Flora: Hippeastrum - Amaryllis

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 1: Showy large (up to 12 cm in diameter) amaryllis flowers (Hippeastrum sp.)

For a change, I would like to share a few interesting facts about and three photographs of the cultivated plant commonly named amaryllis. The amaryllis is an attractive houseplant that is particularly popular around Christmas because this is the time when it is flowering (which also makes it a frequently used gift). These bulbous plants are also praised by plant breeders, who have reared an overwhelming variety of flower shapes, sizes and colors (as a google immage search reveals). There are over 600 cultivated varieties! Of course, all cultivated plants have wild relatives or ancestors, and this is where things get confusing with amaryllis. The free growing relatives of cultivated amaryllis belong to the taxonomic genus Hippeastrum, which comprises around 90 species native mainly to south and central America and the Caribbean. The botanic name Amaryllis, on the other hand, refers to a group of plants home to southern Africa (there are only two species A. belladonna and A. paradisicola - the latter one was only described in 1998). The designation Amaryllis goes back to Carl von LinnĂ© (more about LinnĂ© can be found HERE or on "his" website) who described and named the genus in 1753. However, at that time Hippeastrum and Amaryllis were one and the same and therefore the popular houseplant became known as amaryllis. However, taxonomists take names and distinguishing marks very seriously and later decided that the south American and African plants belonged to different genera and after long debate decided on the names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum for the african and south american plants, respectively.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 2: Pink amaryllis flower detail composition

Although the taxonomy behind amaryllis or Hippeastrum may be interesting, it is not at all necessary to appreciate the beauty of these flowers and even less so to cultivate them in your home. The plants grow from a large bulb and if planted and watered six to eight weeks ago, impressive showy flowers are about to appear now. Amaryllis are considered undemanding plants that reward the gardener's small effort with long lasting and showy flowers year after year (however, we were not always successful in bringing our amaryllis to flower the next year).

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 3: I even find the wrinkles of wilted and whithered amaryllis flowers beautiful

I do not often photograph still life or staged objects almost like in a studio setting. However, sometimes I discover details and compositions that I would like to capture and find pleasure in photographing a particular flower of a bouquet or our house and balcony plants. I will show these photographs in the cultivated plants gallery and hope you enjoy!

2012/12/16 by Florian Freimoser
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