Eucrosia mirabilis

Thank you to Lorax for posting this treat of an image in our Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum, and for including a brief write-up as well. With the help offered by Lorax’s post, Steve Coughlin wrote this entry.

Amaryllidaceae is a family of over 800 herbaceous, perennial, and bulbous species that are distributed broadly throughout the world. Eucrosia is a genus of 8 species endemic to the dry, rocky, western Andean slopes of Ecuador and Peru. Though the type specimen of E. mirabilis was collected in Peru, it has never been recollected there, and recent research conducted by Brian Mathew and Gwilym Lewis reports the plant to be native to southern Ecuador, where Lorax took today’s photo.

According to Lorax, E. mirabilis—which means 'wonderful' Eucrosia—is "often referred to as a "lost" species - botanical descriptions exist as far back as 1817, but the type specimen doesn’t describe the flower well". She proceeds to write that upon her encountering mirabilis, the plant’s "spectacular flowering spike was about 50 cm tall, with white stamens projecting a good 10-15 cm. further than the green umbels. Flowers appeared before leaves after the dry season. It’s an Ecuadoran native, thriving in biomes that get a distinct dry season (which is what stimulates blooming)".

The plant, which here hovers as elegantly as the upper part of a cat’s eye, has large, fleshy bulbs that are able to survive longs periods of environmental hostility, though often without visible growth. It excels in warm temperatures and well-drained soil, and flowers in late spring and early summer, subsequently growing petiolate leaves that reach up to 30 cm. in width.


Mathew, Brian and Gwilym Lewis. “Eucrosia mirabilis.” Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 2.23 (2006): 157-162.

Eucrosia mirabilis

11 responses to “Eucrosia mirabilis”

  1. Janet A.

    What an amazing-looking plant! Is the stem really as black as it looks? Thanks for sharing the photo, Lorax.

  2. Kathleen Garness

    What I find interesting is that amaryllids are found both in South America and Africa. Has anyone traced the dispersion of this family across the world?

  3. C.Wick

    Beautiful, Lorax! What kind of smell do these radiate?

  4. Michael Williamson

    What hair salon does this plant go to?

  5. Carolina

    ¡Qué buena foto!
    What a good photo! (had to say that in Spanish first…)

  6. Connie

    Hey Steve-
    The upper part of my cat’s eyes don’t hover at all- elegantly or otherwise. I love your writing, but you’re gonna have to ‘splain this one!

  7. elizabeth a airhart

    i would like the name of the salon
    that curled the eye lashes -very flirty
    google books have a few books 1855
    but nothing they would allow me to read
    uni of mich and cal-thank you

  8. Marilyn Brown

    Oh, how pretty !

  9. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Somehow those preceding images — hovering cat’s eyes (!), and then curly, flirty eyelashes — set my thoughts to drift toward the eyelashes of Miss Piggy!
    Looking back at the photo, it fits, dontcha think? :o)
    Silliness aside… a lovely and unusual flower, and a treat to look at.

  10. Lorax

    Janet: The stem’s actually an insane, nearly impossibly dark green.
    C. Wick: They don’t have any smell that I can detect, but the hummingbirds seem to absolutely love them.
    This plant was actually in my garden, and I had no idea it even existed until, right in the middle of the dry season when all of my other plants were begging for mercy, up popped the flower spike! The kind folks here at UBC pointed me in the right direction to ID it. The foliage is pretty unremarkable – just green Hippeastrum-type stuff, which, since the lawn of that garden was peppered with red and striped Hipps, I had assumed to be the same. It was a neat surprise, to be sure!
    I actually assume that this is a volunteer, since nobody can recall having planted it.

  11. AJ

    Kathleen: Yes. I think the most current hypothesis is that Amaryllidaceae originated in Africa when Africa, Australia, and South America were adjoined in a single southern super continent called Gondwana. Australian and African lineages were separated when Australia broke away from Gondwana. How Amaryllidaceae came to the New World is less clear. Some possibilities are: 1) Lineages in South America became separated from Africa. Amaryllidaceae then migrated north into North America and then into Europe, 2) Dispersal by sea into North America from Africa/Australia, early (~55 million years ago) dispersal into Europe, and late (~3-5 million years ago dispersal into South America. 2) Dispersal into Europe from Africa/Australia, early (~55 million years ago) dispersal into North America, and late (~3-5 million years ago dispersal into South America. In the case of options 2 or 3, we might hypothesize that there have been some mass extinctions in this plant family in North America, explaining low diversity despite fairly ancient arrival in North America. Hope this helps.

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