The Red Lily
Amaryllis Belladonna L.
Karl King
Revised 12 Dec 2000

"The most vulgar Eye is struck with the Beauty of this plant, and it very well deserves the Title of Elegant. ... Its proper name is Amaryllis..." — John Hill, Eden: or, a compleat body of gardening (1757)

The story of Amaryllis Belladonna L., from a European perspective, undoubtedly goes back to the 15th century when Columbus and his crew explored the realm of the scarlet Belladonna. A century later Walter Raleigh estimated that there were enough unknown plants in Guyana to fill ten herbals, but neglected to mention the Red Lily specifically. He had other things on his mind.

Vallet 1608
By the 17th century the Red Lily was apparently so well known to New World visitors that it was sometimes mentioned only in passing. Du Tertre (1667) compared it to a pale orange tulip, and drew attention to the whitish center. Rochefort (1658, 1665) also called it orange, but compared it to the Daylily of the same color. Laet and Ligon only mentioned that there were white and red lilies in Brazil and Barbados, respectively. Bernabe Cobo [1580-1657] described three red Amancaes growing in Peru. One was presumably a Sprekelia, the other two Amaryllis. The smaller was called "Chiqui", possibly derived from the Spanish "chiquillo" or "chiquito", both meaning "youngster". This nickname was appropriate for a plant with leaves only one hand long and a finger wide. The other variety was about twice as tall.

Because of the period and the channel through which many New World plants were carried to Europe, even the most unabashedly pagan flowers became associated with religious symbolism. The Red Lilies were thought to be reminiscent of the sword/cross emblem of the St. Jacob Knights, as was the very different Sprekelia formosissima, which Clusius also called Narcissus Jacobeus.

The garden of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese in Rome contained many exotic plants. These were illustrated by Pietro Castelli and described by Tobia Aldinus in Hortus Farnesianus of 1625. Several of the plants originated in the New World, including a Canadian Yucca, Mexican Agave, Morning Glory, Passiflora, Acacia and the Lilionarcissus rubeus indicus or Narcissus Jacobeus. Aldinus wrote:

Hort. Farn.
Lilionarcissus or Narcissolirion more appropriately designates this plant than the Tulip: its flowers are truly lily-shaped, and the root & leaf are those of a Narcissus. This is the bulb named "Narcissus Jacobeus" for its resemblance to the cross of the St. Jacob's Knight, but its flowers have a different appearance than the Narcissus Jacobeus of Clusius, which was beautifully depicted by Rubino in that book. The majestic appearance (of the cross) is not presented until the leaves and cylindrical scape have extended to a length of two palms, at which height the thin, membranaceous tunic opens and the quartet (of buds) becomes disposed in the form of a cross attached to a thick peduncle. The flowers bend downwards: the flowers themselves are divided into six striped petals, & red, but with the aspect of white lilies. Inside there are six long, whitish stamens with yellow anthers, in the middle is one stamen otherwise oblong, red and without appendage. Flowers remain on the plant more than 20 days. Usually two or three flowers emerge from leaves like those of the Sea Daffodil (Pancratium), or similar to the Daylily, but wider, greener and brighter, not very long, that persist until winter: in fact, the plants are not truly productive unless the foliage survives into the middle of the following winter. In the Brightest & Finest garden of Lord Tranquillus of Romaulis where the rarest of flowers receive the very best care, it produced a fifth bloom which was upright in the middle of the other four, giving a most pleasing appearance, deepest scarlet, which I have to mention.






John Parkinson (1629) described a Sprekelia, but mistakenly supposed it to be the plant described by Aldinus. This was the first of a series of English errors that continued into the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. His Narcissus trapezunticus was apparently copied from Sweerts' 1612 figure of Nar Indicus dict, flo. sanguine, which was presumably a Sprekelia.

Soon after, in 1633, Ferrari published his famous Florum Culturum in which he described the Narcissus Jacobeus of Aldinus, which he also called Narcissus Indicus è rubro croceus flore liliaceo and Narcissus Indicus latofolio narcissino, flore rubro, liliaceo. In 1638 the color was simply "rancio", orange. He then described a South African plant with 20 "deep purple" flowers arranged in a radial umbel, and a Cape Belladonna with fewer (8), larger and paler flowers. In the Italian version of this work (1638) he noted that some people called the many-flowered flower "Donna bella". The Cape Belladonna was called "Donna bella falsa" and the "narcissus, flos pudoris", or bashful-flowered Narcissus, because it blushed as though embarassed.

John Rea's Flora (1665) derived some of its descriptions from Ferrari. He wrote "Narcissus latifolius flore Phoeniceo instar Jacobei polianthos. The broad leaved Daffodil, with scarlet flowers, many on one stalk, vulgarly called Jacobea, this is the red Daffodil described by Mr. Parkinson." Again we see the Narcissus jacobeus of Aldinus and Ferrari confused with a Sprekelia.

Robert Morison (1680) wrote that Ferrari had duplicated the plate of his "saturo" for "diluto", leading Morison to suppose that they were only color varieties. Curiously, he reproduced a 7-flowered copy of Ferrari's "diluto", which suggests that it was this plate that was duplicated. The microfilm copy of the 1664 reprint of Ferrari's work I examined has the plates just as they appear in Ferrari's original editions. Perhaps Morison just had a defective copy of the book.

