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Zephyranthes atamasca – Atamasco Lily

Rarely seen in the landscape, Atamasco lily, Zephyranthes atamasca, is a native perennial also known as rain lily.

Not to be confused with another non-native perennial commonly referred to as rain lily, Zephyranthes candida, Atamasco lily has longer, more graceful petals. Originally given the genus name Amaryllis in 1753 by none other than Carl Linnaeus, the genus was changed to Zephyranthes in 1821. Zephyrus the West-Wind in Greek mythology was the husband of Khloris, goddess of flowers.

Zephyranthes atamasco

Atamasco lily (species name atamasca) is native to the swampier forests of the southeastern United States. This grouping was photographed in a deciduous forest with good drainage.

Atamasco lily, a bulb, blooms in early April in Georgia. It grows to 12 inches or so, and leaves resemble grass. The plant sends up foliage in late winter. It flowers in sprig, and the recedes into the landscape until the following season.

native perennial atamasco lily

Flowers, 3-5″ long, have six lobes and can reportedly also be a pale pink. Soil preferences range from constantly wet to regular. Shade is preferred, especially in the afternoon. Atamasco lily is not hardy where the ground freezes in winter, although this is hardly an issue in the deep South. What is an issue is the leaves are frost tender and since they originate in winter, your Zephyranthes atamasca may be lost if your area experiences a hard, killing frost in mid to late winter.

It may be difficult to find in commercial trade, and digging up plants in the wild borders on inexcusable. Collecting seeds is a grand idea. Seeds appear in green capsules 6 weeks after flowering…do not collect until the seeds turn black.

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