Herbertia 1939
Critical Review of Sealy's "Amaryllis and Hippeastrum"
J. C. Th. Uphof


In the Kew Bulletin of Misc. Information No. 2, 1939, there appears an interesting article by J. R. Sealy1 on the nomenclature of Amaryllis and Hippeastrum that is worth reading—not that it alters in any way the case that is discussed—for it is of interest as an example of a certain type of argumentation. Although Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum, 1753, a work that is universally recognized as the beginning of nomenclature of vascular plants, indicated clearly what he considered typical illustrations2 of Amaryllis belladonna, it is attempted in Sealy's article of 19 long pages to make out after enveloping the subject in a web of circumstantial evidence not only that Linnaeus was a slip-shod worker but also that it remained for some one 185 years later to show the world what Linnaeus actually meant to illustrate.

In reading the article it is illuminating to analyze the type of argumentation employed. The reader will remember that a year or so back an attempt was made to erase one of the amaryllids, Habranthus texanus, native to the State of Texas on the alleged ground that the Texas amaryllid was similar to the Argentinian type and is the only Habranthus reported north of the Equator, and that Spanish missions were built in Texas prior to its discovery in that State.3 That there are obvious flaws in the argument is indicated by the facts that the missionaries were not from the Argentine but came out of Mexico, and the amaryllid concerned covers an enormous area in the great State of Texas.4 It is clear that all such arguments based on untenable suppositions, although interesting do not settle anything! This case is mentioned because it is a similar type of argumentation which we are again confronted in the article that is the subject of this review.In the British Museum there is a specimen in the Clifford herbarium that bears no name or identification, and Sealy confesses (p. 51) that "there is no ground for stating either that it is the basis of Amaryllis belladonna, or that it is the plant Linnaeus knew in the Clifford garden for the specimen may have been added to the herbarium after Linnaeus had left Holland." On page 58, this becomes merely "There is a specimen of the Cape Belladonna in the Clifford herbarium, but no specimen of Hippeastrum equestre." Finally, after he has woven his web of circumstantial evidence, on page 60, one is flabbergasted to read "the specimen may actually be the type, but unfortunately this cannot be proved. However, in the absence of evidence to the contrary this specimen may be accepted as the working type." We are sorry to interrupt this fanciful exercise but we must point out that is generally recognized that "no argument can ever be drawn from silence." Alas, in this case history is silent! Since the point he wants to make cannot be proved as he confesses, why not omit it altogether out of due respect for science? The reader should note the shocking transition from downright condemnation of the evidence to final bald acceptance. It should also be borne in mind that the "blank" specimen is one of the pillars on which his dubious structure is built. In the article under review, he presents the above jewel, and also a number of other arguments that will be considered later. He summarizes with the statement, "Taken as a whole, the evidence indicates that Linnaeus knew the Cape Belladonna, that he almost certainly based his Amaryllis belladonna upon it but confused it in the literature relating to Hippeastrum equestre." The reader should note the tell-tale "almost." There apparently was a reasonable doubt in his mind for "almost certainly" means "very nearly," "all but," unless he used it in the sense of "approximately" which is a weasel word. In order to supercede Linnaeus something more substantial is needed than this. He next sets down what he considers as four views concerning Amaryllis belladonna on the basis of the main points he has brought up, and the web of circumstantial evidence in general, and then he makes his choice. The main pillars of his structure are the suppositions that— (a) the Cape Belladonna was a well known garden plant and Hippeastrum equestre was rare, (b) Linnaeus refers to the Cape amaryllid as outstandingly beautiful, an attribute that is scarcely applicable to the American amaryllid, (c) Linnaeus' diagnosis fits the Cape amaryllid better, (d) there is a specimen of the Cape amaryllid in the Clifford herbarium, and (e) in the second edition of Species Plantarum Linnaeus made additions that indicated what he meant. As a result of all this he comes to the conclusion that Amaryllis belladonna must be retained for the South African amaryllid, and the rest of the long paper is an attempt to typify the generic name Amaryllis L. and to find a valid name for Hippeastrum, which even to his view is an invalid name that must yield to Leopoldia, but never-the-less, he ends up by proposing that the name Hippeastrum be conserved in order to save work! Let us now consider the five pillars, and the general web suspended from nowhere that are supposed to support the flimsy structure he pictures: (1) Sealy claims firstly, and naively of all things, that the American amaryllid was rare. There is a treatise by Dr. J. Hill, "Outlines of a System of Vegetable Generation," London, 1758, that has a bearing on this question. The evidence about to be presented is especially valuable since it is brought out incidentally, and this type of evidence is considered by research workers in history as impartial and unbiased. The evidence is devastating as far as