Crinum brachynema (karnaphul)
Crinum brachynema is a Critically Endangered bulbous plant, with great potential as an ornamental, and is restricted to Gujarat and Maharashtra States in western India.
About this species
Crinum brachynema was first imported into the UK from India by Messrs Loddiges of Hackney, who sent the bulbs on to William Herbert at Spofforth (North Yorkshire). Herbert subsequently described C. brachynema as a new species, in 1842. Crinum brachynema is restricted to Gujarat and Maharashtra States in western India, where its population is dwindling. Due to its narrow range of distribution and extreme rarity, it has been listed as Critically Endangered.
Geography & Distribution
Crinum brachynema vegetative habit (Image: Dr. Sachin A. Punekar)
Restricted to the North Western Ghats of western India, where it occurs in three areas: in the Dharmapur forest range of the Bulsar District in Gujarat State at about 700 m above sea level; at Kate’s Point, Mahabaleshwar; and on the Kas Plateau, Satara District of Maharashtra State, at 1,250–1,300 m above sea level. It is usually found on lateritic plateaus along the margins of stunted, semi-evergreen forest, and more rarely on hill slopes. It has been found growing in association with Adelocaryum coelestinum, A. malabaricum, Crinum woodrowii, Curculigo orchioides, Curcuma caulina, C. neilgherrensis, Euphorbia nana, Habenaria brachyphylla, H. grandifloriformis, Ledebouria species, Pimpinella heyneana, Pinda concanensis, Pteris quadriaurita and Strobilanthes reticulata.
Inflorescence of Crinum brachynema (Image: Dr. Sachin A Punekar)
A bulbous herb, 30–60 cm high, with an ovoid bulb 5–8 cm across. The leaves develop after the flowers, and are erect, then recurved, folded, bright to dark green, linear-oblong, moderately firm, with a smooth margin and an obtuse (blunt) apex. The scape (leafless flower stalk) is stout, almost circular in cross-section and 30–60 cm long. The fragrant flowers are borne in an umbel (of 5–20 individual flowers). The spathe (sheathing bract) bears two valves, is lanceolate and 3–5 cm long. The bracts are awl-shaped or thread-like. The pedicel (individual flower stalk) is as long as the ovary. The perianth (petals and sepals) is funnel-shaped and the tube is slightly curved, greenish, and 3–5 cm long. It has six lobes, which are pure white, oblanceolate to oblong, obtuse, cuspidate (abruptly tipped with a sharp, rigid point) and about 5 x 2 cm long, many times longer than the stamens. The six stamens are attached to the throat of the perianth tube. The filaments are short (about 1 cm long), and are attached to the tube. The pollen grains are mono-aperturate (have a single opening), ovoid, 50 x 55 µm. The exine (outer wall) is micro-verrucate (warty) with bulbous excrescences (outgrowths). The ovary is about 1 cm long and slender. The style is shorter than the stamens and the stigma is shortly three-lobed. The fruit is sub-globose.
Flowering and pollination
Fruiting Crinum brachynema (Image: Dr. Sachin A. Punekar)
Flowering begins in May and June, and fruiting takes place from June onwards. Stingless bees (Trigona species) and jewel beetles forage on this species and probably act as pollinators. However, detailed pollination studies are urgently needed. Seed dispersal is by atelechory (dispersal over a short distance, in this case aided by rain-wash). The Mahabaleshwar and Kas areas receive a significant annual rainfall of about 6,000 mm during the south-west monsoon (June–August).
Threats & Conservation
Threats to Crinum brachynema populations include harvesting of bulbs from the wild for sale in local markets (for medicinal and ornamental purposes), repeated forest fires and the depletion of areas of potential habitat due to landslides.
Cultivation and re-introduction
Crinum brachynema seed germination (Image: Dr. Sachin A. Punekar)
Although Critically Endangered in the wild, Crinum brachynema shows very good seed-set in cultivation. There is an urgent need to harvest seeds from the wild and germinate them under nursery conditions, for subsequent cultivation in glasshouses and gardens, and eventual re-introduction of the species to suitable habitats.
Crinum brachynema has beautiful foliage, and merits wider use as a cultivated ornamental. The attractive, fragrant flowers could be used commercially in the pharmaceutical and perfume industries.
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of Crinum brachynema are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers, by appointment. The details of some specimens of other Crinum species can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
- Allium sativum (garlic)
- Allium siculum (Sicilian honey garlic)
- Allium sphaerocephalon (round-headed leek)
- Caliphruria tenera (Amazon lily)
- Crinum purpurascens (starry crinum)
- Crinum woodrowii (Woodrow's crinum lily)
- Galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
- Galanthus panjutinii (Panjutin’s snowdrop)
- Galanthus woronowii (Woronow's snowdrop)
- Leucojum vernum (spring snowflake)
- newly discovered
- around the world
- of use
- ground breaking
- english garden
- garden plants
- english heritage
Plants & Fungi blogs from Kew
27 Jan 2014
Alan Paton, Assistant Keeper of Kew's Herbarium, describes some of the problems associated with plant names and the importance of the new release of The Plant List.
16 Dec 2013
Rhian Smith takes a closer look at Christmas trees and their relatives, and describes the scientific work Kew is carrying out on the taxonomy, biogeography and evolution of this important group of plants.
09 Dec 2013
Sarah Cody explains how gap analysis is helping our partners collect the seed of crop wild relatives (CWR) for a project called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change', run jointly by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
25 Jan 2013
He may be a Seed Morphologist but Wolfgang Stuppy of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank discovers there is more to the snake gourd than just some strange fruit and eccentric seeds.
03 Jun 2013
The southeast Asian plant Durian has been called the King of Fruits but, like Marmite, it sharply divides opinion between those who love the incredible taste of its custard-like pulp and those who are revolted by its putrid smell.