Amaryllis meanings: Dramatic, pride
Amaryllis is a small genus of flowering bulbs, with two species. The better known of the two, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest region near the Cape. For many years there was confusion amongst botanists over the generic names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum, one result of which is that the common name "amaryllis" is mainly used for cultivars of the genus Hippeastrum, widely sold in the winter months for their ability to bloom indoors. Plants of the genus Amaryllis are known as belladonna lily, naked lady, or amarillo.
Amaryllis 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 warm climates depending on the onset of rain and eventually die down by late spring. The bulb is then dormant until late summer. The plant is not frost-tolerant, nor does it do well in tropical environments since they require a dry resting period between leaf growth and flower spike production.
From the dry ground in late summer (August in zone 7) each bulb produces one or two leafless stems 30–60 cm tall, each of which bears 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). The usual color is white with crimson veins, but pink or purple also occur naturally. The common name "naked lady" stems from the plant's pattern of flowering when the foliage has died down.
The species was introduced into cultivation at the beginning of the eighteenth century. They reproduce slowly either by bulb division or seeds and have gradually naturalized from plantings in urban and suburban areas throughout the lower elevations and coastal areas in much of the West Coast of the USA since these environments mimic their native South African habitat.
There is an "Amaryllis Belladonna Hybrid" which was bred in the 1800s in Australia. No one knows the exact species it was crossed with to produce color variations of white, cream, peach, magenta and nearly red hues. The hybrids were crossed back onto the original Amaryllis belladonna and with each other to produce naturally seed bearing crosses that come in a very wide range of flower sizes, shapes, stem heights and intensities of pink. Pure white varieties with bright green stems were bred as well. The hybrids are quite distinct in that the many shades of pink also have stripes, veining, darkened edges, white centers and light yellow centers also setting them apart from the original light pink. In addition, the hybrids often produce flowers in a fuller circle rather than a "side facing" habit like the "old fashioned" pink. The hybrids are able to adapt to year round watering and fertilization but can also tolerate completely dry summer conditions if need be.
Amaryllis belladonna has been crossed in cultivation with Crinum moorei to produce a hybrid called × Amarcrinum, which has named cultivars. Hybrids said to be between Amaryllis belladonna and Brunsvigia josephinae have been called × Amarygia, Neither hybrid genus name is accepted by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.
The name Amaryllis is taken from a shepherdess in Virgil's pastoral "Eclogues", from the Greek ἀμαρύσσω (Latin amarysso) meaning "to sparkle."
The taxonomy of the genus has been controversial. In 1753 Carl Linnaeus created the name Amaryllis belladonna, the type species of the genus Amaryllis. At the time both South African and South American plants were placed in the same genus; subsequently they were separated into two different genera. The key question is whether Linnaeus's type was a South African plant or a South American plant. If the later, Amaryllis would be the correct name for the genus Hippeastrum, and a different name would have to be used for the genus discussed here. Alan W. Meerow et al. have briefly summarized the debate, which took place from 1938 onwards and involved botanists on both sides of the Atlantic. The outcome was a decision by the 14th International Botanical Congress in 1987 that Amaryllis L. should be a conserved name (i.e. correct regardless of priority) and ultimately based on a specimen of the South African Amaryllis belladonna from the Clifford Herbarium at the British Museum.
Although the 1987 decision settled the question of the scientific name of the genus, the common name "amaryllis" continues to be used differently. Bulbs sold as amaryllis and described as "ready to bloom for the holidays" belong to the allied genus Hippeastrum. The common name "naked lady" used for Amaryllis is also used for other bulbs with a similar growth and flowering pattern; some of these have their own widely used and accepted common names, such as the resurrection lily (Lycoris squamigera).
Source, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaryllis