Amaryllis Story and Origins
Most people associate the bright red amaryllis with the holiday season, because it is frequently gifted during this time. Though red and white are the most popular colors for this flower, it also comes in pink, orange, yellow, and purple.
The amaryllis has a rather confusing name. Amaryllis is the common name for flowers of the genus Hippeastrum. This genus was separated from genus Amaryllis in the early nineteenth century. However, the genus Amaryllis still exists today. It’s most common species is the naked lady. Hippeastrum and Amaryllis have similar shapes, though the Hippeastrum has a hollow stem.
Hippeastrum is Greek for horseman’s star or knight’s star, as the flowers have a star-like shape. The genus Hippeastrum has about 90 species and over 600 hybrids and cultivars. It is native to tropical regions of South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
According to Greek mythology, the amaryllis originated from the love Amaryllis had for Alteo. Amaryllis, a maiden, fell in love with the shepherd Alteo. He was strong and handsome, and had a passion for flowers. To learn how to win his affection, Amaryllis went to the Oracle of Delphi for advice.
On the Oracle’s orders, she stood in front of Alteo’s house for thirty nights piercing her heart with a golden arrow. On the thirtieth night, a beautiful flower grew from her blood and helped her win Alteo’s love.
The amaryllis commonly means determination, beauty, and love.
- The Victorians associated amaryllis with strength and determination because of their height and sturdiness.
- Amaryllis can also mean success, and are commonly given as gifts of hard-won achievement.
- Amaryllis is a Greek female name that means “to sparkle”.
A modified form of the amaryllis is used as the symbol for Huntington’s disease. The shape of the flower represents the head and upper torso, signifying how Huntington’s disease affects mental and physical functions. The growing flower also represents hope and celebrates the achievements that have been made in Huntington’s disease treatment and research.
Amaryllis Cultural Significance
Alfred Tennyson was one of the most popular Victorian poets. He is known for beautifully depicting nature, as well as the landscapes of the mind. In his poem “The Daisy”, he calls out the beauty of the amaryllis.
What slender campanili grew
By bays, the peacock’s neck in hue;
Where, here and there, on sandy beaches
A milky-bell’d amaryllis blew.
- Amaryllis plants are commonly given as potted plants, and are popular indoor plants because the bulbs can bloom inside. Indoors amaryllis prefer bright, indirect sunlight, while outdoors they prefer partial sunlight or full shade.
- Each plant has 6-10 inch trumpet shaped flowers that grow on on 1-2 food stalks.
- Amaryllis are tropical plants, so they grow best in zones 9-11.
- The larger the amaryllis bulb, the more stalks and blooms it will produce in the first year.
Certain species of Hippeastrum are high in alkaloids, specifically isoquinoline alkaloids. Alkaloids are organic compounds that have physiological effects on humans, so they are beneficial for creating medicines. Hippeastrum alkaloids help with depression, seizures, and anxiety.