Definitions

amaryllis

amaryllis

[am-uh-ril-is]
amaryllis, common name for some members of the Amaryllidaceae, a family of mostly perennial plants with narrow, flat leaves and with lilylike flowers borne on separate, leafless stalks. They are widely distributed throughout the world, especially in flatlands of the tropics and subtropics. Many ornamental plants of this family are mistakenly called lilies; they can be distinguished from members of the lily family (Liliaceae) by the anatomical placement of the ovary (see flower) and are considered more advanced in evolution than the lilies. Sometimes the amaryllis family is included in the Liliaceae.

Several fragrant, showy-blossomed species are commonly called amaryllis: the true amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna), or belladonna lily, of S Africa, and the more frequently cultivated tropical American species of Sprekelia, Lycoris, and especially Hippeastrum (e.g., the Barbados lily). The large Narcissus genus, including jonquils and daffodils, is native chiefly to the Mediterranean region, but it has been naturalized and is now widespread in the United States. Although the common names are sometimes used interchangeably, strictly the daffodil is the yellow N. pseudo-narcissus, with a long, trumpet-shaped central corona; the jonquil is the yellow N. jonquilla, with a short corona; and the narcissus is any of several usually white-flowered species, e.g., the poet's narcissus (N. poetica) with a red rim on the corona. The biblical rose of Sharon may have been a narcissus. Among many others that have become naturalized and are cultivated in Europe and North America are the snowdrops (any species of Galanthus), small early-blooming plants of the Old World whose flowers are symbolic of consolation and of promise; and the tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa), a waxy-flowered Mexican plant.

Economically, the most important plants of the family are of the nonbulbous genus Agave, the tropical American counterpart of the African Aloe genus of the family Liliaceae (lily family). Different agaves provide soap (e.g., those called amoles—see soap plant), food and beverages, and hard fiber. Henequen and sisal hemp are among the fibers obtained from agaves; fique and Cuban hemp come from other similar genera. Maguey is the Mexican name for various species (chiefly A. americana) called American aloe, or century plant, that contain the sugar agavose, sometimes used medicinally but better known as the source of the popular alcoholic beverages pulque and mescal (or mezcal). The name "century plant" arises from the long intervals between bloomings—from 5 to 100 years. After blooming, the century plant dies back and is replaced by new shoots. The blue agave (A. tequilana weber azul) is the maguey used in making tequila. The agave cactus (Leuchtenbergia principis) is a true cactus that resembles the agave.

Amaryllis is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, Lilliales, Amaryllidaceae.

Amaryllis is a monotypic (only one species) genus of plant also known as the Belladonna Lily or naked ladies. The single species, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest region near the Cape. It is often confused with the Hippeastrum, a flowering bulb commonly sold in the winter months for its propensity to bloom indoors.

Characteristics

It is a bulbous plant, with each bulb being 5-10 cm in diameter. It has several strap-shaped, green leaves, 30-50 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, arranged in two rows. The leaves are produced in the autumn or early spring in cold climates and eventually die down by late spring. The bulb is then dormant until late summer.

In late summer (August in zone 7) each bulb produces one or two naked stems 30-60 cm tall, each of which bear a cluster of 2 to 12 funnel-shaped flowers at their tops. Each flower is 6-10 cm diameter with six sepals (three outer sepals, three inner petals, with similar appearance to each other). The usual color is white with crimson veins, but pink or purple also occur naturally. This pattern of flowering at a different time from when foliage appears is the cause of its common name "naked lady".

The species was introduced into cultivation at the beginning of the eighteenth century. However, most of the so-called Amaryllis bulbs sold as 'ready to bloom for the holidays' belong to the allied genus Hippeastrum, despite being labeled as 'Amaryllis' by sellers and nurseries. Adding to the name confusion, some bulbs of other species with a similar growth and flowering pattern are also sometimes called by another common name for this plant, "naked ladies", even though those species have their own more widely used and accepted common names, such as the Resurrection Lily (Lycoris squamigera).

The name

The botanic name Amaryllis is taken from a shepherdess in Virgil's pastoral "Eclogues," from the Greek αμαρυσσω (Latin amarysso) meaning "to sparkle."

It is used as a given name for females. The plant is also known as the "Jersey Lily", named after the Channel Island.

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