Garden and Forest, April 28, 1897, p. 166-167, 174-176.
The Hippeastrums—Species and Varieties
I began to cultivate Hippeastrums in 1881, and since that time I have added new material from year to year. Although the hybrids are much more striking than the species, I have collected as many of the latter as I could get from dealers and from collectors in tropical America. In many cases I did not succeed in obtaining the true species from their native home. I obtained many species from southern Brazil, British Guiana, Venezuela, Central America and the Lesser Antilles. From the mountains of the Andes, particularly in Peru and Ecuador, where some of the most beautiful species grow, I have as yet been unable to procure material.
All these plants are known popularly as Amaryllis, while in science they are called Hippeastrum. The true scientific term Amaryllis belongs to the Belladonna Lilies of south Africa, which have very similar flowers, but different bulbs, leaves and seeds, the latter being few, large and fleshy, and can be carried away easily by the wind. All the Hippeastrums are strictly American, being found in the tropics from southern Mexico southward to Paraguay and Buenos Ayres. Hippeastrum equestre has been naturalized in southern India and also on several islands of the Indian Ocean, and the true Amaryllis Belladonna (Belladonna Lily) of south Africa has been detected in the island of Jamaica and also on the Andes of Colombia, on the banks of one of the branches of the Rio Cauca, where it was found by Monsieur André, who supposed he had discovered a new species of Hippeastrum. In The Gardeners' Chronicle of 1880 it was described and named after its discoverer, Hippeastrum Andreanum. Only recently it has been ascertained that this is the true Belladonna Lily escaped from cultivation.
It is a singular fact that all the Amaryllis are called Lilies by persons with no knowledge of botanical science. Thus, Johnson's Amaryllis is known in the south as the Red Lily; Hippeastrum equestre as the Barbadoes Lily, etc. But the name of the nymph Amaryllis has been connected with these plants since the days of Linnaeus, and is almost as much a part of the modern languages as Lily, Tulip, Hyacinth or Magnolia. The comparatively unpoetical term Hippeastrum, Knight's Star, will probably never find favor with the general public.
The Amaryllis which is most commonly met with in the gardens of the southern states is the easily managed hybrid Hippeastrum Johnsonii, raised by Mr. Johnson, a watchmaker at Lancashire, England, in 1810, from H. Reginæ and H. vittatum. This was the first species I tried, and I grew it in the open air in Texas, where it soon formed large clumps. Its brilliancy, fine form, delicate fragrance and luxuriant growth led me to other species and hybrids, among which are the following:
Hippeastrum vittatum, from the Andes of Peru. This was introduced into Europe in 1769, and it has become one of the most common as it is among the easiest to grow. Though not of such fine form and brilliancy as most of the hybrids raised from it, it is a beautiful flower. The ground color is white, in the tube greenish, striped, and sometimes veined with crimson. The scape usually bears four delicately fragrant flowers. The common strain of Amaryllis found in most greenhouses originated from this species by crossing it with other species, or in crossing its different hybrids among each other. Far superior to the species is the variety H. vittatum Harrisonianum, sent to Europe from Brazil by William Harrison, the introducer of H. aulicum and many Orchids from the Organ Mountains. The flowers are very large, pure white, with two red stripes. They are of fine form and substance and very fragrant. It was figured in The Botanical Register on plate 988. Some botanists regard this as a probable hybrid between H. vittatum and H. solandriflorum. My bulb, which was received from B. S. Williams & Son, London, does not grow very luxuriantly, although it flowers regularly in the spring.
Hippeastrum equestre, the Barbadoes Amaryllis, Barbadoes Lily, or Orange Lily. This is the type on which the genus Hippeastrum has been based by Herbert. This species is found throughout tropical America from Mexico and the West Indies south to Brazil and Chili. I saw it first in April, 1886, in south Florida, where several hundred flowers were standing close together and produced a wonderfully brilliant effect against a background of tall Pampas Grass. The color of the large open flower is a bright orange-red, with a yellowish white star in the tube. Two to four flowers are usually borne on a scape fifteen to twenty inches high. The strap-shaped leaves, of which six to eight are produced by each bulb, are about eighteen inches long, of a glaucous-green color. As the flowers appear when the plant is in full foliage, the effect is indescribably striking. I have seen clumps consisting of fifty bulbs, almost all of which were flowering. In the greenhouse I have had bulbs of this species from Florida, Barbadoes, St. Vincent, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Venezuela, British Guiana, Honduras, southern Brazil, etc. They vary a good deal in size as well as in the brilliancy of their flowers. Those from St. Vincent, belonging to the variety H. equestre major, are the most easily grown, the most vigorous and brilliant. H. equestre Roezli, gathered by the celebrated collector in the Andes of Bolivia, has a lighter color and smaller flowers. H. equestre pyrrochroum appears to be entirely different, having much stronger roots, more robust leaves and scarlet flowers with a greenish centre. This is by far the easiest grown of all the H. equestre tribe. There is also a semi-double variety with I received from St. Vincent. H. equestre flowers freely for the first year and the leaves grow normally, but when the winter sets in, if it is kept moist, the roots rot and the bulb soon follows, and if kept dry the bulb begins to shrivel and decays in the inside. The few bulbs that may remain sound are only with great pains restored to a healthy condition.
