bulbs rhizomatous.   4 Hymenocallis choctawensis
11 (9) Flowers (3–)5–12; leaf blade occasionally narrowly lanceolate.   3 Hymenocallis liriosme
+ Flowers 1–3, rarely more; leaf blade typically liguliform, occasionally narrowly oblanceolate.   (12)
12 (11) Staminal cup rotate at full anthesis; leaves chiefly arching low, often appearing prostrate; leaf blade occasionally narrowly oblanceolate.   7 Hymenocallis duvalensis
+ Staminal cup funnelform at full anthesis, gradually spreading in time; leaves suberect to erect; leaf blade typically liguliform.   (13)
13 (12) Tepals 5–7 cm; leaves 1.5–4 dm; bogs and stream banks, outer Coastal Plain, Carolinas.   6 Hymenocallis pygmaea
+ Tepals (6–)7–11.5 cm; leaves (2.4–)2.8–6.8 dm; bogs, stream banks, alluvial margins, coastal Carolinas, Florida.   (14)
14 (13) Scape bracts narrowly lanceolate, 2.5–5 cm × 7–12 mm; chiefly bogs and stream banks, outer Coastal Plain, Carolinas to ne Florida.   5 Hymenocallis crassifolia
+ Scape bracts lanceolate, 3–4.5 cm × 10–15 mm; alluvial margins, lower Ochlockonee River system, Florida panhandle.   8 Hymenocallis franklinensis

  • List of lower taxa


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