Morison treated the two Donna Bellas as a single species which he named Lilionarcissus Indicus saturato colore purpurascens, illustrated by a copy of Ferrari's "diluto", or "Donna bella falsa". This soon led to more confusion.

I am but just come from Sir Hans Sloane's, where I have beheld many odder things than himself, though none so inconsistent; however, I will not rail, for he has given me some of his trumpery to add to my collection, and till I get a better they shall remain there."
— Duchess of Portland to Mrs Elizabeth Montagu
As a boy, Hans Sloane (1660-1753) suffered a severe illness that lasted three years. By giving up wine and leading a temperate life, he recovered and went to England to study medicine at the Apothecaries' Hall and at their garden at Chelsea. Here he became acquainted with Robert Boyle and John Ray. He went abroad in 1683 to study botany in Paris under Tournefort, and with Magnol in Montpellier. Returning to London in 1684, he gave his collection of rare French specimens to Ray, who included them in his Historia Plantarum published two years later. They remained friends until Ray's death in 1705.

Sloane left England again 19 September 1687, traveling as personal physician to the Duke of Albemarle who had been made Governor of Jamaica. He was sea-sick for the first month. They visited Madeira (21-23 Oct.), Barbados (25 Nov.- 5 Dec.) and St. Kitts (9-11 Dec.) on the way, reaching Jamaica on the 19th of December. These dates are according to the Julian calendar. At that time the discrepancy was 10 days—so the stop in Madeira was 31 Oct-2 Nov by modern reckoning. The Duke took ill shortly after arriving in Jamaica, and died the following year. In March 1689 Sloane accompanied the Duchess back to England, carrying an enormous stock of plant and animal specimens—including 800 specimens of plants, many drawings, a crocodile, a big lizard, and a seven foot yellow snake. The crocodile died, the lizard jumped overboard, and the snake was shot after it escaped from a large earthen water-jar. In 1696 he published his Catalogue of the Flora of Jamaica which included his description of the West Indies Red Lily, Lilio-Narcissus polyanthos, flore incarnato, fundo ex luteo-albiscente. He cited Du Tertre (1667), Hermann (1689) and others as having described the same plant.

In 1707 he published the first volume of Voyage to the Islands Madeira, Barbadoes, Nieves, St Christopher, and Jamaica, with a Natural History of the Herbs and Trees, Four-Footed Beasts, Fishes, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, &c of the last of these Islands. In this work he cited Hermann's figure of the "elegantly scarlet" Lilium Bella Donna of 1698. He also referred to the orange "Lys des Antilles" of Rochefort in both works.

Lilium Americanum puniceo flore Bella Donna dictum
American lily with scarlet flowers, called Bella Donna.

Dr. Paul Hermann's employment as physician to the East Indies Company allowed him to collect many specimens in Africa and the Far East. He was director of the Leyden Botanic Garden from 1679 until his death in 1695. During his directorship the garden was expanded to about 3000 species, partly under the influence of Robert Morison of Oxford. Heated greenhouses were built there between 1680 and 1687 to house exotic and tender plants.

After Hermann's death, the English botanist William Sherard edited the Paradisus Batavus for Hermann's widow, who paid the expenses for its publication. It was dedicated to Henry Compton, Bishop of London, a plant collector and patron of 'botanophiles'. Hans Sloane promoted the book in England. The engravings were based on Hermann's original drawings, which were acquired by Sir Joseph Banks for the British Museum.

Hermann previously listed this plant, without the picture, in his Paradisi Batavi Prodromus of 1689. In that work he also described Ferrari's Donna Bellas (true and false), but took his information from the Latin edition (reprinted at Amsterdam in 1664). Only in the Italian version of 1638 did Ferrari employ the name "Donna Bella" for the South African plants, a fact known to few northern botanists at the time. Hermann's Paradisus Batavus was edited by English botanist William Sherard and dedicated to Henry Compton, Bishop of London. The description of Lilium Bella Donna was:

From a round bulbous root, twice the size of a tulip, covered on the outside with a fulvescent membrane, and provided with some fibers at the base, green leaves are produced, similar in form and substance to those of Narcissus, an inch or inch and a half broad, elongating to 9 inches in length after the flowers fade. The naked scape, produced laterally [from the side], is a foot in height, glabrous, rotund, thicker than a writing reed, becoming more slender [toward the apex], out of whose membranous bivalved sheath are produced the three, four or more flowers, constructed of 6 petals, and developing from narrow fistular oblong buds, elegantly scarlet, the margins and projecting part paler, similar to the flowers of Asphodelus liliaceus [Hemerocallis] but larger, the style and 6 concolorous incurved stamens, crowned with yellow apexes [anthers], occupy the center position.

It comes from the Caribbean Islands, from where it was sent to us; it produced flowers, and then it died down without producing seeds. It is, however, without doubt similar to others in its genus, but to us truly so far unknown.

Hans Sloane promoted Hermann's book in England, and refered his own Lilio-Narcissus; polyanthos, flore incarnato, fundo ex luteo albescente, collected in Barbados, to Hermann's Bella Donna.

Leonard Plukenet listed Lilionarcissus rubens Indicus, Aldini, Hort. Farn. as a synonym for Lilio-Narcissus Indicus saturato colore purpurascens, Moris. Hist. in his Almagestum Botanicum (1696). Perhaps he was misled by the "Indicus", and the fact that the plant was grown in Italy. He mis-spelled rubeus. Plukenet also included Lilium Africanum Narcissinis foliis polyanthos saturo colore purpurascens, H. Leyd. 374 and Narcissus Indicus Liliaceus, saturo colore purpurascens, Fer. Flor. cult. 119.

