January’s Largest Flower — the Amaryllis?

amaryllis

Not a native to our area, and a far cry from being naturalized, the amaryllis, however, finds a place in many Sewanee homes around the holidays. The bloom pictured is a whopping six inches in diameter — and it’s one of twelve blossoms that this one plant bears. Technically, these bulbous plants aren’t amaryllises at all, but they are first cousins — they are categorized in the Hippeastrum genus within the Amaryllis family. Our holiday Hippeastrums are native to South America, whereas the true Amaryllis genus hails from South Africa. But when the great taxonomist Carl Linnaeus was receiving plants from all over the world for naming and classification, it’s not sure which of the genera he first named Amaryllis. Finally — although it may not matter to many! — the International Botanical Congress stepped in in 1987 and decreed that Hippeastrum is the South American genus and Amaryllis the South African.

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