Agapanthus/ Pride of Africa


This week’s flowers may most likely transport you to the unending, scorching sand dunes of the Nile River that snakes its’ watery river veins around Egypt, the Land of Pharaoh Kings & mystical Pyramids. Meet Agapanthus, known as African Lily in the UK or generally, Lily of the Nile.

If you care to search for the story of Lily of the Nile online, you’ll find that an author by the name of Stephanie Dray has titled one of her historical fiction books as ‘Lily of the Nile’. Her story is back-dropped against the majestic Roman Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra had lived in those days until their tragic deaths at the Battle of Actium. Ah yes, that infamous Cleopatra who seduced 2 powerful Roman leaders, bore children to both men, and committed suicide when her husband’s and her armies fell to Octavian’s might. That battle saw Octavian Caesar consolidating his rule over Rome and all other Roman conquests, which included Egypt. Princess Selene, one of the children born to Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, was taken prisoner to the Roman capital who jeered at her royal lineage. At the mercy of her captors, Selene a.k.a. Lily of the Nile must find a way to answer her true calling while surviving the court intrigue of Roman politics. Selene was a mysterious figure in history that scarcely had any surviving records about her, save for a few clues hinted by revered historians Plutarch, Suetonius and Dio Cassius. Did Selene manage to obtain freedom from her oppressors eventually? Did she rule Egypt as well as her famous parents did? You’re welcome to read the book (and historians’ commentaries) to find out ;)

While the book is a fictitious account of a historical figure, but still, one doesn’t easily separate Agapanthus’ connection to its African heritage. To be more precise, majority of the Agapanthus species are native to Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique). There are some Agapanthus species that are cultivated and naturalized in Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, Ethiopia and Jamaica, to name a few. But if an Agapanthus could speak to you in anyway about their true birthplace, they’ll probably say ‘Africa’ is where they came from first.

How about other facts about this desert flower of the Nile?

  1. Agapanthusis the only genus in the subfamily Agapanthoideae of the flowering plant family Amaryllidaceae. 
  2. The name is derived from scientific Greek: αγάπη (agape) = love, άνθος (anthos) = flower.
  3. Despite their looks akin to lilies, Agapanthus is not truly alily.
  4. Agapanthus is mostly in shades of blue, ranging from azure to cobalt to midnight. But this flower’s blue is of the clear, brilliant type that will shine its luster best over many weeks and after its blooming has pass its time.
  5. Should you be living in a temperate country and you’re going to experience winter in the coming months, Agapanthus may or may not be hardy enough for winter, depending on how low the temperature would drop to. In an unforgiving wintry climate, Agapanthus is best grown in containers and brought indoors during the winter.

Penny Choo
Penny Choo


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