Plukenet correctly separated these South African plants, but supposed that Ferrari's "saturo" was just another name for the several-flowered Jacobeus. It is difficult to decide which plant Plukenet had in mind, but he created great confusion by copying Morison's phrase-name while rearranging the synonyms. That is, "Lilio-Narcissus Indicus saturato colore purpurascens, Moris. Hist." is not the same as "Lilio-Narcissus Indicus saturato colore purpurascens, (Moris. Hist.) Pluk."

The confusion might have been avoided if the northern botanists had seen Ferrari's Italian edition. In Latin, he described this other Jacobeus as "purpura in crocum languente", which might have been understood to mean that a "purple" flower with a little saffron in the throat was being described. In the Italian edition the color was simply orange (rancio), which would have excluded the other species.

In addition, Plukenet listed Lilio-Narcissus Americanus puniceo flore Bella Donna dictus, which he referred to Hermann's Lilium Americanum puniceo flore Bella Donna dictum. PBP. 348. He did not notice the resemblance of this plant to the one illustrated in Hort. Farn. (1625) which he had confused with the 20-flowered "dark purple" plant described by Ferrari.

Plukenet's errors were later copied by Ehret, L'Héritier and De Candolle, who may not have examined Hort. Farn for themselves since they did not correct the spelling.


Maria Sibylla Merian was born into a family of painters, daughter of Matthäus Merian, and achieved fame of her own by travelling with her daughter to Surinam where she painted tropical butterflies and native plants for her Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (1705). Her Red Lily was cited by Linnaeus, though he complained that she gave almost no description. She carried some bulbs back from Surinam, and mentioned that they had the same plant growing at the garden of Holland — presumably the Leyden Botanical Garden where Hermann had grown them. She identified her plant as that described by Hermann and Sloane. It is extraordinarily unlikely that Linnaeus or anyone else could have confused her vivid orange Red Lily with a Cape Belladonna of any variety.

Barrelier copied Castelli's illustration from Hort. Farn., renaming the plant Lilio-Narcissus Iacobaeus, phoeniceus, Indicus, polyanthos. He died in 1673, but his work was not published until 1714, by A. de Jussieu. The historical value of this work is somewhat diminished because Barrelier's descriptions were destroyed in a fire. The later author added references unknown to Barrelier. For instance, Sloane's Catalogus and History are mentioned though these were published long after Barrelier's death. He also referred to Robert Morison's Plantarum Historia (1680).

Linnaeus cited Barrelier-Jussieu for some species, but did not mention this several flowered Jacobaeus. The editor called our Sprekelia formosissima "La Belladone". Dr Sloane purchased the land occupied by the Chelsea Physick Garden in 1722, and appointed Philip Miller as director. Miller's Gardeners and Florists Dictionary came out two years later, and included three "Narcissus of Japan," but no "Belladonna". In 1731, Miller described the Red Lily of Sloane, two plants called "Belladonna" (Portuguese and Italian), as well as the plant Lamarck would name Amaryllis striata, though it disappeared from later editions of the Dictionary. Miller wrote that Sloane's Red Lily:

is very common in the Barbadoes, St. Christopher's, and the other warm islands of the West Indies; but at present is very rare in England: This sort is much tenderer than either of the former [Italian Belladonna and Atamasco], and will require to be kept in a Hot-bed of Tanners Bark, in order to produce Flowers. The Roots of this Plant may be very easily brought from the West-Indies, if they are taken up immediately after their Leaves decay, and sent over in a Box dry, for if they are planted in Tubs of Earth, they generally rot in their Passage, by receiving too great Quantities of Water.

German born George Ehret worked for George Clifford, providing plates for the Hortus Clifforianus which was being written by Linnaeus. He moved to England, where he married Philip Miller's sister-in-law. He painted the West Indies Red Lily in the early 1740s, labeling it Lilio-Narcissus Indicus saturato colore purpurascens, Moris. Hist. and Amaryllis spatha multiflora, corollis campanulatis aequalibus, genitalibus declinatis Linn. h. Cliff. When we compare Ehret's painting with Castelli's illustration of Lilionarcissus rubeus indicus we can see that Ehret was copying Plukenet's synonymy. As written it is incorrect, but it becomes accurate (if confusing) when we understand that Ehret was using the name in Plukenet's sense.


Further evidence of Plukenet's influence can be found in Ehret's 1744 painting of the Belladonna Lily which is labeled Lilio-narcissus Americanus Belladona dictus, par. bat. Ehret misidentified the plant, and even got the source wrong. Paul Hermann, in his Paradisus Batavus, named the West Indies plant Lilium Americanum...etc. It was Plukenet who changed the name to Lilio-Narcissus. Since Plukenet had already shifted Morison's phrase-name to the Red Lily, Hermann's plant was "obviously" something else: the Belladonna Lily. It is also worth noting that Plukenet referred to Hermann's Paradisi Batavi Prodromus (1689) rather than to the Paradisus Batavus (1698) in which Lilium Bella Donna was illustrated.