Hippeastrum Reginæ, a native of southern Mexico, Central America, the West Indies and south to Peru and Brazil. This is one of the most beautiful of Amaryllises. Introduced into cultivation in 1728, it was called Lilium Regium by Dr. James Douglas in honor of Carolina, wife of George II. It is a strong plant, with large, massive, dark green glaucous leaves. In their earlier stages the flowers show a deep purplish brown hue. The strong scapes, of which two are usually produced by each bulb at the same time, are four-flowered and from twenty-six to thirty inches high. The flowers are large and of a very brilliant orange-scarlet color. Each segment has a broad white stripe in the centre extending two-thirds of its length from the base. The tube is greenish. It is easily grown, and flowers better in the window than in the greenhouse, and really most Amaryllis do better with amateurs than with florists. This species has been fruitful in the production of hybrids; the first known cross, H. Johnsonii, having been raised from it. It multiplies rapidly by offsets, which cannot be said of many others. There is also a double form known in cultivation as H. Albertii.
Hippeastrum psittacinum, the Parrot Amaryllis of southern Brazil. This was introduced to European gardens in 1814. Although not a showy species, it is interesting on account of its peculiar flowers. It has been frequently used in raising hybrids. One of the most robust Amaryllis now in cultivation, the brilliant Empress of India, was raised by Mr. de Graaf, of Leiden, by crossing this species with the hybrid H. Gravianum. It is a strong-growing species with stout flower-scapes two to three feet high, each bearing from two to four large flowers of a greenish ground color, beautifully veined, penciled and margined with bright crimson. Although of a robust constitution, it is easily lost in the greenhouse if its requirements are not carefully met. If watered thoroughly only a few times in winter when at rest, or if kept in a moist or damp place, it invariably rots. The variety H. psittacinum major has larger flowers than the common form. It produces its flower-scapes before or contemporary with the long strap-shaped leaves. This species, as well as H. vittatum and H. Reginæ, I have obtained true to name and in best flowering condition from Mr. E. H. Krelage, of Haarlem, Holland. I have found that these bulbs which have been thoroughly acclimatized do much better and give more satisfaction than those imported directly from their native country.
Hippeastrum aulicum is an evergreen species of very robust constitution. It was introduced to cultivation from the Organ Mountains of Brazil in 1819. Mr. Harrison, its discoverer, found it abundantly in the rich vegetable mold on shady mountain-sides. The peduncle grows from eighteen to twenty inches high, bearing an umbel of two flowers of a very rich, deep, velvety crimson, appearing as if covered with gold dust; the centre is green and the form of the flowers not good, compared with our modern race of Amaryllis hybrids. The flowers appear invariably late in the autumn or early in winter. From this magnificent species many fine hybrids of special merit have been raised, among which H. Ackermanni pulcherrimum, one of the most glowing, was obtained by crossing it with H. Johnsonii. H. aulicum is easily grown and flowered if care is taken that the leaves are kept green. Water must, therefore, never be entirely withheld, as the plant is evergreen. A more satisfactory and more easily grown form of this noble species is H. aulicum robustum (H. Tettani, H. Rougieri), which was introduced from the German colony, Blumenau, south Brazil, by Dr. Blumenau in 1848. Under the name of Amaryllis Tettani large quantities were sent to Berlin and Erfurt. The foliage is very robust, being densely speckled with minute purplish spots on the underside. The two flowers are of a deep crimson with a green star. The bulbs multiply by offsets, unlike those of the type, which are slow in this respect. The variety H. aulicum platypetalum has broader segments and a larger green star, and another variety, H. aulicum stenopetalum, has narrower segments than the type.
Hippeastrum stylosum, the salmon-colored Amaryllis, from Guiana and the valley of the Amazon, is an interesting species. It bears an umbel of from three to eight flowers of a bright salmon color. Although growing easily in a warm room, it deteriorates rapidly in the moist greenhouse in winter. I received a plant from Mr. Henry Pfister, head gardener of the Executive Mansion, Washington, to whom it had come from the Sandwich Islands under the name of Amaryllis Honoluluensis. Lately I have been informed that this species, together with H. equestre, is common in the gardens of Honolulu. It needs tropical treatment in summer, but in the greenhouse it must be kept in a dry warm place during the winter.
