Modified 15 Dec 2004
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L I L I O N A R C I S S O
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By Tobia Aldinus — Lilionarcissus, or Narcissolirion, more appropriately designates this plant than the Tulip. Its flower truly resembles a lily, and its root & leaf are those of a Narcissus. This is the bulb sold as "Narcissus Jacobeus" for its resemblance to the cross of the Knights of St. James [Orden de los Caballeros de Santiago de la Espada, whose insignia was a cross terminating in a sword. RR]. But the flower appears different from Clusius' Narcissus Jacobeus, diligently depicted by Rubino, [In Vallet's Le Jardin du trés Chrestien Henry IV. KK] For this reason, we wanted to show you this image of it. In August, without any leaves preceding it, from the soil grows a scape. When it reaches two palms high, and at its summit the tenuous membranaceous tunic opens, it reveals four flowers buds attached in a square pattern to a thick peduncle; each bud points down. The flower itself expands into six striated (furrowed) petals; it is red but looks like the white lily; inside are six whitish and quite long stamens with little yellow appendages [Anthers. RR]; and in their middle is one stamen [Pistil. RR] longer than the others, reddish and without the little appendage. The flower stays on the plant for more than 20 days. Once the flowers have dried, two or three not very long leaves emerge like those of the Marine Narcissus [Sea Daffodil or Pancratium. KK], or similar to those of the Daylily, but wider, darker green, and more shiny; they last until well into the winter. The plants which do not produce flowers [Too young, I guess. RR] grow leaves in Spring that last until the middle of the following winter. In the garden of the Most Illustrious and Most Noble Lord Tranquillus de Romaulis [There was a street in the Trastevere quarter of Rome called de Romaulis in the 1500's. RR], in which the rarest flowers are grown with the utmost care, it produced five flowers. In the middle of the usual four, another grew upright. I found it very beautiful, and very red, and I didn't want to keep that to myself.


My thanks to Roch Rollin for the corrected translation.

The Hortus Farnesianus (1625), written by Tobia Aldinus and illustrated by Pietro Castelli, contains descriptions of rare plants growing in the garden of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. Several of these plants are American in origin; the author mentions Canada, Mexico, Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Venezuela and Peru. Among the American rarities are the Jerusalem Artichoke, Morning Glory, Castor Bean, Acacia, Amaryllis and Passiflora. The last plant, he informs us, was known to the Spanish as "Flor de las cinco ilagas" (flower of the five wounds). Richard Ligon later knew it as the St. Jago flower.

Castelli was founder of the Messina botanic gardens, while Aldini, a physician, was director of the Hortus Farnesianus. Cardinal Farnese, descended from a Pope and member of a wealty and powerful family, once brought Italy to the brink of civil war.

This "Lilionarcissus rubeus indicus" is clearly an American Amaryllis, though the species may be debated. The "obscurely trilobed" stigma rules out the A. striata group, and may place it with the Amaryllis Belladonna complex. It was a short plant with 2 or 3 or 4 or more flowers, much as Hermann wrote about his "Bella donna". It is similar to the plant depicted by Hill (1758), which Linnaeus referred to Amaryllis Belladonna.

Hamilton P. Traub thought that this might be Amaryllis reginae, but that species, according to Linnaeus, had petals which were not recurved at the base like those of Amaryllis Belladonna. With the possible exception of Sweerts' figure of the bulbs and leaves of an American plant, this is the earliest illustration I've found of Amaryllis Belladonna (L. non auct.) [Note 28 Jan 2001: Vallet's 1608 t. 24 is earlier.]

Barrelier called this plant "Lilio-Narcissus Iacobaeus, phoeniceus, Indicus, polyanthos". Plukenet listed it incorrectly as a synonym for the deep purple Cape Belladonna, and misspelled the name "rubens". He was apparently correcting Morison's error of combining Ferrari's "Saturo" and "Diluto" as a single species.

George Ehret apparently accepted this plant as Linnaeus's Amaryllis spatha multiflora, corollis campanulatis aequalibus, genitalibus declinatis (Belladonna). He then copied Morison's name for the "true" and "false" Donna Bellas, which Plukenet had taken over for the "true" Donna Bella and the Jacobeus of Aldinus. L'Héritier (1788) copied Plukenet's error, as did De Candolle in Redoute's Les Liliacées vol. 3 (1807).

This is the Narcissus Indicus è rubro croceus, flore liliaceo of Ferrari (1633), and agrees in size (leaves two palms long) with a plant from Peru described by Cobo (prior to 1657) in his Historia del Nuevo Mundo.


Lilionarcissus, seù Narcissolirion aptiùs hæc planta, dicetur, quàm Tulipa: flos enim verè lilium emulatur, radix, & folia narcissi sunt. missus est bulbus Narcissi Iacobei nomine, eo quod crucem ensi formem S. Iacobi Equitum representare videretur, sed enatus flos diuersus apparuit, à Iacobeo Narcisso à Clusio, & Rubino diligenter picto, quare huius iconem ostendere voluimus. Augusto nullis præcedentibus folijs è terra scapus prodit quandoq. duorum palmorum altitudine, in cuius summo aperta tenui membranacea tunica quatuor simul quadratè dispositi flores hærent crassiori pediculo, deorsum flore reflexo: flos ipse in sex dehiscit folia striata, & rubra, sed lilij albi facie. intùs stamina subalbida, & longiora sex numero cum luteis apendiculis, in quorum medio vnum est stamen cæteris oblongius, rubens, & sine appendicula. flos vltra, 20. dies perdurat in planta. arefacto flore duo, vel tria emergunt folia Narcisso marino, seù hemerocallidi similia; sed latiora, viridiora, & lucidiora non multùm longa. quæ vsque in hyemem perdurant: plantæ verò floris non feraces folium vnicum emittunt Vere perdurans vsq. ad mediam hyemem insequentem. In horto Clariss. & Nobiliss. viri D. Tranquilli de Romaulis in quo rarissimi flores diligenter coluntur, produxit quinq. flores, inter illos nimirum quatuor alterum erectum, in medio, visui valdè iucundum, & rubicundissimú, quod reticere nolui.