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Bulbs of the World

The Amaryllis Family: Amaryllidaceae

The Amaryllidaceae is the family of amaryllis and related plants. Members of the Order Asparagales in the giant group Lilianae, the amaryllids are mostly bulbous plants, although some have a rhizome. The flowers are bisexual and quite regular; they characteristically appear in umbels at the top of a leafless stalk, the scape. The leaves are all produced from the base of the plant; most species are deciduous, but Clivia is evergreen. (Discussion based on V.H. Heywood, "Flowering Plants of the World" Mayflower Books, New York, 1978.)

The older usage of the family Liliaceae was an all-inclusive collection of plants that are considered in most recent classifications to belong to many families in at least two Orders, Asparagales and Liliales.   The Amaryllidaceae are now considered part of the Asparagales.

Besides the familiar Dutch Hybrid amaryllis (Hippeastrum), other members of this family include the hardy genera from Eurasia like daffodils (Narcissus), Lycoris, Sternbergia, and snowdrops (Galanthus).

New World groups include the Aztec lilies (Sprekelia), Oxblood Lilies (Rhodophiala), rain lilies (Habranthus and Zephyranthes), and the rare "Blue amaryllis," Worsleya.   Hymenocallis, the white spider lilies, are native to Central American, Mexico, and the Southern United States.

The African genera are nerines (Nerine), Ammocharis, crinums (Crinum), Crossyne, Brunsvigia, and Boophone. Also members of this family are the blood lilies (Haemanthus and Scadoxus), and the clivias (Clivia).    Cyrtanthus is a genus of tropical and southern Africa which includes the well-known Scarborough Lily.    The botanical genus Amaryllis is the Cape Belladonna, native to South Africa.

The boundaries of the amaryllis family are sometimes stretched or shrunk to include other related groups. Recently, taxonomists have merged the amaryllis family with Agapanthus and Alliaceae, the Onion Family, both now included in the Amaryllidaceae as a single taxonomic entity. Amaryllidaceae is now composed of Agapanthoideae, Allioideae, and Amaryllidoideae. I'll treat them separately here under the old names.

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James E. Shields,
Last revised: 17 February 2013
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