Crinum pedunculatum

Swamp Lily, River Lily

Family: Amaryllidaceae

Crinum pedunculatum is a large, perennial lily with a bulb that can sometimes extend as an above ground false stem (pseusostem).

It grows purely on the coast in NSW, close to the beach, north from Jervis Bay in scattered populations, north along most of the Queensland coast and into the Northern Territory. It is also on soem offshore islands including Lord Howe as well as the Keeling Islands, New Guinea and New Caledonia.

It grows in coastal dune scrub on sand dunes and rocky shelves near the ocean as well as swampy areas on the coast.

Crinum have simple leaves, lily-like and can be large, forming a basal cluster. In this species, the leaves may be up to 120 cm long by 15 centimetres wide, green or bluish-green, heavily clustered on the pseudostem, somewhat fleshy, with a tapering acuminate point.

Crinum have flowers with six tepals (3 sepals and 3 petals which are undifferentiated – a typical lily feature). In this species, the flowers are carried in dense umbel-like clusters (resembling Agapanthus), of up to 25 on stems (scapes) to 150 cm tall. Individual blooms are 10 centimetres across and perfumed, white in colour, with stamens also long and conspicuous. Flowering extends from November to March.

The fruit is a capsule, somewhat rounded and several centimetres long.

In the garden

An easy plant to grow. It does best on a sandy free-draining soil with adequate water but may tolerate heavier soils. Plant in a semi-shaded position for best results and give some room to spread.

Crinum pedunculatum could be cultivated under established trees or in containers.

It can suffer from Lily Caterpillar – a burrowing caterpillar which invades the pseudostem at ground-level and affects a lot of lillies. Symptoms of this include leaf drop and yellowing-senescing leaves. Caterpillars can be teased out with some wire or other narrow tool and killed. A hose may also work.

This species may be considered in place of Gymea Lily (Doryanthes excelsa) as it does not grow as tall and will not spread as wide.


Propagate from seed that should be kept moist. Seeds sometimes germinate whilst still attached to the plant.

Other information

Painful box jellyfish stings have been treated with crushed River Lily leaves.

Crinum is a genus of about 100 species worldwide. Australia has 11 native species, 8 of which are endemic. NSW currently has 3 species.

Plants can probably regenerate after fire from the protected bulb.

Crinum – from the Greek krinos (κρίνος) meaning ‘lily’.

pedunculatum – Latin meaning ‘pedunculate’ referring to the long flowering stalks or scapes of the species.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Crinum pedunculatum profile page  https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Crinum~pedunculatum

Gardening with Angus – Crinum pedunculatum profile page  https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/crinum-pedunculatum-swamp-lily/

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Warren and Gloria Sheather / Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.