A brief history

Clivias belong to the family Amaryllidaceae (bulbous plants bearing lilly-type flowers). It is hypothesised that the Amaryllidaceae originated in western Africa.

Increasing drought forced members of this family to diversify and adapt and also migrate along with the Afromontane forests.

Six species of Clivia have been identified to date (C. caulescens, C. gardenii, C. miniata, C. mirabilis, C. nobilis and C. robusta).

Clivia mirabilis eventually found refuge in the Oorlogskloof canyon and the other five species landed up along the east coast (the Eastern Cape, Pondoland, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Swaziland).

It is worth noting that Clivias are endemic to southern Africa and, although now propagated all over the world, are found nowhere else in the wild.

The six species (and more):

Clivia nobilis

JC nobilis - John Craige XX 8
Clivia nobilis

William Burchell, an English naturalist, made the first scientific collection of Clivia species (C. nobilis) in 1813. It was only named after Lady Charlotte Florentine Percy (née Clive), Duchess of Northumberland, in 1828.

C. nobilis grows mainly in the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape, from the Zuurberg Mountains to just north of the Kei River.

It flowers mainly from early July to early December, but also sporadically at any other time of year.


Clivia miniata

Clivia miniata

The most popular of all Clivia species, C. miniata, was discovered in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1850s.

Habitat ranges from south-west of the Kei River to the southern, central, eastern and north western parts of KwaZulu-Natal, to eastern Mpumalanga and western and northern Swaziland.

C. miniata flowers from early August to mid November, but also sporadically at any other time of year.

“Miniata” means “coloured with red lead or cinnabar”. The first yellow form of C. miniata was discovered in KwaZulu-Natal in the late 1880s.


Clivia gardenii

KZNNdwedwe Gardenii closeup
Clivia gardenii

Major Robert Jones Garden discovered this species in the mid 1850s.

Also known as the Natal drooping clivia, C. gardenii is confined to the central, eastern and northern parts of this KwaZulu-Natal.

Flowering time: Early April to mid-July.


Clivia caulescens

Clivia caulescens
Clivia caulescens

Although E.E. Galpin probably collected the first specimen in 1890, it was only first described by Dr. R. A. Dyer in 1943.

Isolated populations of C. caulescens are found in northern Swaziland, eastern and northern Mpumalanga, and central and northern Limpopo.

C. caulescens flower mainly from Early September to early November, or sporadically during the year.

“Caulescens” refers to the distinct aerial stems (sometimes up to 3 m in length) displayed by mature plants.


Clivia mirabilis

Clivia mirabilis
Clivia mirabilis

Discovered in 2001 in the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve near Niewoudtville by Johannes Africa and the late Wessel Pretorius, this is indeed the “miraculous” member of the Clivia species. Not only is it morphologically distinct but also, unlike the other five species, grows in a semi-arid region.

Distribution: Near Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape and in the Western Cape near Vanrhynsdorp.

C. mirabilis flowers from late October to late November.

Clivia robusta

Robusta Fred van Niekerk_
Clivia robusta

Although first collected by W. L. Chiazzari in 1960, C. robusta was only formally described in 2004, having previously been identified as a robust form of C. gardenii, hence the epithet “robusta”.

Distribution: The Pondoland centre of endemism.

Flowering period: Late March to mid July.




Crossing different species of Clivia has led to the creation of wide range of new flower shapes and colours.