"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Amaryllis, Mostly Magenta (1 of 2)

Amaryllis, Mostly Magenta (1 of 2)

From “Summer-Flowering Bulbs” in A Garden of One’s Own by Elizabeth Lawrence:

“Instead of agonizing over perennials that will never be at their best in our climate, we should use plant materials adapted to our hot, dry summers. With this in mind I have been experimenting for several years with summer-flowering bulbs. The amaryllis family alone is an almost inexhaustible source for Southern gardens….

“The choice member of this family is the
Amaryllis belladonna (July and August) with its six or eight lavender-pink flowers in an umbel on a two-foot stem. It is perfectly hardy, and has bloomed for me in the poorest soil in both sun and shade….

“The crinums are the showiest of the amaryllis family.”

From Bulbs and Tuberous-Rooted Plants: Their History, Description, Methods of Propagation and Complete Directions for their Successful Culture in the Garden, Dwelling and Greenhouse (1893) by C. L. Allen:

“The name Amaryllis is supposed to have been taken from a famous shepherdess mentioned by Virgil, and distinguished for her beauty.”


Most of the flowers I’ve uploaded for this post (and the next one) I’ve always known by their common name, Swamp Lily (or Swamplily or Swamp-lily, depending on where you read about them). While it’s true that they are known by that name, it turns out — this may be devastating news! — that they’re not lilies. Shocking, I know, and not unlike something I wrote about previously — see Leopard Flower Variations — when I was equally surprised to learn that daylilies are not lilies either.

Swamp lilies of this kind are members of the plant genus Amaryllis, in the plant family Amaryllidaceae, and there’s a pretty good chance that the plants in these nine photos are the Amaryllis belladonna described in Elizabeth Lawrence’s quote at the top of this post. They may also be a variety of Crinum — another genus in Amaryllidaceae — but I couldn’t tell for sure from the photos, and when I went back to Oakland Cemetery’s gardens to get a closer look at the stem and leaf structures (based on the pointers in this video Crinum, Amaryllis, and Lilies: How to tell the Difference Between Them), the plants had, uh, gone on vacation. In any case, I now check Wikipedia’s List of plants known as lily page whenever I see “lily” in a plant’s name. The page probably should be called “List of plants you think are lilies but really aren’t” — and if you look there you’ll see two kinds of amaryllis listed, both commonly misnomered.

I took these photos the morning after a night full of thunderstorms, so most of the flowers were still weighed down with raindrops, as you can see from the pictures. I thought about trying to dry them off a little (though I hesitate to interfere with nature, you know), but then realized that the flowers hung more gracefully on their stems from the weight of water and — as a rare occurrence in the southeast — there was no pollen dust all over the petals and leaves because it had been washed away. Fresh and clean, they all glowed a little — in a range of magenta and purple colors (according to Lightroom) and some green, yellow, and orange among the leaves and the remains of desiccated flowers.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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