Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Northern Spider-lily - Hymenocallis occidentalis   (LeConte) Kunth
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Amaryllidaceae
Author(LeConte) Kunth
DistributionHistorical in the state. Collected only once, in 1949, in McDowell County, in the western Piedmont.

This is a species mostly of the Gulf drainages; it ranges north to southern IN and southeastern MO and then south to the FL Panhandle and eastern TX. There are many SC county records, from the Atlantic drainage.
AbundanceHistorical, and possibly extirpated from the state. The NC NHP gives it a State Rank of SH (Historical), meaning there is some likelihood of it being re-discovered in the state. However, as it is a very striking species and could hardly be overlooked, a rank of SX is being suggested by this website. It is State listed as Special Concern - Historical.
HabitatThis is a species of wetland habitats, which can range from rocky river shoals, to wet bottomland/alluvial forests, to wet meadows. In parts of its fairly large range (for a spider-lily), it can be found in mesic upland forests.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits from July to September.
IdentificationThis spectacular species is very similar to the Coastal Plain H. crassifolia (in NC); see the Identification description in that account. Northern Spider-lily differs mainly in its Piedmont range, and particularly in the number of flowers in the inflorescence. This species has 3-7 flowers per plant, whereas H. crassifolia has only 1-2 or at times 3 flowers per plant. Sadly, you won't find the species in NC, but there are one or two very large riverine stands of this spider-lily in the SC Piedmont. Considering that as many as 6-7 flowers can be seen on a single plant, a stand of this species in full bloom is quite unforgettable.
Taxonomic CommentsThere are several varieties named for this species. The one present in NC is the nominate one -- H. occidentalis var. occidentalis. Some references name this species as H. caroliniana, which Weakley (2018) says is misapplied.

Other Common Name(s)Hammock Spider-lily, Woodland Spider-lily
State RankSH [SX]
Global RankG4?
State Status[SC-H]
US Status
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