Hippeastrum solandræflorum, the Long-tubed Amaryllis, is another tropical species. It is a native of Venezuela, Guiana, northern Brazil, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica and the Lesser Antilles. G. F. Appun, in his interesting work, Unter den Tropen (vol. i. p. 240), informs us that it is called "Lirio" in Venezuela, and that it grows abundantly on the dry south-western slope of the coast Andes, where it is a great ornament when the rainy season begins. It flourishes in the open, treeless region among the grass. In cultivation its leaves grow to a height of from twenty-six to thirty inches, and the flower-scape is often more than a yard high, crowned with a magnificent umbel of from four to six long-tubed lily-like very fragrant flowers. The color varies very much, some flowers being milky white, others creamy, and still others almost pure white with red veinings and lines; the interior of the tube is green. In congenial soil and in tropical climate the bulb grows to a large size, often five to six inches in diameter. Of the variety H. conspicuum I have received bulbs fifteen and sixteen inches in circumference. Through the kindness of Dr. A. Ernst, of Caracas, I came in possession of bulbs of the variety Striatum. The flowers of this form are exceedingly fragrant, and though more brilliant and conspicuous, their long-tubed shape reminds us of Lilium longiflorum. The color of the blossoms is white, veined with dark crimson. The best of all the varieties is, without doubt, Conspicuum, which was introduced into cultivation in large quantities by Haage & Schmidt, of Erfurt, about fifteen years ago. A good picture of it appeared in Regel's Gartenflora (plates 949 and 956). The very symmetrical flowers, of which six to eight are borne on a strong scape, a meter high, are creamy white with a delicate rosy blush, veined and lined with purplish crimson. It grows vigorously in a warm atmosphere and develops its strong scapes of deliciously scented flowers before the leaves appear. None of these plants are easily kept in good health in the greenhouse. They really need stove temperature all the year round. In winter they must be placed in a warm, dry position in the stove, and should never be watered until the flower-scape has attained a height of three or four inches. In Herbert's time H. solandrifolium was used freely in cross-fertilization, but of late it has been entirely abandoned in this respect. The H. ambiguum, which was sent from Lima, Peru, to the Glasgow Botanic Garden, and described subsequently by Dean Herbert as a new species, has been ascertained to be a cross between this species and H. vittatum.
Hippeastrum reticulatum, the autumn-flowering Amaryllis, I have been unable to obtain. It is said to be indigenous on the shores of Botafoga Bay, near Sao Domingos, Brazil. Its variety Striatifolium is much more abundant and more beautiful than the type. Large specimen plants, consisting of many bulbs, are not rare in collections. The bulbs are small, short-necked, and the leaves, which are of a deep green color, are banded in the centre with a conspicuous creamy white stripe. Although I have had fair success with almost all my Amaryllis, this one I cannot induce to grow or flower, no matter how I treat it. In Missouri, where my plants were kept in a room near the window, it grew without trouble. Nor can I succeed with the robust hybrids raised from it by Mr. B. S. Williams, of London, such as Mrs. Garfield, Mrs. William Lee, George Firth, Comte de Germiny, etc. My bulbs of the first two hybrids deteriorated, and I finally gave them to Mr. Pfister, who succeeded in the course of few years in developing magnificent show specimens of them. All these plants flower in autumn, the scapes bearing umbels of from four to five flowers, varying from a bright rosy color to deep scarlet, conspicuously netted with a deeper red. These plants are evergreen, and water should, therefore, never be withheld entirely. A writer in the Gartenflora recommends that all these species and hybrids should be placed in the stove when making their growth. "In winter, when at rest, they should not be watered at all, except when the leaves begin to shrivel, and they should be kept in a cool house until they begin to push up their young leaves."
Hippeastrum procerum (Amaryllis Rayneri), the Blue Amaryllis, Lily of the Empress, Imperial Amaryllis and Amaryllis Imperatrice, a singular Brazilian plant, departs widely from all other species of the genus, the bulb being large, stem-like, ovoid. The neck stands high above the ground, while all the bulbs of the other species are more or less deeply buried in the soil in their native haunts. The leaves, which hang down on the sides of the bulb, are bright green, edged narrowly with yellowish brown. They are two or three feet long. The flowers are blue. The species is found near Petropolis, from whence it was introduced to France, and flowered first in 1863. Mr. Lietze, the well-known botanical collector at Rio Janeiro, writes me that it grows on the mountain-sides in rather dry and sunny openings. My bulbs never flowered, and always perished after I had them a few years in cultivation. In The Garden (vol. xlv., p. 350) a fine plate was published, and your London correspondent, Mr. W. Watson, gave the following account: "According to Mr. Baker, as many as twelve flowers are produced in a single umbel, each flower being six inches long, but the Kew plants produced five and seven flowers, respectively .... Cultivated in a pot it lives and grows slowly, but does not flower. Planted out in good loam, well drained, in a position where it will get plenty of light all the year round and in an intermediate temperature, it appears to be quite at home. I may add that in the same house and under the same treatment Buphane disticha and Brunsvigia Josephinæ have flowered."
Hippeastrum rutilum, the Fiery Amaryllis, or Orange Lily, is a splendid species, and with its many varieties is one of the most valuable of the entire genus, since it grows easily and flowers profusely. It is a native of southern Brazil, where also the other varieties, varying in color from salmon, saffron, bright yellow and pale pink to a bright scarlet and fiery orange, are found. The typical species is a strong-growing plant with bright crimson flowers with a green keel extending half-way up the segments. The variety H. rutilum fulgidum (Amaryllis Brasiliensis), with bright scarlet flowers, is showier. Other beautiful varieties are H. rutilum equestriforme and H. rutilum subbarbatum, with umbels of brilliant orange-colored flowers, borne on scapes often three feet high. H. rutilum crocatum bears smaller saffron-colored flowers, while those of H. rutilum citrinum are bright yellow. H. rutilum acuminatum (H. pulveralentum) is a variety with pale pink flowers. One of the most strikingly colored varieties, Ignescens, with bright orange-scarlet flowers, has lately been introduced in large quantities by Mr. William Bull, of London. I still have most of these varieties, and all do very well, especially Ignescens. They all grow in southern Brazil in the deep black vegetable soil, and Dean Herbert's collector found H. pulveralentum in such soil with a scape three feet high and the leaves as long, and the variety Equestriforme was discovered by Mr. Herbert growing unperceived in a mass of parasitic plants, Cereus and Pitcairnea, which had been torn off from the face of a rock. In the rage for new plants which marks out time, these beautiful Amaryllis have been nearly forgotten, being at present rarely found in cultivation, though they are much more beautiful and valuable than the majority of plants now offered for sale. It is true they do not offer good material for the commercial florist, being slowly increased and flowering only once in the course of the year, but they are capital plants for the private cultivator and the amateur. This holds true of all the Hippeastrum species and varieties, and especially of the standard hybrids.
Hippeastrum pardinum, Spotted Amaryllis. This unique species is of comparatively recent introduction, having been discovered in the Andes of Peru by Mr. Pearce in 1866, and sent to Messrs. Veitch & Sons, of Chelsea, where it flowered in 1867. It is so beautiful and so unlike anything else in the line of Amaryllis that it created a genuine sensation. The segments are broad, regular, of a creamy white or yellowish-green ground color, densely spotted and flushed with blood-red. The flowers are very short-tubed and the umbel always consists of two flowers. Not being a very strong grower it needs careful treatment. A number of different colored plates of this plant have been published, but the one that appeared in The Botanical Magazine (plate 564 and 565) is a correct representation of the wild species as introduced by Mr. Pearce. A fine form, with exceedingly broad segments of a bright greenish-yellow color, freckled with blood-red, was figured on plate 633 of Flore des Serres. Many very beautiful hybrids have been raised from this species, but most of them are difficult to grow. The types does not seem to be in cultivation at present; at least, all my specimens differ more or less from the plate in The Botanical Magazine. The exact locality where the bulbs were collected in Peru is not known.
Hippeastrum Leopoldii, Leopold's Amaryllis, another noble species, was discovered by Mr. Pearce in the Andes of Peru and flowered by the Messrs. Veitch in 1869. It was correctly figured in plate 475 and 476 of The Floral Magazine, and all other illustrations are incorrect. This is really a glorious species, but I doubt whether the typical form is found to-day in cultivation, and, as in the case of H. pardinum, we are not acquainted with the locality where Mr. Pearce gathered his bulbs. The plant is of a robust constitution, two scapes being usually produced by one bulb, each carrying an umbel of two flowers. They are very large, widely open, short-tubed, with broad well-formed segments, which are white at the tip, bright red in the middle, with a bifid white keel in the lower half of the red, and a large greenish-white throat. The original bulbs have evidently been lost and their progeny differ in many particulars, though their form is the same. All the bulbs which have flowered with me vary more or less in the red color and lack the bifid white keel in the lower half of the red which makes the type so strikingly beautiful. Collectors in Peru should not overlook these two unique species. Since the introduction of H. Leopoldii a new era in Amaryllis hybridization has begun. All the best modern hybrids are of a robust habit and healthy growth, short-tubed, and show very broad segments. The common hybrids of H. vittatum which we find mostly in cultivation cannot compare in beauty with the kinds which have been obtained by using H. Leopoldii in cross-fertilization. The hybrids coming nearest to this species are John Heal and Hendersonii coccinea, but they are, unfortunately, rather difficult and slow in producing offsets.