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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 11:16 EDT

Amaryllis, Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis (a native plant of South Africa) is a monotypic genus of plant containing one species, the Belladonna Lily (Amaryllis belladonna).

This bulb plant (each bulb is approximately 5-10 cm in diameter) has several strap-shaped, dull green leaves, 30-50 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, and arranged in two rows. The leaves are produced in the autumn and eventually die down by late spring. The bulb then remains dormant until late summer.

The bulb produces one or two naked stems 30-60 cm tall in late summer, 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 tepals (three outer sepals, three inner petals, with similar appearance to each other), white, pink or purple in color. This flowering pattern is the cause of its common name “naked lady”. The scientific name Amaryllis is named after a shepherdess in one of Virgil’s pastorals, and means any young rustic maiden.

The Belladonna Lily was introduced into cultivation at the beginning of the 18th 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 “naked ladies”, even though those species have their own more widely used and accepted common names, such as the Resurrection Lily (Lycoris squamigera).

Amaryllis Amaryllis belladonna