Amaryllidaceae
William Herbert, 1837

Reprinted 1970, p 144-145
Many years ago, when, in a letter published in the Hort. Soc. trans. I first distinguished this genus from the plants with which it had been confounded, I retained for it the name Amaryllis, and proposed that of Coburghia for Belladonna and Blanda. I was not then aware that Linnaeus had given the name Amaryllis to Belladonna, with a playful reason assigned; but as soon as I learnt it, I felt, besides the general law of priority, that the jeu d'esprit of a distinguished man ought not to be superseded, and that no continental botanist would submit to the change. I therefore restored the name Amaryllis to Belladonna, and gave that of Hippeastrum or Equestrian star to this genus, following up the idea of Linnaeus when he named one of the original species equestre1. Mr. Sweet has improperly given the name Amaryllis to these bulbs, and made Belladonna a generic name, to which he subjoined a new specific one. This was doubly wrong, for with his view he ought to have adopted the proposed name Coburghia, which has been since applied to another genus. The first institution of the genus Amaryllis was by Linnaeus in Hort. Cliffort. p. 135, published in 1737. The name was given expressly to supersede Tournefort's Lilio-narcissus, which he rejected as a compound word. It so happens that the few species enumerated there by Linnaeus are of different genera, as Sprekelia, Zephyranthes, Nerine and Oporanthus;2 and it was meant to comprise every thing called Lilio-narcissus by Tournefort: but he says that he gives the title in allusion to the name Belladonna, by which several species were known, because Amaryllis was the bella donna of Virgil, and her name was become proverbial for loveliness; and he adds a further conceit, that some of the bulbs were said to be bitter, amarellas. Amaryllis belladonna is not one of the few species defined in that article, because, though he knew of its existence, he had it not to enumerate from the Clifford garden. Mr. Sweet was perhaps misled by knowing that equestre, which is one of the plants described3, was called belladonna by Merian; but Merian only called it another belladonna, with reference to the plant of the Italian gardens, thinking erroneously that it was of the same genus.4 Barrelius had previously, in the year 1714, described the pink and white belladonna, as cultivated by that name in the gardens of Italy, and to the plant of Barrelius both Merian and Linnaeus alluded. It was the exquisite blending of pink and white in the flower, as in the female complexion, that suggested the common name in Italy,5 and to those lovely tints Linnaeus referred, when he assigned to it the name of a beautiful woman.6 To suppose he would have alluded to a bright orange flower would be perfectly absurd.7 It is therefore quite indisputable that Belladonna is the type of the Linnaean genus Amaryllis, and it would be an idle insult to the memory of Linnaeus to remove it without cause.8 1) The younger von Linné assigned the name "Equestris", not Linnaeus. Herbert failed to distinguish father and son, which allowed him to make his startling logical leaps. Furthermore, it is not a great stretch to imagine that the son chose the name as a sly dig at Sir Joseph Banks, who seems not to have known or cared that the elder von Linné was also a knight. If so, then Herbert unwittingly named the genus in honor of Sir Carl.
2) Herbert also tried to split Narcissus into several genera, but that suggestion was sensibly rejected by other botanists. The numerous intergeneric hybrids involving Sprekelia, Habranthus, Hippeastrum, Rhodophiala, Zephyranthes, etc. indicate that, by Herbert's own standard, these could be reunited.
3) Herbert assumed that Amaryllis Belladonna of Species Plantarum is not the same plant described in Hort. Cliff. despite Linnaeus's insistance that it was.
4) Maria Merian did not call her Red Lily "another belladonna. Having just returned from a perilous journey to Surinam, it is doubtful that she was thinking of Italian gardens. And her work of 1705 could not have alluded to a publication of 1714. She and Linnaeus referred to Hermann's scarlet Belladonna from the West Indies. It is interesting to note that there was another painter named Merian, her father Matthäus. The elder Merian engraved a picture of Brunsvigia orientalis (L) Heist., which was mentioned by Heister (1753) in his paper on that genus. He wrote that Merian depicted Ferrari's plant, since Ferrari had also described this Brunsvigia. Philip Miller (1754) apparently misunderstood Heister's meaning, and incorrectly identified the Mexican lily as "AMARYLLIS spatha multiflora, foliis ovato-oblongis obtusis. Flor. Leyd." — the Brunsvigia.
5) Barrelier only wrote Lilio narcissus indicus dilute purpurescens asceris Belladonna Italiorum vulgatior. Ferrari (1638) mentioned that some people called the plant "Donna bella", but said nothing about the female complexion. In the tradition of Rennaisance painters, the names Bella donna or Donna bella are polite euphemisms for Naked lady — alluding to the naked scape.
6) Linnaeus followed Hermann in giving the name "Belladonna" to the plant Hermann described as "elegantly scarlet".
7) Barrelier gave "La Belladone" as a name for Sprekelia formosissima, which proves that he (or A. de Jussieu who published the work) did not regard pink and white as the only color combination suitable for a Beautiful Lady. Lamarck called Lycoris aurea the yellow African Belladonna.
8) Herbert was so anxious to usurp the name Amaryllis belladonna (1753) to undermine the priority of Brunsvigia (later in 1753) that he abandoned his usually meticulous reasoning. He ignores the fact that Linnaeus specifically identified Amaryllis Belladonna as the plant described in Hortus Cliffortianus.
Notes: Ira S. Nelson wrote in the 1955 Herbertia: "The Aymara Indians call the Amaryllis 'horra-ho-ray-chee.' [Jarajorechi] This of course is the phonetic spelling. I was told that before the days of modern cosmetics the Bolivian girls would rub the juice of the bulbs on their cheeks to give them color. For one night their complexion would glow with radiant beauty. In the several days that followed, however, they would have to remain out of sight of their lovers because their cheeks would be drawn, cracked and as rough and ugly as they had been glamorous on the night the juice was applied. One of the older women summed it up by saying 'thank God for Max Factor'."
Supplemental Observations p 409
Hippeastrum Barbatum—This plant was called Amaryllis dubia by Linnaeus (Amoen.), not intending dubia to be its specific name, but because he was in doubt about the plant [It was Alm's name]. It is a remarkable instance of the very vague ideas then entertained of generic characteristics, that, after having referred the plant to Merian's Hippeastrum equestre, from which it is principally distinguished by its white instead of orange limb, he should at last have called it in his herbarium a Crinum, for no other reason than its agreeing with those he knew in colour. The plant has been noticed by no other writer, and has never been brought to Europe.9 9) I question Herbert's belief that Linnaeus would have published a name and description before labeling an herbarium specimen. The pronounced beard pads of Amaryllis dubia as well as the coloring distinguish it from Merian's plant, Amaryllis Belladonna Linn.

Furthermore, the Amaryllis Belladonna of Linnaeus had a trifid stigma. This can be seen in Gessner's plate, and was mentioned by Dicks and Tussac. The capitate stigma of A. barbata was perhaps enough reason to doubt that this specimen was a proper Amaryllis.

Herbert


Gessner