Kaffir Lily is one of China’s top 20 famous flowers. It was officially decided as the city flower of Changchun at the 14th Session of the 8th Changchun Municipal People’s Congress on October 11, 1984.
This South African native Kaffir lily, or the Clivia, is strong and pretty at the same time but not actually a lily. The herbaceous evergreen plant has large tongue-like leaves that are thick and sturdy. In 1823, James Bowie, gathered plants of this species, a pendulous-flowered clivia, in the same area of the Eastern Cape and sent them to England. In October 1828, Kew botanist and horticulturist John Lindley described Clivia nobilis and named it after Lady Charlotte Florentine Clive, Duchess of Northumberland.
The cultivation of clivias started in early 1930s in China. Clivia miniata became a popular container plant inside the palaces of the last imperial Chinese dynasty because of its symbolic longevity, with beautiful leaves further enhanced by flowers in season. In fact, the cultivation of clivias in the Far East is focused primarily on the beauty of the foliage-the dark green shiny leaves and variegated foliage that provide pleasure throughout the year-and not only its flower.
In more recent times, the focus on Clivia breeding has shifted to the Far East, where a most impressive range of intra-specific hybrids (hybrids between different forms of C. miniata) as well as inter-specific hybrids (hybrids between different Clivia species) have been raised. Clivia miniata is a very popular pot plant in China, Korea and Japan. Masters of the art of plant selection, and seemingly obsessed with all plants exhibiting variegated foliage, the Japanese have produced a remarkable array of variegated forms of C. miniata and numerous hybrids. Most famous among present-day Clivia breeders in that country is the affable and super-generous Mr Yoshikazu Nakamura, who holds the world's most diverse collection of Clivia germ plasm at his Clivia Breeding Plantation south of Tokyo. Equally popular, if not more so, is the cultivation and breeding of C. miniata in the People's Republic of China, where dwarf, orange-flowered cultivars are widely grown as pot subjects. Clivia miniata is so popular in the city of Changchun, in Northeast China, that its flower has become the city's emblem.