The changes in color values of color names is very confusing at times. Purple has been traditionally associated with the Phoenicians, which seems odd when we observe that "phoeniceo" and "puniceo" were routinely used to indicate some shade of orange or orange-red in the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, "purpura" was also used to mean blood-red or scarlet. Purpurascente can be translated as "purplish", but usually referred to some pink or reddish tint. The Atamasco was also described as purpurascente. Incarnato is similarly confusing: the name refers to flesh, but could refer to a blush of pink over a white petal, or to a blood-red or orange-red. In Rumpf's Herbarium Amboinense (1740), editor Jan Burmann discussed Hermann's Belladonna. He followed Rumpf in writing parallel Latin and Dutch text, so we can see that Burmann regarded the Dutch "purpure" to be an appropriate translation of Latin "puniceo" when describing the scarlet Belladonna. At this time (1744), Ehret had not seen Linnaeus for seven years. We can scarcely blame the Swedish botanist for what was going on in England, or for the botanical confusions of Morison, Plukenet and Ehret. Linnaeus's citations for the Red Lily are entirely consistent and interrelated—at least in Hortus Cliffortianus (1738) and Species Plantarum (1753). In 1746 Peter Collinson (friend to Sloane, Ehret, Miller, Benjamin Franklin) sent Jakob Trew "Roots of the Red Mexico Lilie (vulgo). But they are found in all Our Islands and are undoubtedly what Sir Hans Sloane mentions in his History of Jamaica." There was personal and professional discord between Ehret and Miller. In 1748 Ehret wrote to P. Kalm that Miller had helped him "at least in the beginning. Though now and already for several years I have no wish to know him." This seems to cover Ehret's most productive period, when he painted the two misidentified Belladonnas — the scarlet and the pink. In December 1750 Ehret started working as a gardener for Sibthorp at Oxford. Sibthorp prevented Ehret from corresponding with other botanists without his permission, and was otherwise tyranical. Ehret resigned after a year. However, his botanical demonstrations had become so popular that he found steady employment as a teacher of botany and flower painting. He moved his family back to London in 1755. Inexplicably, in 1752 Miller revised his description of the Red Lily to "AMARYLLIS spatha multiflora, foliis ovato-oblongis obtusis. Flor. Leyd. Lily-daffodil with many Flowers in one Cover, and oblong blunt Leaves, commonly called Mexican Lily." This is as wrong as it is surprising, since the description belongs to Brunsvigia orientalis (L) Heist. Perhaps coincidentally, Matthäus Merian, father of Maria Sibylla, engraved a plate of this plant for de Bry's Florilegio of 1641. Heister (1753) wrote ""Ferrarii flos quoque exhibetur a Meriano et Morisono." That is, Ferrari's flower was exhibited by Merian and Morison." If Miller learned of Heister's statement before publishing the Gardeners Dictionary of 1752, the confusion might be explained. Otherwise it remains puzzling. In 1757, Dr John Hill published Eden: or, a compleat body of gardening. Regarding the Crimson Amaryllis he wrote:

The most vulgar Eye is struck with the Beauty of this plant, and it very well deserves the Title of Elegant. The common Authors, Lillium Americanum, and Lilio narcissus Polyanthos. Its proper Name is, Amaryllis spatha multiflora corollis campanulatis aequalibus genitalibus declinatis. Amaryllis, with many Flowers from the Cup, and those equal, and of a campanulated Form, and with the Thread crooked.
    The Root is large, and of a rounded Form; the Leaves are long and flaggy, but of a fresh and very, lively green. The stalk is round, firm, upright, green, and juicy. The Flowers stand at the top, several rising from one point together, out of a common scabbard, and spreading out each way to form an elegant cluster.
    Each Flower is very large, and uncommonly elegant: its Colour is a fleshy Crimson, and in the Centre there is a large Circle of yellow, terminated every Way by a kind of Rays.
    Each separate Flower grows naked to its Footstalk, without a Cup: the Scabbard, at the Top of the main Stalk serving that Office for all.
    The body of the Flower is compos'd of six broad, wav'd, and pointed Petals, rising small and slender from the Base, and spreading elegantly at the Opening. Within stand six long and very conspicuous Filaments, with large Buttons at the top; the filaments droop and bend, and their buttons rise upward. In the center of these stands the Style, a little shorter than the Filaments, bending in the same Manner with them, and parted at the Top into three slender Segments. The Seed-vessel is oval, and contains, in three Cells, numerous moderately large seeds.
    The Student here becomes acquainted with a new Class of the Linnaean System. He sees the Filaments rise free and regular; and he finds their Number six: it is a Number not seen in any of the preceding Plants, and it makes a Class different from any of those to which they belong: this is the sixth of Linnaeus; its Name Hexandria; form'd of two Greek Words, as the preceding, and signifying Plants in whose Flower there are six Male Parts. The Style is single, therefore it belongs to the first Section of that Class, the Monogynia. The Student, from this Example, will learn how to dispose all other Plants, whose Flower has six Threads and a single Style: they are of the hexandrous and monogynous Kind.
    The common Writers distinguish a deep purple Amaryllis, as the Belladonna Lilly, distinct from this which they call Red Lilly; but we write to guard the Student against their Errors. Linnaeus has established this Point in his Species Plantarum, Vol. I. p. 293.
    It is Native of the warmer Parts of America, and its Roots are brought thence in Abundance. Our people complain that they are rarely good; but this is owing to an Error in Management, so very flagrant, that one wonders any, who have either practis'd or read the least of Gardening, could fall into it.
    The Roots are taken up at random, and planted with a foolish Care, in Boxes of damp Mould. Thus they are weaken'd by being removed at a time wrong Time, and they rot with the abundant Moisture.

