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Bulbs of the World

The Amaryllis Family: Clivia

Clivia miniata, Belgian strainClivia is one of the more primitive genera of the Amaryllidaceae. These have neither bulbs nor rhizomes, but possess an abundance of thick rope-like roots. They are evergreen, and have predominantly orange, red or salmon colored flowers. Clivia are native to southern Africa.

There are six species of Clivia known at the present time:

Clivia miniata
In nature, C. miniata is native to KwaZulu-Natal Province and the southeastern Transvaal in South Africa, and to Swaziland.
Unlike all the other species, this one has erect or suberect bell-like or funnel shaped flowers
The most well-known species is Clivia miniata. The image shows a Belgian hybrid strain of C. miniata.
Clivia miniata citrina differs from typical miniata only in having the flowers and the berries yellow instead of orange or red
Clivia caulescens
Clivia caulescens Clivia caulescens is one of the five other species of clivia having pendant, tubular flowers. The flower head is smaller than in C. miniata. It is native to the eastern Transvaal in South Africa, and to Swaziland.
The flowers are characterized by having the stamens shorter than the the tips of the petals and sepals, so within the tubular flower.
Blooms in late spring.
Older plants have long stalks that eventually lean over and run on the surface of the substrate.
Clivia gardenii
This is one of the five species of clivia having pendant, tubular flowers. The flowers are characterized by having the stamens and the stigma projecting out well beyond the tips of the petals and sepals.
The leaves have long, tapering points. The plant reaches no more than about 1 meter (39 inches) in height.
Found in KZN and the Eastern Cape Provinces.
Similar to caulescens in many ways.
Blooms in autumn rather than in spring.
Clivia nobilis
Found in the Eastern Cape Province in coastal areas.
Leaves have blunt or dimpled tip ("retuse"), rough edges, and sometimes a white midrib line; tend to be rigid and erect.
Flowers in spring.
Clivia mirabilis
Newly discovered and named species from Namaqualand in the Northern Cape winter rainfall area. The leaves are rigid and erect. The flowers are tubular and pendant, similar to caulescens, gardenii, and nobilis. This species of Clivia is quite distinct from the others: it grows on the walls of a canyon in the desert, with virtually no shade; it grows in an area that gets extrememly hot and dry in summer, but where winter nights often have frosts; its seeds mature much more quickly than those of the other species. Genetically, it is similar to nobilis; but nobilis is probably more closely related to the other three species (gardenii, miniata, and caulescens) than nobilis is to mirabilis.
See: "Clivia mirabilis (Amaryllidaceae: Haemantheae) a new species from Northern Cape, South Africa" by J.P. Rourke, in Bothalia (2002), vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 1-7.
Clivia robusta Swamp Clivia
Recently determined to be a distinct species on the basis of chromosomes and DNA, this was long known and confused with C. gardenii. The flowers are similar to those of gardenii, but this species grows in streams and wet areas.
Native to the Transkei region, being found from Port St. Johns, Eastern Cape Province, in the south to the Mzimkulu River, KwaZulu-Natal, in the north.
C. robusta leaves have ends that are blunter and more rounded, but still have a point at the tip, while the leaves of gardenii have acutely pointed tips.
Blooms in autumn rather than in spring
Previously known as "Robust gardenii," "Swamp Clivia," and "Swamp Forest Clivia." A preliminary name, "Clivia paludosa," became a nomen nudum due to improper publication.
See: "A NEW SPECIES OF CLIVIA. A new species of Clivia (Amaryllidaceae) endemic to the Pondoland Centre of Endemism, South Africa" by B. G. Murray, Y. Ran, P. J. De Lange, K. R. W. Hammett, J. T. Truter and Z. H. Swanevelder, in Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society (2004), vol 146, pp 369-374.
Clivia sp. "Maxima"
Fred van Niekerk has found several colonies of plants that he thinks are a separate species. His garden name for this group is "Maxima".
The leaves have rough, sharply toothed edges.
The leaves tend to be erect, but with pointed tips.
Blooms in autumn like gardenii and robusta, rather than in spring like nobilis
To me, they look like perhaps a natural hybrid between C. nobilis and C. robusta.
Clivia sp. "miniata" from Kenya
There are reports of a form of C. miniata from Kenya that is apparently rather distinct from typical wild miniata. While many think this plant was carried by European settlers from South Africa or perhaps even from Europe to Kenya, others are convinced it is native to that tropical East African country. If this were true, it would be the only species of the genus Clivia that occurs natrually outside the Republic of South Africa.

Clivias are fairly easy to grow, but bringing them to flower is a bit tougher. In its own way, Clivia culture is somewhat demanding. Starting Clivia from seed is generally quite easy. We have prepared a brief discussion of this for you.

For more advice on growing your clivias, see on the web at CliviaNet Culture.

For information about pollination of clivia in the wild, see on the web at CliviaNet Pollination.

Sir Peter Smithers has provided us with his own narrative on the origins of his famous cultivar, Clivia 'Vico Yellow'. See more information on this topic

Other Sources of Information

Bulbous Plants of Southern Africa, by Neil du Plessis and Graham Duncan, Tafelberg Pub. Ltd., Cape Town (1989).
Bulbs for Warm Climates, by Thad M. Howard, University of Texas Press, Austin (2001).
Bulbs, Revised Edition, by John E. Bryan, Timber Press, Portland (2002).
Cape Bulbs, by Richard L. Doutt, Timber Press (1994).
Clivias, by Harold Koopowitz, Timber Press, Portland (2002).
RHS Manual of Bulbs, John Bryan and Mark Griffiths, Eds., Timber Press (1995).

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For information about this account, contact:
James E. Shields,
Last revised: 16 November 2011
© Copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.