Scarlet river lily and crimson flag lily are two of the many common names used for Hesperantha coccinea. This species was previously featured on Botany Photo of the Day in 2006: Hesperantha coccinea.
Hesperantha coccinea is native to South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho, where it grows in regions with plentiful summer rainfall. This water-loving perennial is found in damp meadows, stream banks, and the edges of marshes. Crimson flag lilies can bloom from summer to late autumn; among the butterfly species which pollinate this flower is Aeropetes tulbaghia, the Table Mountain beauty. Although semi-evergreen, they typically lie dormant during winter months.
Until 1996, the name Schizostylis coccinea was used, but the species is now recognized to fall within Hesperantha (along with 65 or so other species). Other species of Hesperantha have generally white, yellow, or pink flowers. Although white-flowered and pink-flowered variations of Hesperantha coccinea can occasionally occur, the specific epithet for this species is particularly apt, as coccinea means “bright red”.
Instead of growing corms like many members of the iris family, scarlet river lily produces rhizomes (although there are also aboveground propagules produced by the stems). These clump-forming plants usually reach about 60cm (24 in.) in height.