Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Carolina Spider-lily - Hymenocallis crassifolia   Herbert
Members of Amaryllidaceae:
Members of Hymenocallis with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Amaryllidaceae
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DistributionLimited to the southern Coastal Plain, where collections north to Pender, Sampson, and Robeson counties; with a photo range extension northeast to Craven County in 2022 by Katherine Rylien.

This species has a small but tight range, being limited to the Coastal Plain from southern NC to northern FL. SC and then NC have by far the most county occurrences.
AbundanceInfrequent to at least locally fairly common, within its rather limited (linear) habitats.
HabitatThis is a species that grows in wet, typically acidic soil along the margins of blackwater rivers and large creeks. It can also be found in tidal freshwater marshes.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits in June and July.
IdentificationThe spider-lilies (Hymenocallis spp.) as a group contain among the largest flowers in the state. Stands of them in bloom are an unforgettable sight. This species, by far the most numerous in NC, has linear and very narrow basal leaves that reach 1-2 feet long, averaging 1.5 feet long. The flowering stalk reaches about 1.5 feet tall, and at the top contains an umbel of just 1-3 flowers. Thankfully, each white flower is quite large, consisting of a united perianth tube (i.e., basal parts of the tepals are fused) into a cup 1-2 inches long, with each of the 6 tepals extending beyond the cup/tube as narrow straps, each another 2 inches long. Thus, the spread flower averages 5 inches across. The species can be confused with another that has recently been split from it, named as H. pygmaea. This species has a somewhat similar range in the state but is a smaller plant in most respects; the tepals (including the cup) average 2 inches or slightly longer, as opposed to 3.5-4 inches long in H. crassifolia. Also, the leaves of H. pygmaea average only 1 foot long or less, but those of H. crassifolia average 1.5 feet long. The other spider-lily in the state -- H. occidentalis -- is a Piedmont species of rapids and riffles in fast-moving rivers, but it is now of historical occurrence in NC. To see H. crassifolia, a canoe or kayak may be your best option, but stopping at bridges over some blackwater rivers or larger creeks might help you spot the species without having to get out in a boat.
Taxonomic CommentsA few references name it as Hymenocallis floridana, but this is misapplied (according to Weakley 2018).

Other Common Name(s)Coastal Spider-lily, Coastal Carolina Spider-lily (only one modifier name is needed!)
State RankS3
Global RankG4?
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Photo Gallery
Katherine RylienMill Branch, near Bridgeton, Craven County; May 2022
J. DavidsonLURI - 2009-05-22 RobesonPhoto_natural

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