Plate 19: C. americanum
Fig. 19: Crinum americanum. Linnaeus based the genus
name 'Crinum' on C. americanum. 'Crinum' comes from
the Greek 'Crinos' meaning a comet, or hanging hair, an obvious feature
evident on seeing a mature C. americanum blossom with its trailing
tepals. His Latin descriptive-phrase in Species plantarum I and II
has long been a botanical enigma, but refers to the inturned hanging tepals
with their small claws (actually drip-tips) on the tepal apices. A condition
which develops during humid weather. Few early day botanists had the
opportunity to see a specimen in flower, so the reference to the drip-tips
remained completely misunderstood. In all likelihood Linnaeus probably has
had many chuckles over his contemporaries' lack of observation, or inability
to note such an obvious detail. But at the right period, the claws are quite
evident, and are even preserved on the Clifford specimen
H. S. C. 127.1. or present on Linnaeus' form 'beta'
illustration in Commelin's rariorum 15, t.15, reference.
Figure 19 is that of a Mississippi River form of
C. americanum and is near typical of the H. S. C. 127.1
herbarium specimen in Kew. Some 40 so-called American species are recorded,
but basically all but one or two are no more than mere geographical variants.
The tepals are usually shorter where tropical nectar moths with long tongues
are present. They spread the pollen at night.