The plant was definitely American, was being imported in abundance, and was the one Linnaeus had named Amaryllis Belladonna in Species Plantarum (1753). Already Hill was aware of the confusion—or difference of opinion as to which plant "deserved" to be called "Belladonna". This "deep purple" Amaryllis is presumably Morison's Lilionarcissus Indicus saturato colore purpurascens, which included the paler Cape Belladonna with the "true" Donna bella of Ferrari.

In 1758, Hill published a small volume, Outlines of a System of Vegetable Generation with plates of Amaryllis Spatha multiflora, corollis campanulatis aequlibus, genitalibus declinatis—Linn. Sp. 293. In this work he illustrated the fringed nectary at the base of the petals, and described the hollow scape:

This plant is a species of AMARYLLIS; it is distinguished from the rest by the drooping position of the filaments, and is a native of the American islands.Amaryllis Spatha multiflora, corollis campanulatis aequlibus, genitalibus declinatis — Linn. Sp. 293
    The root is a bulb: the stalk is naked and a foot high. The leaves are grassy, but of some breadth; the flower is composed of six petals, and has so many filaments with a single style.
    The stalk is thick, a little flatted, and hollow: a transverse segment of it represents an elliptic ring, with a large aperture.
    In this Nectarium the single course of vessels terminates: and for its use they are plainly ordained by nature.
    When a flower of this plant is perfectly open, if we look steadily into it, we shall see near the base of each petal, between that and the filament, a tuft of feathery matter. There are six of these tufts, and they are the parts here treated of: but the filaments, in every view, hide some of them.
    I am extremely obliged to Mr. Lee, nurseryman at Hammersmith, 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.

In Vegetable System (1774) Hill described Amaryllis reginae:

This is a Perennial, native of Mexico, and of some of the West India Islands; a very noble and elegant Plant: it grows with a firm stem to a foot high, and flowers in August. The stalk is of a grey-green, stained with a deep and dusky brown: the Leaves, which appear afterwards, are of a good strong green: the Flowers numerous and most elegant; they are of a delicate white, with some little tinge of green, especially toward their base; and they are streaked, in a delicate manner, with a fine strong crimson. They resemble the Bella Donna extremely; but there is an absolute and fixed difference: the Petals in this are waved at the edge, and strait at the base; whereas the Petals of the Bella Donna have a bend at the base, and are strait at the edges.
We can see that Hill understood Linnaeus's "nec ad ungues recurvatis" to mean "strait [not bent] at the base". Sealy (1939) mistranslated this as "not recurved into a claw" in his effort to rewrite the history of Amaryllis Belladonna. In fact, "ungues" refers to the "toenail" or base of the petal, a usage which can be traced back to Pliny the Elder who wrote of roses, "foliorum partes quae sunt candidae ungues vocantur." (Plin. Nat. 21. 121.) — "the white parts of the petals are called 'toenails'". Linnaeus attempted to clarify this description in his Mantissa Plantarum (1767) in which he described the outer petals as "intus apice ungue reverso", or recurved from the inside, tip to base. In the same work he described Amaryllis capensis as having "Macula nigricans ad Petalorum ungues", dark markings at the petal bases. Sealy's interpretation of "ad ungues" would make this "dark markings in the shape of claws", which makes as little sense as anything else he wrote in his fanciful paper. Linnaeus cited only Hill's 1758 plates in Mantissa as illustrations of Amaryllis Belladonna. Sealy claimed that Hill's plant was actually Amaryllis reginae, despite the reflexed petals.

Miller t.23

Miller t.24
Miller never accepted that the Cape plant was Hermann's Bella Donna, though the confusing name changes, and the reversed descriptions in the [1755]1760 edition of Figures... certainly gave that impression—which Linnaeus accepted in Species Plantarum 2 (1762). In the 1759 edition of Miller's Gardeners Dictionary we read that Sloane's plant was commonly called "Belladonna lily". Only in the extended discussion can we discover that Sloane's phrase-name was being applied to the Cape Belladonna. Since Linnaeus could not read English, he was possibly unaware of the change, and that his own Hort. Cliff. phrase-name had been carried over to this other Belladonna. Miller did write to Linnaeus in English, assuming there was someone to translate for him. Even so, Miller's descriptions of the rival Belladonnas is so confusing that even an Englishman could have trouble following it without pictures.

In Hortus Kewensis (1789) it was claimed that the plates were misnumbered. The relevant fact is that the plates were numbered, and that Linnaeus referred to them as printed. Even the misplaced reference to Hermann's Belladonna under Amaryllis reginae shows that Linnaeus was taking his information from Miller's Figures... ([1755]-1760). It is important to note that in 1768, Miller cited the plates in his Figures as they were printed, with no mention of the reversal, giving them the same names as Linnaeus did. The fable about Cape Belladonnas in Barbados may not have involved Sloane at all, or only indirectly. Sloane may have mentioned collecting Hermann's Bella Donnas, which Ehret misunderstood to mean Cape Belladonnas—this newer use of the name having been introduced to England by Bradley in 1728. (Bradley also called the plant "Damascus Lilly", a name that never caught on.) Sloane cited Hermann. Ehret thought that Hermann's Lilium Americanum ... was the Pink Belladonna. Therefore, Ehret would have been able to deduce that Sloane had collected Pink Belladonnas in Barbados. Plukenet had separated Ferrari's "diluto" from the "saturo" as a distinct species, so this part of the confusion appears to have originated with Ehret. People sometimes asked Ehret what language he was speaking, and were surprised when he claimed it was English. Sloane was an amiably eccentric host who amused his guests with tall tales. It is not hard to imagine some miscommunication between the two. Years earlier Sloane planned a return trip to Jamaica, and invited Ehret to accompany him. The voyage was never made.

