All About the Agapanthus Flower

The lovely agapanthus, or "African Lily" is the first flower cut for my 100 Flowers Project.

About the Flower:

The first flower on the list of common flowers for my 100 Flowers Project is the Agapanthus. Although not a true lily, they are commonly called the "African Lily" or "Lily of the Nile," because they are native to warm climates in Africa, but they aren’t native to .They bloom in the summer in globes of blue, purple, pink, or white at the end of a long stem.

Most of the flowers on this list are actually the names of a genus or family of flowers, rather than an individual species. Remember back to high school biology and the taxonomic hierarchy? No? It’s ok, I had to look it up again too. Check out this blog post for a short refresher. 

Agapanthus photo by Marie Viljoen

So, back to the agapanthus. This is actually a genus flowers nestled under the subfamily Agapanthoideae, which belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae. Even if we don’t know all the Latinate terms, we can already understand that agapanthus flowers are closely related to amaryllis flowers given this family classification. Each genus of species has a "type species" which is simply the species for which the genus is named after. For agapanthus, the type species is the agapanthus africanus, which is the "African Lily" version of agapanthus that most people are familiar with. However, there are six other species recognized as of 2013. This agapanthus africanus species is the species that I referenced to make my agapanthus papercut.

Even though the agapanthus is also called the “Lily of the Nile,” it is actually native to South Africa, not Egypt. The plant was first brought to Europe by early explorers in 1679. In South Africa, the flower was considered to be both a magical and a medicinal plant. It was used to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, colds, and the leaves were used as bandages. 

The flowers bloom together in clusters called umbels, with as many as 20 to 100 individual flowers in each rounded umbel, depending on the species. The individual flowers are long and tubular, resembling a lily flower. Flower color ranges from deep violet to pale shades of blue to pure white. Check out this article from the Master Gardener Program from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for more information on the hybrids of this flower along with planting tips. 

About the Papercut:

I based my papercut on a picture of an agapanthus that is in the middle of blooming. I liked seeing the buds as well as some open flowers, and I thought it made an interesting design. I believe I modeled my papercut after the agapanthus africanus species, but honestly, its hard to tell the different hybrids apart for a non-botanist and non-gardener like myself. I choose a purple background since the flowers are often a purple/violet color.  I had never seen these flowers before, but after cutting one from paper, I find that I really like them!

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