Starbright NYC Flower Files: Hippeastrum (aka Amaryllis)

Hippeastrum (commonly called Amaryllis)

Hippeastrum aka Amaryllis


Quick Notes /

Surprise! This flower, commonly called Amaryllis, is actually a member of the Hippeastrum genus! For years, there was confusion among botanists as to the generic names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum. The debate, it seems began around 1738-1753 and was finally resolved by the 14th International Botanical Congress in 1987. The IBC decided that  the name Amaryllis would belong to the originally identified bloom regardless of common use. So what’s the difference? The Hippeastrum bloom is commonly preferred for it’s ability to bloom indoors during cold winter months in the northern hemisphere while it’s namesake bloom, the actual Amaryllis, grows natively outdoors South Africa and is more commonly referred to as a Lily (though Amaryllis and Lilium, “true lilies” are only very distantly related). This oddly twisted bit of floral folly took over two hundred years to come to terms with. So let’s all do ourselves a favor and just keep on calling this bloom (in all it’s varieties) by it’s common name.


Visual Notes /

These bold trumpet-shaped flowers grow from easy to plant bulbs. Their long hollow stems are accompanied by long flat, sword-shaped leaves. One stem can produce up to six blooms. The blooms range in color from deep bold red to the brightest white and include a number of interesting bi-colored varieties as well.

Flower History/

The name Amaryllis comes from the Idylls of Theocritus or the Eclogues of Virgil (click to read Theocritus’ Idylls). In this pastoral poem, Amaryllis is a sweetly-singing shepherdess who is in love with a cold-hearted man. Desperately, Amaryllis pierced her heart with a golden arrow then, inexplicably, trekked to his cottage day after day for an entire month, shedding drops of blood along the way. On the thirtieth day blood-red blooms blossomed from the drops, the man was enchanted by the flowers, Amaryllis’s heart was healed and they lived happily ever after.

Inside Info /
  • The US imports over 10 million Amaryllis bulbs a year.
  • The name Amaryllis comes from Greek “to sparkle”
  •  The name Hippeasrtum, also from Greek means “horseman’s star”.


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