On the other hand, someone who could claim, as Sloane did, to have a straw hat once owned by Pontius Pilate's wife's handmaiden's sister would have been capable of any fancy.

West Indische
rothe Lilie

The Hortus Nitidissimis is frequently regarded as the work of Jakob Trew, but this is incorrect. Trew provided paintings from his collection, but the engravings of the two Belladonnas were the work of Johannes Seligmann, based on Ehret's originals. The text was written by the classical scholar and linguist C. G. Murr, who borrowed freely from Miller's Dictionary. Seligmann died in 1762, and much of Hort. Nitid. was published afterwards. The information was therefore not current when published.

The second edition of Linnaeus's Species Plantarum was published the year Seligmann died. Hortus Nitidissimis is "pre-Linnaean" in the sense that Seligmann did not employ the binomial system, and still used the old "Lilio-narcissus". It is also pre-Species Plantarum 2. Even so, Linné the Younger referred to Hort. Nitid. in his unpublished MS, rather than to his father's Species Plantarum.

The plate of Lilio-narcissus Belladonna in Hort. Nitid. is copied from Ehret's mis-named Lilio-narcissus Americanus Belladona dictus, par. bat." While it is true that Ferrari used the name "Donna bella" for his 20-flowered "Saturo" in the Italian version of his famous Florum Culturum (1738), Linné the Younger's use of the name can be traced through Seligmann, Ehret and Plukenet to Hermann's scarlet Bella Donna. Where Hermann got the name is an open question. He stated that it was called "Bella Donna", which suggests that it was known by that name in the Caribbean islands where it was collected.

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'."
Patrick Browne (1789) reported similarly of the local Hymenocallis: "the root is pretty acrid, and has been sometimes used in poultices by antiquated and pale-faced ladies, to raise a forced bloom in their fading cheeks." It may be that "Belladonna" alluded to this cosmetic use of these plants in the "West Indies". However it came about, by the end of the 17th century the name "Belladonna" had become almost "generic" for the Naked Ladies.

It is also true that "Reginae" was used by Dr James Douglas in 1728 for a form of Red Lily. I have not yet found a copy of Douglas's, so the identity of this plant is still in question. Redoute's Amaryllis regina may be the true Lilium Reginae of Douglas, or something else altogether.

Thanks to the confusion in Miller's publications of 1759 and 1760, which Linnaeus consulted, the name became associated with the written description of "Lilium Reginae", but plates of the Pink Belladonna, and Hermann's "Lilium Americanum". In 1768, Gardeners Dictionary restricted the name Amaryllis reginae to the Cape Belladonna. Lamarck agreed in 1783, but changed the name to rosea. It is clear that Linnaeus took his information from Miller's Gardeners Dictionary (1759) and Figures... (1760). He referred to the plates in Figures... as published, not as they were supposed to have been printed. Plate 23 is the Red Lily, and includes Sloane's and the Hort. Cliff. phrase names, which Linnaeus listed under Amaryllis Belladonna. Plate 24 is a Pink Belladonna identified by Hermann's phrase-name—just as Linnaeus had them in Species Plantarum second edition. It is interesting to note that there would have been confusion even if the text had not been mislabeled. T.23 is labeled AMARYLLIS spatha multiflora, corollis campanulatis aequalibus, marginibus reflexis genitalibus declinatus, which was Miller's usual name for Du Tertre's Red Lily, rather than Lilium Reginae Douglas which was described in the text as "marginibus undulatis". Miller's writing lacked something in clarity.

This Plant is by Sir Hans Sloane intitled, Lilio-Narcissus polyanthos, flore incarnato, fundo ex luteo-albiscente, Cat. Jam. 115. Doctor Tournefort supposed this was the same Plant which Professor Herman has figured in the Paradisus Batavus, under the name Lilium Americanum puniceo flore, Belladonna dictum, and the Red Lily of Du Tertre; but he was mistaken. The next Plate represents Professor Herman's Plant, and the Red Lily of Du Tertre is a Third Species, different from both these.

The Title of Belladonna has been applied in different Countries to this Plant, and also to that mentioned by Sir Hans Sloane; which may have occasioned the Mistake made by Doctor Tournefort; the Plant which is figured in this Plate being so called in Portugal and Italy, whereas the other Sort was sent from America to Holland, by the same Name; but whoever attends to the Description of Herman's Plant, can have no doubt of its being the same which is exhibited in the next Plate.

It is odd that Miller blamed Tournefort for confusing the matter, since Sloane had quoted Hermann and Du Tertre in his own description of the plant he collected in Barbados, and saw planted in Jamaica. Tournefort was one of Sloane's botany professors.

