Amaryllidaceae, The Amaryllis Family

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Formerly a member of the lily family Liliaceae, these plants have a lot in common with that family.

Description

Herbaceous perennial plants are the norm, and they can often allow what’s above the ground to die off each year while their bulb lives on, such as Amarallis spp. Other varieties can have foliage that lives year-round such as Agapanthus spp.

They can be very easy to mix up with members of the lily family Liliaceae due to the parallel leaf venation, and radially symmetric flowers with 6 stamens and 6 tepals.

Often flowers are displayed in an umbel inflorescence that emerges out of a bract. As the buds are breaking through, they almost look a bit like an aroid spathe.

An  Amaryllis hippeastrum  inflorescence opening, enclosed within a bract, which is a modified leaf.    Image source

An Amaryllis hippeastrum inflorescence opening, enclosed within a bract, which is a modified leaf. Image source

Flowers, Fruits & Leaves

Tepals: Just like members of Liliaceae, there are 3 petals and 3 sepals which are usually equal in size and colour.

Reproductive: Bisexual flowers, usually with 6 stamens and 1 pistil.

Fruit: A capsule with multiple seeds per fruit, and dried petals still attached.

Seeds: Can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are recalcitrant, meaning that they germinate once they are obliged to mature regardless of the conditions.

Leaves: Usually juicy instead of fibrous, with parallel venation.

Noteworthy Types

Allium spp. include ornamental plants as well as culinary plants like onion, garlic and shallots.

An ornamental hybrid allium  Allium  'Globemaster'.    Image source

An ornamental hybrid allium Allium 'Globemaster'. Image source

Agapanthus spp. are collectively called agapanthus in Australia, but are also called lily of the nile and African lily elsewhere in the world.

Several  Agapanthus spp.  At the Chelsea Flower Show.    Image source

Several Agapanthus spp. At the Chelsea Flower Show. Image source

There are just two species within the type genus Amaryllis, but some members of the Hippeastrum genus are colloquially called amaryllis.

Amaryllis sp  umbel.    Image source

Amaryllis sp umbel. Image source

Amaryllis hippeastrum  seed pod, looking a lot like a lily.    Image source

Amaryllis hippeastrum seed pod, looking a lot like a lily. Image source

Daffodils Narcissus are a genus of plants that are cultivated for their blooms, and lose their leaves and flowers above the bulb each year as amaryllis does. They have an additional inner whorl of petals called a corona.

A  Narcissus  species with its additional inner whorl of petals.    Image source

A Narcissus species with its additional inner whorl of petals. Image source

Conclusion

Whether or not they keep their leaves all year long, there may be a place in your garden for Amaryllidaceae plants with their bright and beautiful blooms.

If you haven’t already read my articles on plant identification and scientific names, I recommend reading those to get a broader picture of the topic. Alternatively, you can browse some of my other plant families, subfamilies and genera below.

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