Zephyranthes citrina

A nod of appreciation to Qamar, aka S.Q. Mehdi@Flickr of Lahore, Pakistan for contributing today’s photographs (original image 1 | original image 2 | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Group Pool). Thank you!

Despite these photographs of flowers in Pakistan, citron rain-lily or citron zephyrlily is native to the Americas — somewhere. The USDA’s Germplasm Resources Information Network says it all: “native range obscure“. As mentioned in the Flora of North America, it first arrived in the hands of European plant taxonomists via a secondhand collection believed to be from Guyana (in northeast South America), but there is significant uncertainty about whether it is indeed native to Guyana. Since it is capable of rapidly reproducing from a single plant (more on this later) and it is tolerant of seaside conditions, this species establishes quickly when introduced into new tropical / subtropical areas due to human transport. Hence, it is found in coastal areas of southeastern USA, Central America, South America, Hawaii, tropical Africa, the Malay Peninsula and southeast Asia.

Leaving aside the question of where this species is native to (possibly the Yucatan Peninsula?), a botanical tidbit of special note about Zephyranthes citrina is its tendency to use asexual reproduction: the species is apomictic. This means it can, and often does, produce seeds without fertilization. The offspring are then genetically identical to the parent plant. Despite giving up the evolutionary advantages of sexual reproduction when this mode of gene transfer is used, many benefits are realized. For example, when an individual plant is well-suited to a particular environment, it can rapidly produce many similar individuals that presumably will also prosper — on its own. As it applies to Zephyranthes citrina, this means that the transport of a single seed or plant to a new area suitable for growth can result in the rapid establishment of new colonies of the species. For the story of another successful apomictic species, research Taraxacum officinale. I should note: most, if not all, apomictic species are facultatively apomictic, meaning they also use sexual reproduction on occasion.

Another species of Zephyranthes was previously featured on BPotD: Zephyranthes fosteri.

Beginning Monday, I’ll be doing a series on narrow-range endemic plants of the Pacific Northwest of North America.

Zephyranthes citrina
Zephyranthes citrina

20 responses to “Zephyranthes citrina”

  1. Ian

    I would throw back into this post one possible good exception to this rule re: apomictic species also being facultative and using sexual reproduction on occasion. This exception is the mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana L. There is no proof of the existence of viable pollen, no documented proof of males existing anywhere in the world and all trees seem to be…female. Based on the genetic work by Ramage, Sando, Peace, Carroll and Drew (Euphytica 136: 1-10. 2004) the majority of trees globally have very similar genotypes but there is considerable variation in about 30% of the accessions they tested. It is possible that the genetic material of the mangosteen has been so jumbled in its creation by auto- and alloploidy that meiosis is no longer possible. But that is my theory! And under that scenario, it would be apomixis or no mangosteen.

  2. George Vaughan

    I love the pics of course and the write ups enlighten me quite a bit, but let me say this, that the comment by Ian is extremely difficult to follow even using my websters to learn new word definitions. But thanks anyway for trying to explain it for us non-botanists.

  3. Mtn Laurel

    What a pretty lily! For me I guess it’s a reminder that not all invasives are unaesthetic & can be botanically interesting on their own (said after several weeks of epic struggle against Himalayan blackberry & bindweed).

  4. Ian

    My bad. And never my intent. But cheer up, my last genetics class was in the 70’s.
    A potential route for plants to speciate or create new species involves changes in the chromosome count from the “normal” diploid (2 sets of chromosomes) state. Autopolyploidy would be the doubling, trebling etc., of its own diploid genome. Many species are the result of this process and are sexually isolated from crossing back with their diploid originators because of chromosome count differences. But another avenue is where the genetic material of another closely related species becomes commingled and the two species now combine to produce a third species with a higher chromosome count than the two original ones. I am oversimplifying this but, in the case of the mangosteen, it appears to be a combination of both the doubling (or more) of its own genes and the introduction of possibly four other species to produce a final product with too many or too few genes to line up properly during sexual reproduction. So if it weren’t for the ability to reproduce apomictically, it might have been a genetic cul de sac and disappeared long ago. Again, much of this is based on my interpretation of the science out there and I have been out of school for decades.

  5. elizabeth a airhart

    i apprecite the misunderstanding i have with
    nature over my perennial border,i think its a flower garden;she thinks it is a medow lacking
    grass and tries to correct the error
    on this sunday morn the above pictures are just
    the tonic for ones eyes i love me yellow lilies
    can you not see the little folk danceing with joy

  6. Kathleen Garness

    Ian, I don’t at all mind the detailed botanical information. I’m not a scientist, just an ordinary orchid lover. One of the blessings of scientific nomenclature is that it is exquisitely precise – we can go from ‘pretty yellow flower’ to ‘Zephyranthes citrina’ in just a few steps by learning to use field guides (first), botanical (scientific) keys (which help sort out one yellow flower from another in the same habitat, one Zephyranthes from another, etc) and to appreciate the dedicated efforts of those who have taken the trouble to search out these rare species and teach us about them. : )

  7. Beverley

    Zephyranthes citrina – Z10 – RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths.
    Zephyranthes citrina – Z10-11 – A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk.
    Zephyranthes ze-fi-ranth-eez. From Gk. zephyros[the west wind] and anthos[a flower]. citrina ki-tree-na. Lemon-yellow. Dictionary of Plant Names, Coombes.

  8. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Beautiful! Nothing like a field of wild flowers to make one feel happy and grateful.
    A very interesting flower. Thanks to Daniel and Ian for the botanical details.
    I love the derivation: lemon-yellow west-wind flower (or something like that).

  9. chico

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….I love this site! Especially love that the comments go from extremely “scientific” and informative to downright emotional. Flowers are amazing. Isn’t it wonderful that they bring back pleasant memories for so many of us?

  10. chico

    One more thought…..I really appreciate that these photos remind us that places like Pakistan have beautiful flowers too…..so often we associate certain places with only negative ideas….we can thank the media for that.

  11. Bill Smith

    What an amazing photo. When in bloom, and viewed from a short distance, does it appear to as a continuous yellow carpet the way camas appears in it’s own colour?
    Surfed the purple mangosteen a little. As detailed genetic work continues to cheaper and faster it will be interesting to see the results. Will hypothesis arise as to the origin of what seem to be individual strains.
    Big words? Learning is one of the reasons I read this thing.
    As always
    Bill Smith

  12. susan

    Special thanks to elizabeth a. for her whimsical ,yet poignant descrition of the garden ,,,love it !!!!

  13. susan

    Special thanks to elizabeth a. for her whimsical yet poignant garden prose !

  14. Wendy

    Chico. When my children were little I once entertained them with stories out of an Indian cookbook (Madhur Jaffrey). None of them will ever forget her description of a moonlight picnic in Kashmir- by the sea (!)- watching the breeze rippling waves of mauve crocuses…

  15. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Hmmmm…. I think I have that cookbook (I have ONE of MJ’s, anyhow). I’ll have to see if I can find that story!

  16. Cambree

    Oh, that is beautiful!
    And they remind me of crocus.

  17. CherriesWalks

    so it is a bulb?

  18. jan phillips

    Has anyone seen it established in temperate climates anywhere? I’d love to have this in my garden.

  19. chico

    Wendy – thank you for sharing your memories. The book sounds wonderful! If this site does nothing but broaden our horizons, we are all better for it. Thanks for enlightening my days.

  20. Carolina

    this is such an interesting entry. I like this plant, but hadn’t seen it yellow. And then all the info about its reproduction, amazing!

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