By 1768 the names were settled. The Gardeners Dictionary of that year gave Linnaeus's names in agreement with Species Plantarum 2, though Miller reversed the citations. He admitted that he could not verify the existence of Pink Belladonnas in the West Indies, but continued to report that these were the plants collected by Sloane—even though they do not have the hollow scapes Sloane described. At least Miller put Hermann's phrase-name back with the scarlet Amaryllis Belladonna. John Hill acknowledged Amaryllis Belladonna in his Hortus Kewensis of 1768, but did not describe it in that work. In earlier and later works, however, he described the true Amaryllis Belladonna L. In 1774 he again listed this species, but distinguished a smaller Jamaica Amaryllis which he called A. biflora.

John Dicks, gardener to the Duke of Kingston, published his New Gardener's Dictionary in 1771. He did not employ Linnaean binomials, instead giving the English equivalents of the usual Latin phrase-names. He described the "Amaryllis, with many flowers from the cup, and those equal, and of a campanulated form, commonly called the crimson Amaryllis, and by some writers the American Lily." His descriptions of the Amaryllis species were lightly paraphrased from Hill's Eden (1757).

Johann Müller (John Miller), another German born painter, did some work for Philip Miller (no relation), and for Lord Bute. In 1777 he published his Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus, which was issued in 20 parts from 1775 to 1777. I have not yet seen the 1777 folio edition, but in 1779 he merely commented that the common name for the plant was "Belladonna". He contributed to the 1768 edition of the Gardeners Dictionary and no doubt knew that the common came "Belladonna lily" was assigned in that work to Amaryllis reginae.

The figure of the Cape Belladonna is identified as Amaryllis Belladonna in the edition of 1794, but Müller died about 1790. Whoever edited this later edition adopted the usage of Hort. Kew. (1789). Therefore, Sealy was again being dishonest in claiming that Müller had made the identification.

In 1783 Lamarck, the great French biologist, finally got the matter sorted out completely and without contradictions. He identified his Amaryllis rosea with the A. reginae of Linnaeus, citing Morison, Tournefort, Barrelier and Miller's plate 24. His Amaryllis punicea is properly identified with Linnaeus's A. Belladonna, and he cited Hermann, Merian and Miller's plate 23. He also noted that it was not the "true" Belladonna of the Italians (Ferrari's 20-flowered Saturo).

Lamarck called Lycoris aurea the Yellow African Belladonna.

The problem remains as to just what Linnaeus had in mind for Amaryllis reginae. Apparently he had not seen the plant, and one of the cited plates—Hermann's—is A. Belladonna. Did he suppose that the Lilium Reginae of Douglas was the Cape Belladonna as Miller and Lamarck believed? Or was this plate also cited in error? He made no effort, that I can find, to correct the confusion surrounding Amaryllis reginae in the 1771 edition of Mantissa Plantarum.

Fusée Aublet, in his Histoire des Plantes de la Guiane Françoise (1775) listed both Amaryllis Belladonna and reginae as being found in that country. He quoted the descriptions from Species Plantarum 2 (1762), adding nothing of his own, so it is not clear whether he actually observed both species. Of course, it is also possible that the South African plant had been introduced by that time.

Linnaeus died in 1778, and bequeathed his herbarium to his wife with the stipulation that their son should not get it or have access to its contents "as he never helped me in botany, and has no love for it." The dispute between father and son is not clear, but may have been caused by the younger Linné's desire to join the "splitters". Linné the Younger (Linn. fil.) then left for England where he visited Kew and other gardens. While there he composed a MS which revived the old confusion. He ignored his father's publications as much as possible, and referred his Amaryllis belladonna and A. reginae to Seligmann's Hort. Nitid. rather than to Species Plantarum.

Leaving England, Linné returned to Sweden. His mother had no love for him, and denied him access to his father's library and herbarium. He eventually borrowed enough money from friends to buy his them from his mother and sisters. He reportedly destroyed damaged specimens in the herbarium, which could explain some of the absences. He died soon after, in 1783.

The younger Linné's MS was not published, though it provided some specific diagnoses used in L'Héritier's Sertum Anglicum (1788), Hortus Kewensis (1789) and Willdenow's Species Plantarum fourth edition (1799). He also returned his father's Crinum zeylanicum to the genus Amaryllis where it remained until Herbert moved it back to Crinum in the 19th century. This was Sir Joseph Banks' opinion of the proper placement of these species. The borrowings were not always quite accurate. For instance, the description of Amaryllis miniata (non R & P) was recycled for the very different A. reticulata L'Her.

Linnaeus was a Knight (equest) of the Swedish Royal Order of the Polar Star. Since the Kew gardeners had ignored Linnaeus's usage, giving the trivial name "Belladonna" to the Belladonna lily, the younger Linné renamed his father's Amaryllis "equestris," apparently alluding to the emblem of this order, a cross bearing a five-pointed star. Linné inherited his fathers title, if not his herbarium and library, and so might have been naming the plant for himself.

In 1812 Henry Andrews wrote about the newly introduced Amaryllis brasiliensis "This fine Lily, from the Brazils, can scarcely be thought more than a variety of A. Reginae; to which plant, both this, and the A. equestris of Mr. Curtis, may be referred without much flexion of the original species." Apparently Andrews was referring to a plate published in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, vol. 9, 305. (ca. 1791).

