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The Amaryllis Family: genus Sprekelia

The genus Sprekelia in the Amaryllis Family (Amaryllidaceae) is endemic to Mexico. It belongs to the tribe Hippeastreae, and Sprekelia are related to Zephyranthes and less closely to Habranthus and Rhodophiala, all in the same tribe. They are herbaceous perennial bulbs. The flowers are borne singly at the top of the peduncle or stalk.

The most well-known plant in the genus is undoubtedly the commerical clone of Sprekelia formosissima, 'Superba'. There are at least two other species in this genus, S. glauca and S. howardii.

There are other forms of S. formosissima, the best of which is probably S. 'Orient Red' also known as 'Harrison's Orientred'.

Sprekelia Orient Red (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Sprekelia formosissima 'Orient Red'

There was a variety known as S. formosissima forma williamsii in cultivation at one time. The tepals were somewhat narrower than in the commercial formosissima but the segments were markedly longer.

Sprekelia howardii (Lehmiller) Sprekelia howardii (c) copyright by Douglas Westfall.  All rights reserved.  Reproduced by permission. This species was first collected by Thad Howard in Mexico in 1962 and 1963. It is in all aspects smaller than S. formosissima, a dwarf. The outer tepal segments are 95 mm long by 11 mm wide, and the inner segments are 105 mm long and 6 mm wide. The foliage is very similar to that of some Zephyranthes. When not in flower, the plant resembles a rain lily. The leaves are bluish green, 17 to 26 cm long by 4 to 9 mm wide. It is native to the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Colima, and Puebla in southern Mexico. The plant is very exacting in its requirements in cultivation: It must be absolutely dry during its dormant period, and the bulb should only be repotted when absolutely necessary, as repotting causes it to fail to bloom the following season (Howard, quoted in Lemiller, 1999.)
© Copyright by Douglas Westfall. All rights
reserved. Reproduced by permission.

Sprekelia glauca is perhaps the same as S. clintae. It has markedly glaucous foliage. It may not be in cultivation.

There are probably other as-yet un-named species in Sprekelia too. The clone 'Peru' brought back from Peru in South America by Marcia Wilson possibly represents a distinct species. The flower color was a rich plum red and the tepal segments were markedly wider than on any other Sprekelia I have ever seen. 'Peru' may no longer be in cultivation, at least in North America. It would not set seeds with other Sprekelia formosissima, nor with its own pollen.

Sprekelia Banos (c) copyright James E.Shields.  All rights reserved. Sprekelia 'Baños' This plant is was very similar to 'Peru' but it came from a market in Baños, Ecuador. The flowers were characterized by the widely flared or spatulate tepals, the pseudo-column formed by the basal partions of the lower three tepals, and the burgundy-red color.

Sprekelia High Priest (c) copyright by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved. Sprekelia 'High Priest' (Shields) was registered and introduced in about 1982. It was from the cross ['Orient Red' X formosissima f. williamsii].

Sprekelia formosissima f. williamsii copyright (c) by James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Sprekelia f. williamsii

The image here, purportedly Sprekelia formosissima, might also be a distinct species.

Sprekelia (c) copyright by Kevin Preuss.  All rights reserved.  Reproduced by permission.
© Copyright by Kevin Preuss. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.

Interesting Links

Sprekelia ringens print
Sprekelia formosissima prints
International Bulb Society Gallery of Bulbs
Illustrated Encyclopedia of House Plants
Pacific Bulb Society "Wiki" page for Sprekelia

Other Sources of Information

"A New Species of Sprekelia (Amaryllidaceae)" by David J. Lehmiller, HERBERTIA, vol. 54, pp. 228-231 (1999).
Bulbs for Warm Climates, by Thad M. Howard, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX (2001).
Bulbs, Revised Edition, by John E. Bryan, Timber Press, Portland, OR (2002).
RHS Manual of Bulbs, John Bryan and Mark Griffiths, Eds., Timber Press (1995).
Garden Bulbs for the South, Scott Ogden, Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, TX (1994).
Bulbs for Summer Bloom, John Philip Baumgardt, Hawthorn Books Inc., New York (1970).

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For information about this account, contact:
James E. Shields,
Last revised: 14 February 2013
© Copyright 2013 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.