Schizostylus coccinea - kaffir lily

brugpuppy(9)October 23, 2003

Hi everyone!

I have a few of these seeds, but red only. I am looking for other colours and would like to trade. I am in Canada.

If you don't have other colours and would like some of these seeds, perhaps we can trade for something else?

A picture of this lily is at



Here is a link that might be useful: Schizostylus

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cjhin(Gauteng ZA)

Hi Chris

I do not have any of these seeds but I thought I would just share this with you. The name Kaffir Lily is currently considered to be politically incorrect. In fact use that name in South Africa and you are bound to get into trouble! It is greatly insulting to black South Africans. It is know known by the common name of Scarlet River Lily. Also the generic name has been changed to Hesperantha.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2003 at 9:07AM
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Thank you for the information. I am well aware of the word since I am South African, but have never used the word for anything other than to refer to a variety of corn or melon. And now a lily. I hesitated with the post at first, but after doing some searching on the net, the name is widely used when referrring to this lily. Which looks like a wild glad. It is my understanding that the word actually means 'native' in one of the many languages, but not Xhosa where (I think) it means more or less 'infidel' and that comes from an Islam word. So I presume the lily is named 'Native', which is derived from the word 'Natal' meaning birth. Never would I use the offensive word when referring to a person!

Interesting enough about the name change, but even the label on the plant when I purchased it was 'kaffir lily' and I had to look up the latin name on the internet, and used the latin name to avoid any confusion.

While looking up the latin name, I came across this plant
which is unlike my plant in every respect, including latin name, but is also named 'kaffir lily'. This is apparently also a native South African plant. Perhaps, if anyone thinks the name is offensive, there should be a campaign to search and find every web page that has these plants, and ask them to change the name, or simply remove the common name?

I do not mean the word in any derogatory sense, but only as a name. I have received many replies to the various posts on the net, and no one found it offensive, even the S.Africans I e-mailed. I have however made some awesome trades! I still do not have anyone who can give me the different colours that really would like.

Again, I thank you for the information.


Here is a link that might be useful: Clivia miniata

    Bookmark   October 28, 2003 at 11:20AM
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modjadje(Willamette Valley Zone 8)

All the above are common names for Schizostylis coccinea and, as another South African, I want to reiterate what Chris said above ... the word kaffir (kafir) is only offensive when applied to a black South African person. It is NOT offensive when applied to plants, where its meaning has always been "native" ... It is also denoted in species names as "caffra" , for example Erythrina caffra and Erica caffra . In "South African Shrubs and Trees for the Garden", under the section "Meanings of some Species names", the meaning of "caffra" is given as "from South Africa" and that has always been my understanding of the word in the names of plants.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2003 at 7:48PM
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cjhin(Gauteng ZA)


I was not at all insinuating that the term was being used in an offensive manner. It was merely a friendly warning just to make non-South Africans aware of the fact in case they ever visited SA and asked for the plant by that name. I am sure that any black South African would find the name offensive even if applied in this context. I do apologise if I did create the impression that I was accusing you of using the term in a derogatory manner.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2003 at 4:44AM
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Hey, no problem! You are quite right to tell us about the name change, because even, like I said I hesitated to use it, but thought, well, it's only a plant. And a very beautiful one at that! It was be devastating if some innocent tourist stopped by at a nursery in SA and asked to buy one!

I was only saying that I did not persoanlly feel that there is any harm to the name especially when I believe that the plant did earn it's name honestly. This may not be true of the watermelon and the corn though, and I am told that these have also had a big name change. I find these facts interesting, as so much has changed in S.A. that I am a bit afraid of going back, even for a short visit. I would be lost in a foreign world I think.

I have already started to help change the name by informing those who wanted trades that the name posted is incorrect. I also believe that there is somewhere on this forum where there is editing available? I have yet to change my web page though.

This is a plant forum, so it is interesting to know the correct names, and the reasons for the name change, and even how the names come about.

So, I do appreciate and thank you for your help.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2003 at 11:03AM
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Several months ago on the CA forum I posted a question relative to growing "Kaffir" lilies from seed. Someone, perhaps Charles above, not only told me how to cultivate them from seed, but he also cautioned me about what the term meant in S. Africa. Being clueless, I went to Google and did a search on "Kaffir". I came across several news articles in South Africa dealing with hate crimes from people using the term inappropriately.

