Autumn Lilies

Friday, out among the hills in the company of my mother was a joy. March is the beginning of autumn in South Africa. It arrived with showers of rain and lilies unique to the Western Cape province. The lilies are unusual in that they flower suddenly, straight from the bulb—not a leaf in sight—giving the impression that they were stuck into the ground rather than emerged from it. The leaves follow later, once the flowers have died—as if they are an afterthought.

The Paintbrush lily

The first of these we encountered was the blood-red Paintbrush lily, Haemanthus coccineus. There was a cluster on one side of the dirt road verge, another against a sheer drop where the road crossed a channel, and even more, scattered at the foot of a steep hill. Never before have we seen so many of these flowers; so red are they that from a considerable distance, we were able to spot another cluster at the far end of a small field, later on.

Paintbrush lily (Haemanthus coccineus), 15 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Paintbrush lily (Haemanthus coccineus)
Paintbrush lily (Haemanthus coccineus), 15 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Paintbrush lily (Haemanthus coccineus)

The Belladonna lily

The second kind was a much smaller group of four Belladonna lilies, Amaryllis belladonna, of which only one was in bloom; the rest had already flowered and produced fruits. They stood in a meadow, one I had passed through a week ago—it was thanks to my mother that I spotted them, this time. In Afrikaans1, they are aptly named the Maartblom, “March-flower” (pronounced “maah-Rt-blom”, with a trilled “R” and a shortened version of the “o” in “or”).

Belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna), 15 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna)

The Chandelier lily

The third was the Chandelier lily, Brunsvigia orientalis2. These were the first “straight-from-the-bulb” lilies I ever encountered, this time last year. Where there were three then, there were now five. I did not photograph them because they were already in the later stages of flowering and so not very arresting, but I include a photograph from last year’s sighting instead. The flowerhead dries out, breaks off in one piece and rolls in the wind to disperse its seeds.

Chandelier lily (Brunsvigia orientalis), 9 March 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Chandelier lily (Brunsvigia orientalis)


  1. Afrikaans is the native language of the Western Cape province.
  2. Possibly Brunsvigia litoralis, a slight variant.

Thoughts and Things of Autumn 

Pastoral bliss

Autumn is a time when the earthy beiges of summer turn verdant green. In the countryside, where I am fortunate to reside, this change in the landscape marks the beginning of my favourite time of the year. As the season progresses, the wheat stands tall enough to blow in the wind. Their wavelike movement always reminds me of Winternag (Afrikaans for “winter’s night”), a poem by Eugène Marais. In it, he likens the grasses blowing in the wind to beckoning hands. And that is exactly how I experience them. They invite me; the fields call out to me! I am compelled to stand in their midst and revel in their beauty!

A poem

In the autumn of 2012, I listened almost exclusively to the music of July Skies. Their gentle blend of disarming instrumentals and melancholy vocals made me fall in love with my surroundings, over and over again. So much so that I was inspired to write Autumn, which I humbly share with you, here:


I smell the wispy, rising smoke as autumn fires burn,
I feel the crispness of the air as shortened days return.
How the sky seems clearer,
Bluer in the cold;
How the green hills dearer
Than all of summer’s gold!

Mornings come with gentle mist that quietly greets the day,
All about the countryside the brightest hues are grey.
I need only wait a while
Before the hills appear;
I need only see them smile
My heart to fill with cheer!

I wonder at the long, thick grass that won’t give up the dew,
Midday finds them glistening still, in gentle sunlight, new!
Soon the day is ending,
Already evening falls;
To the moon ascending,
I hear a nightjar calls!

When the rainfall comes, the shallow rivers flood
Drizzle turns to torrents and moistened soil to mud.
Now and then the sun will show
Through heavy cloud to shine;
Now and then, the winding road
To make a silvery line!