The Amaryllis Family: Amaryllidaceae

Hymenocallis woelfleana (T.M. Howard)


Plant Life, Vol 34, page 66-67, (1978)

Published by the International Bulb Society

Species a speciebus allis in Consanguinitati Mexicanae ovario pedicellato et polline flavo distinguenda.

State of Sinaloa, Mexico, e. Santa Lucia, 6-28-64. TRA 1178 (type). Bulb: globose, blackish-brown coats, when cut in half, the inner central tunics are white, while the larger outer tunics are colored orange beneath the bulb coats. Leaves: petiolate to subpetiolate, 3-6 in number, bright green, thin, keeled, with prominent ribs (2) near margins; oblanceolate to elliptic, acute, 5 to 10 cm wide, 30 to 40 cm long. Scape: 33 to 58 cm tall, compressed, 6 mm or more wide at base, glaucescent lt. green. Umbel 3-10 fld. Spathe-valves: lanceolate, white 4 cm long, 4 to 5 mm wide, becoming vestiges shortly after the Scape emerges between the leaf blades and leaving the buds nakedly exposed well before flowering. Flowers: white, fragrant, tepaltube straight in bud stage, but may be straight or curved on flowering, greenish in lower half, white in upper half, 6 to 7 mm long, Tepalsegs 5 to 6.5 cm long, 6 to 7 mm wide, spreading and recurving slightly in outer 1/3rd. Staminal cup: funnel form, crinkled texture, with margins erect or rotate and spreading in some, from short tubulose base, 11/2 to 2 cm long and 21/, cm wide. Filaments: 2 cm long, white in lower half, greenish in upper half; Anthers: 7 mm long, versatile, pollen yellow to orange-yellow. Ovary: on 4 mm long pedicles; 2 ovules per cell; Seeds: dark green, 1.6 cm long and 1.2 cm broad, with brain-Iike convolutions, rough, tortoise-shell form.

Notes: H. woelfleana is endemic to the western slopes of the Sierra Madre mountain range in the eastern part of the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, in part shade, at intermediate altitude, in a western sun ex- posure in Oak and other hardwoods, growing in rich soil with much humus on slopes under trees and along rivulets that intermittantly carry water after each shower during the rainy season. When the rains end in early fall, this area is dry until the summer rains begin again. H. woelfleana is a deciduous species with a short growing season and is most closely related to H. cordifolia from the state of Guerrero, and likely grows under similar conditions. Both H. woelfleana and H. cordifolia have been assigned to the Speciosa alliance because of their petiolate foliage and pedicled ovaries. To this we might add their yellow pollens. Pollens of the Mexicana alliance are orange-yellow or orange. Both H. woelfleana and H. cordifolia have the deciduous habits of the mainstream Mexicana alliance and thus lie midway in many respects between the Speciosa and Mexicana alliances, but leaning toward the former.

The foliage of H. woelfleana would easily separate it from the unique foliage of H. cordata, and geographically they are widely sepa- rated. H. woelfleana can be easily distinguished from other members of the Mexicana alliance by not only its yellow pollen, but by the pres- ence of a pedicle below the ovary. The Mexicana group have orange pollen and are sessile. The seeds of H. woelfleana are very dark green, shaped like a tortoise, and convoluted in a brain-like fashion, quite different from the Mexicana group. The bulb is unique too. Beneath those blackish-brown outer coats is an orange and white bulb. The central half is the usual white, but the outer half is orange. At first I thought this might be a cultural illness, but I have repeatedly cut into bulbs during many collections, and I find this to be the norm. Unlike most other species, H. woelfleana has not shown itself to ever produce offsets, either in the wild or in cultivation. It can only be propagated by seeds. Bulbs cut up for propagation only die. Since first discovering it in 1964, I have since observed its habitat progressively decimated by agriculture and livestock. It is now an endangered species and likely may become extinct in a matter of a few more years.

I am pleased to name this new species in honor of the late Len Woelfle, former Chairman of the Pancratiodeae committee of the APLS, and Hymenocallis breeder. Mr. Woelfle did much to encourage interest of Hymenocallis in this country, at a time when they were being largely ignored. He introduced many new Hymenocallis hybrids, some of which are now widely cultivated by those few enthusiasts who love them, such as ' Pax', 'Helios ', 'Icon', 'Buckeye', 'Dancing Doll', 'Ballerina', and 'Jack Frost'.

Thad M. Howard, "New Hymenocallis Species from Mexico," PLANT LIFE, vol. 34, pp. 60-68 (1978). Also described in this paper are Hymenocallis guerreroensis, H. durangoensis, and H. nayaritiana.

Other Sources of Information

Links to Information on the Web

Return to Bulbs Home Page Return to List of Genera

For information about this account, contact:

James E. Shields,

Last revised: 5 July 2006

& Copyright 2006 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.