Since the GW is an International forum, I appreciate the insight of folks like Charles so that we can be careful not to needlessly offend. By the way, nearly all my Clivia seeds germinated!!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2003 at 10:44PM
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cjhin(Gauteng ZA)


Have a look at the link below. It deals with suggested changes to common names of SA trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: Recommended English names for trees of Southern Africa

    Bookmark   November 19, 2003 at 1:36AM
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I think I may have a pink plant. I've lost its name but it looks very similar to the picture. It came from the Mendecino Botanical garden and I remember it had coccinea as part of its name, although the nursery person laughed and said this is a pink one.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2003 at 9:31PM
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Carletta(9 TX)

I am interested in this discussion because I just got some seed labeled hesperantha so now I know a little more about it. I am interested in any South African seed. I have been growing anomatheca for several years but found that watsonia does not do well here. Perhaps I could trade some of the seeds which do well here or which I have acquired in trades and can't grow here. I have learned that limnanthes (meadow foam) and gilia do not do well here. They came up but have already bit the dust - wilted and died - I assume from too much water and the humidity.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2004 at 1:28PM
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chrisrobt(z8 MI,WA)

I have these in pink, white and red (I think I have two different pinks). I gave away alot last year. I can't guarantee colors (especially white since I have very few) as at this time of year they are just starting to come up...


    Bookmark   April 18, 2004 at 7:25PM
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sowthefrikan(z7b/NE TXexas)

So glad the name changed, it absolutely had to go.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2004 at 9:29PM
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jbf16falcon(Z6b Owasso, OK)

I was unaware of the (KL) being called- Scarlet River Lily or the name being changed to Hesperantha. Maybe there are a number of plants that were called K lily as I have a vast collection of another plant known by that same name, Clivia miniata, Clivia gardenii, Clivia nobilis, Clivia caulescens, and there is now Clivia mirabillis of which I do not have and whose distribution is at this time controlled by the South African Department of Nature Conservation. As far as the KL name I think a good reference as to that is well covered in Harold Koopowitz's new book "Clivias" on pages 29 and 30. Interesting reading if you want to know more about Clivias.

jim black

    Bookmark   June 28, 2004 at 11:58PM
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The easiest way of dealing with common names is to not use them at all. Whay can't we just call it Schizostylis? That is it's name, whay do we need 3-5 others?

Hydrangeas are called hydrangeas, Dendrobiums are called Dendrobiums, Rosa is Rose.

Seems very clear to me.

John Ingram

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 7:44PM
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Well, I guess we can't call it Schizostylis because that is not it's name. It's Hesperantha.

Common names are used when that is the name which is on the label when purchasing from suppliers. How is a person supposed to know the name of a plant if the 'experts' or 'growers' don't give them the right names????

Guess we should then called the commonly named rose a rosa?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 8:57PM
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Caroljm(z 8 OR EGON)

I love it, and had a heck of a time trying to find out what it was--I saw it blooming in Nov. in front of the city water office, but the ladies in the office didnt know and called the landscaper. He gave me the name Kaffir Lily, but my book source said it didnt grow here! I didnt know you could plant the seeds, Now I have to go scavenge the old dried up stems I just cut and try to grow some from seed--I think maybe it already did self seed as I see a couple of growths near by that look like the mother. My question is this--Both of my plants, 1 red and 1 pink, have bloomed all winter--we had a mild winter so far--is it best to cut them off at the ground? or cut off the dried yellow spikes? there seems to be new growth from the base. Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 6:56PM
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Hi Caroljm,
I see no one who "knows" has answered your question, so I'll tell you what I do. :-P
I have had mine for a couple of years now and I just cut the dried spikes back, not any of the accompanying foliage. I don't think mine are "self-seeding" so much as they are spreading through the soil, so they're easy to propagate by division. Take a BIG spoon next time you go to the water office! :-D


    Bookmark   February 13, 2005 at 9:51PM
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MarcR(z 8 OR)

Until about 2002 Schizostylus was a separate genus. It was recently combined with Hesperantha. The 1994 edition of the RHS Index of Garden Plants lists Schizostylis as a separate genus of Iridaceae (The Iris Family). It is in fact NOT a lilly Kiffar or otherwise. I agree completely with Floral Artistry about not using common names; unless you enjoy ambiguity and confusion. There are frequently more than one common name for the same plant and more than one plant for the same common name. In Plant Taxonomy there is a constant battle between the 'Lumpers' and the 'Splitters' so plant botanic names sometimes change; but there is always only one correct name for any given plant at any given time.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 7:05AM
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Whether we like to use common names or not, is not the issue. Plant growers and suppliers are labelling their plants with the common names, such as this Hesperantha. I have a label here in Canada that states 'Red Kaffir Lily' with no other name on that label. I saw a clivia with the same name. If you want to stop the suppliers from using common names, you would have to search for them on the internet and ask the web masters to remove the common name and replace it with the correct name.
How is a person supposed to know the correct name for a plant when the label on their new plant is incorrect?
People cannot be blamed for using the only name for a plant that they are aware of, and especially for those who live outside of SA.
I believe that the name is not Schizostylis but Hesperantha, so even those who 'know' can't get it right.
Personally I don't care one way or the other, as it is the plant I enjoy no matter what name others want to give it.

BTW Last year I found this plant in orange and can't wait to see it bloom this year.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 11:25AM
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MarcR(z 8 OR)

I don't patronize nurseries or seedsmen who do not use Botanic names. I think that if all serious gardeners would refuse to buy anything not properly named, most nurseries would retag their plants.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 2:42AM
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