Common Agapanthus, Blue Lily Agapanthus praecox
Order: Asparagales. Family: Amaryllidaceae
© Michele Nel
Citrus Swallowtail feeding on Agapanthus
Agapanthus is a rhizomatous perennial herb with a large basal tuft of dark green shiny leaves. The leaves are linear, strap-like and somewhat arching, 20-80 cm long by 2-6 cm wide. The blue to purple or white flowers are clustered in a large globular flower head, 10-15 cm across, which is held high above the leaves on a stout shiny stalk to 1 m high. The individual flowers have 6 petals, 4-6 mm long and 6 stamens. The fruit is a greenish capsule. Old plants have a thick branched underground stem.
Agapanthus praecox is a variable species with open-faced flowers. It is divided into three subspecies.A. o. praecox
This subspecies occurs in Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It usually grows to between 0.8 and 1 metre tall and has 10-11 leathery leaves. The blue flowers, appear from December to February. These have perianth segments which are greater than 50 mm in length.A. o. orientalis
This subspecies occurs in Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal. Although it is about the same height as subsp. praecox, it has up to 20 poisonous, strap-like leaves per plant which are arching and are not leathery. These range in length from 20 to 70 cm long and 3 to 5 cm wide. Flower colour ranges from blue to white. Shiny black seeds are produced in three-sided capsules. These have perianth segments which are less than 50 mm in length.A. o. minimus
Occurring in the southeastern Western Cape and Eastern Cape, this subspecies is the smallest, ranging in height from 300 to 600 mm. It has a longer flowering season, from November to March. Flower colour includes white and various shades of blue.Distribution
South African endemic (Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape).