Herbertia 1938


J. C. Th. Uphof
Professor of Botany, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida

In the Family, Amaryllidaceae, there are two genera of great interest to us that have been known for over a century as Amaryllis (Linn.) Herb., and Hippeastrum Herb. However, a thorough search of the literature has yielded evidence that makes this nomenclature untenable. During the summer of 1936, I studied in the Library of the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew, and again in 1937, in the Library of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Library of Congress at Washington, D. C. in order to examine the literature on these two genera from the earliest times up to the present in the hope of clearing up any inaccuracies in their nomenclature.

According to Pax and Hoffman1, both genera belong to the sub-family Amaryllidoideae although each one is grouped under a different subtribe. Amaryllis (Linn.) Herb., together with some other genera, is grouped under Amaryllidinae, whereas Hippeastrum Herb., is classed with the Hippeastrinae. Phylogenetically, it is clear that they are at a distance from each other. It is not a question of relationship that is involved, but a matter of incorrect naming of the genera. At the present it is understood that the Genus Amaryllis (Linn.) Herb. is monotypic, namely, A. belladonna (Linn.) Ait. which is found in South Africa. Hippeastrum (Herb.) is composed of about 74 species which are all found in the tropics and subtropics of America, namely from the West Indies to Chile and southern Brazil into a part of Argentina. Many beautiful garden hybrids originated from some of these species in which nurserymen were already interested at the beginning of last Century. Many growers still call them Amaryllis instead of Hippeastrum and apparently they may be right.

The genus Amaryllis can be dated back to Linnaeus' Species Plantarum Ed. Prim.2 Here he mentions 9 species. [See Plate] The great Swedish botanist expressly wished to supersede Tournefort's Lilio-narcissus3 which he rejected as a compound word. These original Linnean species are:

1. A. lutea (=Sternbergia lutea Ker-Gawl. ex. Schult. qq. Syst. VII, 795).
2. A. atamasco (=Atamasco atamasco Herb. App. Bot. Reg. 36),
3. A. formosissima (=Sprekelia formosissima Herb. App. Bot. Reg. 35),
4. A. Belladonna which is the only name, though not the same plant that is left.
5. A. Sarniensis (=Nerine Sarniensis Herb. Amaryllidae 2073),
6 A. zeylanica (=Crinum zeylanicum Linn. Syst. Ed. XII, 236),
7. A. longifolia (=Crinum longifolium Roxb. Hort. Beng. 23 Fl. Ind. II, 130),
8. A. orientalis (=Brunsvigea gigantea Heist. Besereib. Brunsv. 3 cum LC fide Schoet. f. Syst. VII, 844.)
9 A. guttata (=Buphane guttata Herb. Amaryllidae 240).

In the second edition of the work of Linnaeus we find the addition of another species, namely of Amaryllis reginae which later became Hippeastrum reginae Herbert.4

At first our interest will be mainly centered on Amaryllis Belladonna (Ait.). Prior to his Species Plantarum, Linnaeus published his monumental work Hortus Cliffortianus5. Here he describes a plant which we can easily trace as A. equestris Ait. (=Hippeastrum equestre Herb.) and which we will see later on is nothing more than A. Belladonna Ait. Linnaeus states: "Amaryllis spatha multiflora, corollis campanulatis, aequalibus, genitalibus declinatus." This statement he takes exactly over in his Species Plantarum Ed. Prim., where he uses for the first time the scientific system of giving plant species two names. It is to this description that he attaches the name of Amaryllis Belladonna and according to the rules of nomenclature this name is still valid.6 In both works Linnaeus mentions that this A. Belladonna is native to the West Indies and Surinam--"Habitat in Caribaeis, Barbados, Surinama." Clearly he refers Hermann's "Lilium americanum puniceo flore Bella Donna dictum"7 in his Hortus Cliffortianus to this same species. I examined this work of Hermann and found opposite page 194 a very clear illustration of this plant. [See Plate] It is also this very particular description and illustration which is referred to by Aiton8 when he named his Amaryllis equestris which became later on Hippeastrum equestre.

In all the three editions of Species Plantarum, Linnaeus is very clear as to what he understands about the country of origin of his A. Belladonna by citing also the descriptions of other writers. We find namely: "Lilio Narcissus polyanthos, flore incarnato, fundo ex luteo albescente. Sloan. jam. 15, hist. 1 p. 244. Seb. thes. 1 p. 25 t. 17 f. 1. Lilium rubrum Merian Surin. 22 t. 22." Inasmuch as the nomenclature of this plant group is so important I examined in various libraries the original works mentioned by Linnaeus. Sloane is especially concerned about the plants of Jamaica9. Seba10 describes and illustrates in his beautiful large folio work the plant in question in Latin and also in Old-Dutch very clearly as "Leli, uit America, met bruin roode bloemen, Bella-donna geheeten" (meaning: "lily from America with brownish-red flowers, called Bella-donna"). His Plate XVII is very exact and there is no doubt that Seba means the plant later described as A. equestris Ait., which is A. Belladonna Linn. from South America.

Of much value, as we will see later on is the account given by Marie Merian11, Her work contains, to a considerable extent, descriptions and illustrations of insects from Surinam or Dutch Guiana [ed. note: 18th century Surinam was much larger, extending into Ecuador and Brazil.] She mentions also, several plant species. About Amaryllis she writes: "Une bulbe blanche porte ce lys que croit dans la campagne sans etre cultivé, ses feuilles qui sont vertes ont un lustre comme le satin, on eu ignore les qualités, j'en ai apporté quelques bulbes en Holland, ou elles ont porte les fleurs avant les feuilles." ["This lily comes from a white bulb which grows wild in the countryside; its leaves, which are green, have a satiny luster; nobody knows its other characteristics; I brought several bulbs from here to Holland, where they bear blossoms before having their leaves." See Plate]

I should also mention that Linnaeus cites in his Hortus Cliffortianus the work of Plunkenet12 who gives this plant the name of "Lilio-narcissus Americanus punico flore Bella-donna dictus." Thus there is not the slightest doubt from what continent this Bella-donna comes. We find the same description in Linnaeus' Species Plantarum. In this connection it is worth while to mention the book by van Roijen,13 although this writer does not mention the country of origin. We find here mainly an enumeration and some descriptions of plants that were grown in the Botanical Garden of the University of Leiden. Willdenow who later edited the fourth edition of Species Plantarum14 after Linnaeus' death, has made no alterations as to the country of origin of Amaryllis Belladonna Linn. In fact, he adds to the descriptions its German name, namely that of "West Indische Amaryllis" which makes the matter still clearer. Thus far the matter is very clear, namely we have here to do with Amaryllis Belladonna Linn. of American and certainly not from South African origin. On the other hand it should be remembered that Linnaeus' Species Plantarum, Ed. Prim. (1753) forms the foundation for our present nomenclature of plants and this is recognized by every botanist. It should also be mentioned that none of the authors, cited in the works of Linnaeus have ever been doubted as to the correctness of their descriptions.

In 1775 Linnaeus15 published some plants from Surinam or Dutch Guiana. Among these is mentioned an "Amaryllis 98 dubia Mer. surin. t. 22 Corolla basi laciniarum barbatum." This collection of plants was presented to Linnaeus by the King of Sweden. Among these plants were 30 new genera and 50 new species. They were later on fully described in the Supplementum Botanicum of Linnaeus the younger in 1781. Then, still later (1789), this Amaryllis species was described by Aiton16 as Amaryllis equestris. In the same publication he gives the name Amaryllis belladonna to another plant but the habitat is not indicated. Later Herbert followed this up by indicating the habitat as South Africa. However, Pulle17 who is at the present one of the best authorities on the flora of Dutch Guiana mentions but one species of Hippeastrum (=Amaryllis), namely H. equestre. This proves when examining and comparing the older publications critically that A. Belladonna Lin., and A. equestris Ait. are (Hippeastrum equestre Herb.) two names for the same plant.

[Ed. note: in the Mantissa Plantarum, Linnaeus expands the description of A. belladonna and mentions "Petala 3 interiora basi ciliata." Thus the A. 98 dubia with its "Corolla basi laciniarum barbatum" was thought to be possibly distinct from A. belladonna. That is, Amaryllis dubia-equestris is Amaryllis barbata, not Amaryllis belladonna L.]

It is plain, therefore, that the beginning of the misconception regarding Amaryllis belladonna Linn (Type: Caribbean Islands; Barbados; and Surinam: Hermanni, t. opp. p. 170; 1707; Seba, t. 17, 1734; Merian, p22, t. 22, 1705; Linn. Sp. Pl. 1753) dates from 1789 when, in the first edition of Hortus Kewensis, specific rank, Amaryllis equestris, was given to "Amaryllis 98 dubia, mer. surin. t. 22," described by Linn. patr. in 1775 and Linn. fil. in 1781. It is notable, that the country of origin (West Indies and Surinam) of A. belladonna Linn., is omitted in the first edition of Hortus Kewensis, but is restored in the second edition, 1810-13, as "West Indies" in general harmony with Linnaeus' original description in 1753, Species Plantarum, the two succeeding editions, and the fourth edition by Willdenow in 1799.

The publication by Savage, in Herbertia 1937, of a summary of "A manuscript by the Younger Linnaeus dealing with Certain Genera now included in the Amaryllidaceae," roughly dated 1782-83, and that remained unpublished until the recent summary appeared, throws some light on this subject. This manuscript of the Younger Linnaeus was authority for certain specific diagnoses in the first edition of Hortus Kewensis, 1789, including A. equestris (Merian. Surinam. p. 22, t. 22) and A. belladonna (Trew, Seligmann, t. 12). It is clear from reading the summary by Savage that when the second edition of Hortus Kewensis was published, 1810-13, the fourth edition of Species Plantarum by Willdenow, 1799, was used as authority for certain citations in place of the manuscript of the younger Linnaeus. It is natural, therefore, that in this second edition of Hortus Kewensis16, the habitat of A. belladonna Linn., is indicated as "West Indies" in harmony with Willdenow (1799) in spite of the fact that a colored plate of a plant, by an anonymous artist, wrongly labeled "A. belladonna Linn.", had appeared in Curtis' Botanical Magazine in 1804.

Unfortunately, in 1821, the late great William Herbert, who undoubtedly was sincere in wanting to carry out the supposed wishes of Linnaeus patr., disregarded the authority of the first and the three succeeding editions of Species Plantarum, 1753, 1762, 1764, and 1799, and followed the first edition of Hortus Kewensis, instead of the second edition of the latter work, 1810-13, in which the error regarding A. belladonna Linn., based on the unpublished manuscript of the Younger Linnaeus, was corrected.

One of the earliest colored plates labeled "Amaryllis Belladonna (Linn.)" is found in the Curtis Botanical Magazine.18 Here, however, we come to some mix-up as to the origin of this species. Two forms are here described; form (a) "was introduced into this country (namely England) from Portugal in 1712 but where native is yet doubtful. The older botanists call its country India which with them may mean East Indies, South America or even some parts of Africa," as to form (b) we read that it "... comes from the Cape of Good Hope where it was found by Sir Joseph Banks." Judging from the colored plate and from the description this is by no means the plant which Linnaeus had so clearly in mind. It is interesting to note that a few years later Aiton does not mention the country of origin of A. Belladonna in his Hortus Kewensis, first edition. In the second edition which was published in 181119 it is stated that the plant is from the West Indies in accordance with Linnaeus.

Soon afterward came Herbert20 who changed the nomenclature of Amaryllis and Hippeastrum as already indicated. He was correct in separating the American species from the South African one from a morphological standpoint, because there are sufficient reasons to treat them as two different genera, but there was no foundation for the nomenclature that was followed, because Amaryllis Belladonna was based by Linnaeus distinctly on an American species and the name cannot be transferred to another species. Herbert states21: "Many years ago, when in a letter published in the Hort. Soc. Trans. I first distinguished this genus (Hippeastrum) from the plants with which it had been confounded, I retained for it the name Amaryllis, and proposed that of Coburgia 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 learned it, I felt, besides the general law of priority, that the jeu d'esprit of a distinguished botanist 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 "equestre." There is no doubt that the reader will be aware of some inaccurate and doubtful statements.

Let us now look at the problem from another angle and let us trace the various statements found in the literature concerning the South African plant which Herbert erroneously calls A. Belladonna. As early as 1633, the well known Ferrari22 describes a bulbous plant as "Narcissus Indicus, flore Lilaceo, diluto colore purpurascens" together with an excellent illustration on page 121. [See Plate] It is very suggestive that Ferrari may have meant the disputed species from Cape of Good Hope. Let us go somewhat further. Herbert states: "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, and to those lovely tints Linnaeus reffered, when he assigned to it the name of a beautiful woman." We notice that Herbert is quite fanciful in his statements which are not in harmony with those of previous botanical writers, including Barrelius, whom he mentioned. Barrelius23 mentions only "Lilio narcissus indicus diluto purpurescens asceris Belladonna Italiorum vulgatior." [Ed. note: Barrelier also gave "La Belladone" as a name for the deep red Sprekelia.]

Herbert further says "It is equally clear, that this genus Hippeastrum is quite distinct from Amaryllis, and as belonging to a different section of the order, it has no proximate affinity to it." Then on page 275 of his work on the Amaryllidaceae, he described A. Belladonna Linn., as a species from Cape of Good Hope, referring to Linnaeus work, Hortus Cliffortianus, in which the binary nomenclature was not used. And further, the works of Ferrari and Barrelius are not mentioned by Linnaeus. The idealistic and fanciful views of Herbert which have been cited above in order to switch A. Belladonna Linn., from an American to a South African species can not be maintained. Herbert himself who realized that "... the general law of priority, the jeu d'esprit of a distinguished man ought not be superseded" would not have objected to one of our principal rules of nomenclature, namely--"No one may change a name (or combination of names) without serious motives, based either on more profound knowledge of facts or on the necessity of giving up a nomenclature that is contrary to the Rules," and (Recommendation III.) "Changes in nomenclature should be made only after adequate taxonomic study".24

Perhaps we should not overlook the statement of Beaton25, who knew Herbert personally—"When the late Dean of Manchester had split up into fragments the mass of bulbous plants which formerly passed as species of Amaryllis, and divided them into separate genera, which he distributed into different sections of the order, I well remember the discontent and heart-burnings which obtained among out best bulb growers with his arrangement, and these lamentations forced strongly upon the mind the different ideas of utility entertained by botanists and gardeners. The arrangement was certainly not very flattering to those who would let well alone, and yet it was so mysterious to the grumblers that they feared to show their opposition to it in public print."

As far as the plant from Cape of Good Hope is concerned, Amaryllis belladonna (Linn.) Herb., we must find a name for it. Since the date when Herbert proposed to segregate Hippeastrum from Amaryllis in 1821 the name of Callicore rosea Link26 was published in 1829. The species here concerned is Callicore rosea Link, which was described as having reddish-white flowers and native to the Cape (am Cap), and this is identical with A. Belladonna (Linn.) Ait. The genus of Belladonna was soon afterward proposed by Sweet27 and the name of Belladonna purpurescens Sweet is given to A. Belladonna (Linn.) Ait. This Belladonna is homonymous with Belladonna Tournefort, Rupp. Flora Jen. ed. Hall. 252 (1745), the present Atropa Belladonna Linn., which belongs to the Solanaceae or Nightshade Family.

The name Callicore rosea Link., is the only name that can be maintained for this species of the Cape of Good Hope and for which plate 911, in Flore des Serres, is an excellent example.28 As far as the distribution of the species (under the name of Amaryllis Belladonna (Linn.) Ait., is concerned I refer to the works of Thiselton-Dyer29 and of Levyns30.

There is in the Herbarium of The Linnean Society of London no material from Linnaeus for comparison and therefore we have to rely upon the above publications.


(a) Amaryllis belladonna of Linnaeus is an American species and not South African; (b) The plant mentioned by Linnaeus as Amaryllis 98 dubia and which later on was named by Aiton as Amaryllis equestris is Amaryllis belladonna Linn. The latter name, the oldest, is to be maintained, and the former has to be rejected; (c) The generic name Amaryllis founded by Linnaeus in 1753 has to be maintained for the American group of plants, and this Amaryllis belladonna Linn. (syn. Amaryllis equestris Ait.) is the leading species with which all others of the genus have to be compared; (d) The name Hippeastrum suggested by Herbert in 1821, is superfluous and becomes a rejected name; and (e) The Herbertian "Amaryllis belladonna" from the Cape becomes automatically Callicore rosea Link.

Amaryllis belladonna Linn. et Callicore rosea Link

Amaryllis belladonna Linnaeus species americana, non africano-australis est. Amaryllis 98 dubia L. et Amaryllis equestris Aiton revera sunt Amaryllis belladonna L.; quare hoc ultimum nomen omnino conservandum, alia autem nomina rejicienda. Nomen deinde generia a Linnaeo anno 1753 propositum, quoad has plantas americanas, retineri debet et haec Amaryllis belladonna Linn. (syn. Amaryllis equestris Ait.) typica est species cui omnes aliae eiusdem generis species comparantur. Opus non est nomine Hippeastro, sicut a Herbert anno 1821 proposito, ideoque rejiciendum est hoc nomen; atque eo ipso Amaryllis belladonna Herbert, non L. ex cap. bonae spei designari debet Callicore rosea Link.

1) F. Pax und K. Hoffman. Amaryllidaceae in Engler and Pranti. Die Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien. Vol. 15 a: 404-406, Leipzig, 1930.

2) Carolus Linnaeus. Species Plantarum. Tom I: 292-294, Ed. Prim. Homliae, 1753.

3) J. P. Tournefort. Instituniones Rei Herbariae. Tom. I: 385, Pl. 297 Parisiis, 1700 as to the origin of the generic name Amaryllis see also:

Carolus Linnaeus. Generum Plantarum. 102. Lugduni Batavorum. 1737.

Carolus Linnaeus. Critica Botanica. 30 and 118. Lugduni Batavorum. 1737.

Carolus Linnaeus. Philosophia Botanica. 149 and 170. Stockhalmiae. 1751.

On page 170 of the latter work Linnaeus states: "Nomina generica Poetica, Deorum ficta, Regum consecrate, & Promotorum Botanices promerita, retineo." Then under the heading "Poetica in veterum eruditione trita": he mentions among other genera also Amaryllis.

4) Carolus Linnaeus. Species Plantarum. Tom. I: 420-422, Ed. Sec. Holmiae, 1762.

5) Carolus Linnaeus. Hortus Cliffortianus. 135, Amsterdam, 1737.

6) Carolus Linnaeus who wrote his Plantae Africanae 77-112 and Flora Capensis 113-115 in Amoenitates Academicae, Tom. VI. 1789 mentions among the Amaryllis species only A. capensis which was later on referred to as Hypoxis stellata in Linn. fils Suppl.

7) Pauli Hermanni. Paradisus Batavus seu descriptio rariorum plantarum. 194, Lugduni Batavorum (Leiden), 1707. [post humus]

8) William Aiton. Hortus Kewensis. Vol. 1, 417, London. 1789.

9) Hans Sloane. Catalogus Plantarum quae in Insula Jamaica. 115, Londini, 1696.

10) Albertus Seba. Locupletissimi Rerum Naturalium Thesauri. Tom. I: 25, Tab. XVII Amsterdam. 1734.

11) Marie Sybille de Merian. Historie Général des Insectes de Surinam. Tom. I: 22. Tab. XXII, Paris 1772. There is an earlier edition: Dissertatio de Generatione et Metamorphosibus Insectorum Surinamensis. [1705]

12) Leonard Plukenet. Almagestum Botanicum. Tom. II: 220 Londini, 1700.

13) Adriani van Roijen. Florae Leydensis exhibens plantas quae in Horto Academicae. 36 Lugduni Batavorum, 1740.

14) C. W. Willdenow in Carolus Linnaeus' Species Plantarum. Tom. II: 54-55, Ed. Quarte Berolini, 1799.

15) Carolus Linnaeus. Plantae Surinamensis in Amoenitates Academicae. Tom. VII: 254, 175.

16) William Aiton. Hortus Kewensis. Vol. I: 417, London, 1789.

17) A. A. Pulle. An Enumeration of the Vascular Plants known from Surinam. 100-101 Leiden, 1906.

18) Anonymous. Amaryllis Belladonna. Curtis Botanical Magazine. Vol. XIX. Plate 733, 1804.

19) William Aiton. Hortus Kewensis. Sec. Ed. Vol. II: 225, 1811.

20) William Herbert in App. Botanical Register. 31, 1821.

21) William Herbert. Amaryllidaceae. 114-151, London. 1837. See also J. G. Baker. An Enumeration and classification of the Species of Hippeastrum. Journ. Bot. 7:79-85. 1878 and his Handbook of the Amaryllidaceae. London. 1888.

22) Bapt. Ferrarii. Florvm Cvltvra. 117-118, Plate p. 121, Romae, 1633.

23) Jacobo Barreliero. Plantae per Galliam, Hispaniam et Italiam. p. 70. Obser. 787, Ic. 1040, Parisiis, 1714. [post humus]

24) J. Briquet and H. Harms. International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature. 3 Jena, 1935.

25) D. Beaton. On Amaryllids, Jour. Hort. Soc. 5:132-136, 1850.

26) H. F. Link. Handbuch zur Erkennung der Nutzbartsen und am haufigsten vorkommenden Gewachse. 193, Berlin, 1829.

27) Robert Sweet. Hortus Britannicus. 2 ed. 506, London, 1830. See also: C. G. De Della Torre et H. Harms. Genera Siphonogamarum. 74, Lipsiae, 1900-1907. Index Kewensis. Tom. I. 387, Oxoni; 1895.

28) J. E. P(lanchon) Amaryllis Belladonna. Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l'Europe. Plate 911, 1853.

29) W. T. Thiselton-Dyer. Flora Capensis. Vol. VI: 203, London, 1896-1897.

30) M. R. Levyns. A Guide to the Flora of the Cape Peninsula. 73. Cape Town, 1929. N. B. When this manuscript was finished Dr. A. A. Pulle, Professor of Botany at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, who is working on his extensive "Flora of surinam" stated to me in a letter dated Sept. 7th, 1937 "... dat H. equestre de eenige soort van Hippeastrum is, die in suriname is verzameld." (... that H. equestre is the only species of Hippeastrum which has been collected in Surinam.") This statement is very important in relation to the literature of the 18th Century.