History of the Agapanthus

Afbeelding van Agapanthus africanus 1838 - The Botanist vol. 2- Mound B, Henslow J.S.Afbeelding van Agapanthus africanus Joseph.Pierre RedoutéPortret van de Agapanthus umbellatus door Joseph P. Redouté

The Agapanthus is often also called (South) African lily and this refers directly to the country of origin: South Africa. Traditionally, the plant has grown there from the Cape province to the Limpopo river, both at sea level and up to 2,100 meters.

You can find deciduous species in places where it is dry in the winter and rains a lot in the summer (KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Free State, Lesotho, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Mozambique) you can find evergreen species in which it rains in the winter, or enough rain falls all year round (Western Cape and some parts of Eastern Cape).

Thanks to colonial shipping and the East Indian Companie, the Agapanthus also ends up in Europe in the second half of the seventeenth century. The first mention in European literature dates from 1679. The imported specimens were all from around the Cape of Good Hope and evergreen, often they were donated to botanical gardens with orangeries and greenhouses because they did not know at all whether they would like it in our temperate climate survive.

The first name was: Hyacinthus Africanus Tuberosus Flore caeruleo umbellate, but that did not stop there were numerous other names: Tulbaghia (Heister 1753) and Crinum africanum (Linnaeus).

At the beginning of the 18th century, traders and travelers also started to explore parts of Eastern South Africa and discover the Agapanhus praecox, a deciduous species. These species that often grew to great heights on the mountain slopes were much more interesting for use in our gardens and parks.

The plant owes its current name to l'Héritier (1789), director of the "Jardin des Plantes" in Paris, as he first called the South African lily: Agapanthus umbellatus. It would take until 1824 for the name Agapanthus africanus to take effect.

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