some of Sealy's arguments are concerned. As a plant to illustrate his theory, Dr. Hill used not the Cape Belladonna that Sealy claims to have been more plentiful at the time, but none other than the allegedly then rare American amaryllid that Linnaeus was allegedly supposed to be ignorant of. But let Dr. Hill speak.Dr. Hill, on page 11, says,—"I am extremely obliged to Mr. Lee, nurseryman at Hammersmith,5 who, for the space of six weeks, from the middle of February to the end of March, supplied me almost daily with fresh plants in flower for the experiments." The book was published in 1758, only five years after the first edition of Species Plantarum and the plant must have been plentiful for some time, long before 1753, for anyone to have had such a large stock of it in 1758. Thus perishes the fable that it was rare, and out goes Sealy's pillar number one for anyone who has grown the American amaryllid knows the large number of bulbs Mr. Lee must have had in order to deliver almost daily fresh flowers to Dr. Hill over a six weeks period. This shows the danger of jumping at conclusions on the basis of circumstantial and flimsy evidence. (2) Comparisons of the objects of people's enthusiasms are odious. Plant species are representatives of particular lines of evolution and are in the main appreciated as such. What anyone may think as to the beauty of any particular flower is hardly of taxonomic value. It is true that the Cape amaryllid is outstandingly beautiful, and the same may be said of the American plant. An impartial appraisal will show that one is delicately tinted while the other is gorgeously or resplendently beautiful, and both are outstanding. Who would ever dream of creating such an invidious distinction in this case and using it as a main point in deciding a case of nomenclature? Out goes pillar number two. (3) If there are for any of us any uncertainties as to what is meant by the morphological description given by Linnaeus in 1753, we need only to rely on the type illustration cited by Linnaeus rather than any long-winded circumstantial evidence based on untenable suppositions that will never prove anything and that has come to plague us only after the 18th Century. That there was no confusion in 1758, we learn from Dr. Hill, who writes in the work previously cited. "I propose to trace those several parts in a plant, in which they are all large and conspicuous .... this plant is a species of Amaryllis, it is distinguished from the rest by the drooping position of the filaments, and it is native to the American Islands." In a foot-note to this sentence he quotes,—"Amaryllis spatha multiflora, corollis campanulatis aequalibus, genitalibus declinatis. Linn. Sp. 293."This statement is also devastating to Sealy's argument for it shows what a contemporary of Linnaeus who knew the plant intimately considered as the true type. This work of course contains a plate that shows a plant that is identical with the type illustration referred to by Linnaeus. The fact that the scape is two-flowered in this case proves that "spatha multiflora" means "more than one-flowered" as used in this connection, and that the real distinction is based on the declinate gynoecium as pointed out by Dr. Hill in 1758. There were illustrations of the Cape Belladonna available at the time, but Linnaeus did not choose any one of them, and that is the deciding factor. It is of interest to note and remember what was said concerning the typification of Linnean species at the 6th. International Botanical Congress, Amsterdam, 1935. Dr. Mattfeld said that "the important thing was to reach an unambiguous decision, but that it was better that this decision should be in harmony with established custom. In the special case of the treatment of Linnean species, the question was already decided by common usage: for the correct application of the Linnean species names was determined by means of the figures, etc., cited by him, and not by means of the specimens in his herbarium, which were sometimes wrongly determined. This procedure is in accordance with Art. B 54. Furthermore, if Art. B 54 were accepted, it would be necessary to declare as invalid all new combinations associated with wrong identifications...." Dr. Sprague of Kew apparently approved this procedure for it is recorded that "Dr. Sprague referred to the case of Oxalis corniculata and Oxalis stricta in support of what Dr. Mattfeld has said as to the interpretation of Linnean species names by means of citations. Mr. A. J. Wilmott had shown (Jour. Bot. 1915, p. 172) that the names of O. corniculata and O. stricta should be applied in accordance with the citations given by Linnaeus." The reader will be interested to know that Article B 54 was adopted by the overwhelming majority of 217 votes to 40 votes. One can imagine what the verdict would be if the procedure of "blank" specimens, and unlimited circumstantial evidence were presented to the vote of systematic botanists! Such a suggestion would be especially appalling when it is known that in this case there are unmistakeable type-illustrations cited by Linnaeus himself. Here the Sealyan pillar number three crashes.(4) With reference to the "blank" specimen of the Cape amaryllid in the British Museum need anything further be said? Can anyone imagine that Linnaeus used this specimen in such a way that we could today recognize it as the type-specimen, or even a working type-specimen, whatever that may be, when he used such a distinct type-illustration of the American amaryllid? Confusion is impossible for we must give others credit for at least a minimum of intelligence even after they are dead. Pillar number four collapses.

(5) Sealy claims that Linnaeus made additions in the second edition of Species Plantarum and he refers to the illustration of Miller6, fig. 25, which shows a genuine American Belladonna. It should be emphasized that Linnaeus refers to the plate only. It is clear that the Cape amaryllid is not considered by him. Piller number five cannot support the Sealyan structure! C-r-a-s-h goes the entire structure.

We are concerned here with a case involving nomenclature, one which has been well regulated. We put our reliance on a clear statement by Linnaeus in his first edition of Species Plantarum, 1753, a work that is the foundation of our nomenclature of vascular plants, and when he assigned the name Amaryllis belladonna to an American plant he automatically fixed all the other related species under the same generic name. Rules of Nomenclature have not been made in jest, but to stop everlasting word-juggling, hair-splitting and fanciful argumentation. If the rules fail here, other similar problems of nomenclature will come to plague us ad infinitum, and chaos will be the result.

1) Sealy, J. R. Amaryllis and Hippeastrum. Bul. Misc. Inf. Kew. No. 2, 49-68. 1939
2) Uphof, J. C. Th. The History of Nomenclature of Amaryllis Linn. and Hippeastrum Herb. Herbertia. 5:101-109. 1938.
3) Sealy, J. R. Zephyranthes, Pyrolirion, Habranthus and Hippeastrum. Jour. Hort. Soc. 62:195-209. 1937.
4) Flory, Walter S. Cytotaxonomic Notes on the Genus Habranthus. Herbertia. 5:151-153. 1938.
5) On the way from London to Kew
6) Miller, Philip. Figures of the most important, useful and uncommon plants described in The Gardeners Dictionary. Vol. 1, London, 1760.

Herbertia 1946
Linnaeus Confirms Dr. Hill's Identification
of Amaryllis Belladonna Linn.
J. C. Th. Uphof

In 1940 (Critical Review of Sealy's "Amaryllis and Hippeastrum," Herbertia 6 (1939): 163-166. 1940), I referred to Dr. Hill's, "Outlines of a System of Vegetable Generation, London. 1758," a work that was kindly lent to me by Dr. Hamilton P. Traub from his personal library. In this book Dr. Hill described experiments that were based on a plant that he definitely identified as Amaryllis belladonna Linn., by citing Linnaeus' phrase-name for that species, and page reference (p. 293.) to Species Plantarum, 1753. When I stated the case in 1940, I had overlooked a significant piece of evidence furnished by Carolus Linnaeus himself. In the second edition of Species Plantarum, 1763, an Appendix, pp. 1661-1682, consists of Addenda. It is important to note an item on page 1680:

Here Linnaeus definitely cites Dr. Hill's book, thus confirming the latter's identification of Amaryllis belladonna Linn., as the American Belladonna. It is again obvious that this species cannot be at the same time also the South African or Cape Belladonna which is now recognized as Brunsvigia rosea (Lamarck) Hannibal (syn.—Callicore rosea (Lamarck) Link).

One of Dr. Hill's illustrations (t. 1.), cited by Linnaeus, pictures a whole 2-flowered specimen of the American Belladonna. Linnaeus undoubtedly inspected this illustration and again there can be no question that he accepted this as representing the typical Amaryllis belladonna Linn. This also means that the phrase "spatha mutiflora," as used in this connection, implicitly carries the meaning of "more than 1-flowered"; and the phrase "corollis campanulatis aequalibus" is used implicitly in the broad sense to include "lilium-like" flowers.

I am sorry that this reference was overlooked when the earlier articles were prepared, and it is published now so as to amplify the earlier presentations.

Uphof might have saved us all a lot of effort if he had noticed that in Species Plantarum secunda (1762) Linnaeus wrote that Amaryllis reginae "Differt ab A. Belladonna marginibus petalorum undulatis, nec ad ungues recurvatis." That is, the petals of Amaryllis Belladonna are bent at the base.

More confusingly, Lamarck identified his Amaryllis rosea, the Cape Belladonna, as A. reginae L. In this he followed Miller's Gardeners Dictionary of 1768. Miller correctly identified Amaryllis Belladonna as the "Mexican Lily".