Linn. fil. cited Seligmann's plate of the West Indische rothe Lilie from Hort. Nitid. for his Amaryllis reginae (non L). Seligmann's plate was based on an original by George Ehret, which Ehret had identified as the plant described by Linnaeus in Hort. Cliff. By the mid-19th century, A. reginae had become thoroughly confused with xJohnsoni and other "Johnsonian" Amaryllis hybrids.

The Portuguese naturalist, José Maria Vellozo, studied and drew the plants of Brazil. Among the illustrations in his Florae Flumiensis (1790) is Amaryllis bella-dona, which has the form and hollow scape of the American plant. He thought that a 4-flowered plant should not be regarded as "multiflora", but clearly understood that Linnaeus's A. Belladonna had petals bent at the base, "ungue-reflexis".

Per Löfling, Linnaeus's favorite student, travelled to Spain to instruct the Spanish botanists in Linnaean taxonomy. When Ruiz & Pavón set out to explore Chile and Peru, they were instructed to use the Linnaean system exclusively. In their description of Amaryllis miniata they noted (1794) "Affinis est Amaryllidi belladonae Linnaei", which indicates that they knew Linnaeus's Amaryllis Belladonna to be the American plant. They described the flowers as "incarnata, minii coloris", in agreement with Sloane's "flore incarnato". Ruiz & Pavón accompanied Joseph Dombey, a French traveller and botanist with more experience, whose salary was paid by the French government. When the shipment of plants and dried specimens sent to Spain was lost, the Spanish government confiscated the French portion until an agreement could be reached. Eventually Dombey promised not to publish anything about his trip until Ruiz & Pavón returned, and was allowed to take his collection to France. Dombey entrusted the collection to Comte de Buffon (Lamarck's mentor), who in turn gave the specimens to L'Héritier to describe. When the Spanish government learned of this plan to publish the descriptions, it demanded the collection be returned. L'Héritier hastily packed up the specimens and smuggled them to England. While there he visited Kew and other gardens, which resulted in his Sertum Anglicum or An English Wreath. L'Héritier's Amaryllis Belladonna is a botanical mess. His synonyms include four different species, possibly of as many genera. The Lilionarcissus rubeus Indicus of Aldinus is listed first. He also listed names for the Cape Belladonna, the many-flowered "Belladonnaformos, Italicus" of Barrelier, and even Cornut's Narcissus pumilus indicus polyanthos. He assigned A. reginae to American species—including the one Lamarck had already named A. striata. He cited Mill. ic. t. 23 (American Belladonna) for both species, and noted that A. chilensis was the same color as A. Belladonna and reginae ("A. Belladonnae aut reginae, purpurei"), presumably meaning blood-red or scarlet rather than purple in the modern sense. Sealy (1939) claimed that L'Héritier restricted the name A. Belladonna to the Cape plant, which is completely wrong. He also failed to notice that L'Héritier made it quite clear he was not following Linnaeus's usage. Where L'Héritier accepted a name given by Linnaeus, he indicated it by adding "L." at the end of the name. For example, he listed "Amaryllis formosissima L.", which was the name given by Linnaeus. For Belladonna and reginae, however, he did not append the "L.". Furthermore, L'Héritier must have known the proper Linnaean names because for other plants he referred to Species Plantarum 2 (1762) and Miller's Gardeners Dictionary of 1768. In both works the American Red Lily is called Amaryllis Belladonna, and A. reginae is the name for the Cape Belladonna. These sources are conspicuously absent from L'Héritier's descriptions of Belladonna and reginae. L'Héritier wrote to Dryander (Swedish botanist, bibliographer and librarian for Joseph Banks, and editor of Hort. Kew.) "You quarrel with me pitilessly over the name-changes. It is perhaps a bit too vague to accept always the first name that was printed. One runs the risk of adopting very bad ones, and this is of importance when one recognizes the possibility of giving a good one." — "In general what should the trivial name be in order to be the best possible one? It would be necessary for it to distinguish the species from the others of the same genus, or at least to be applicable only to a single species." L'Héritier rejected the myth of Cape Belladonnas in Barbados, placing Sloane's phrase-name with his Amaryllis reginae.

L'Héritier must have taken part of his information from Plukenet, since he also misspelled Aldinus's "rubeus" as "rubens". If he had checked the sources he quoted, rather than trusting the synonymy of earlier writers, he might not have combined such different plants in a single species.

In 1728, Bradley introduced the name Belladonna to England for the Cape plants, though that name had long been associated with the American plant through the works of Sloane and Hermann. Younger gardeners, less interested in "historical" works, may have been unaware of the earlier usage—or just ignored it. Therefore it would have been reasonable, in the 18th century, to argue on the basis of priority that L'Héritier's names, alluding to those of Ferrari and Douglas, were preferable to those given by Linnaeus. De Candolle (1806) in fact made just this argument.

Confusion, misprints and name-reversals aside, there is no reasonable doubt that Amaryllis Belladonna L. is the American Red Lily, though the name was apparently used in a broader sense than is now allowed. I have not yet been able to locate any writer who applied the Linnaean name Amaryllis Belladonna to the Cape plant before Linné the younger, aside from the use of "Belladonna" as a common name for Amaryllis reginae L.

Augustin De Candolle wrote the description of Amaryllis equestre in Pierre Redoute's Les Liliacées: "This plant has long been confused with Amaryllis belladonna; it indeed appears that this species which we are describing now is the one which should be allotted the nickname 'Belladonna,' which was first assigned to another plant, and which is retained out of respect for the received nomenclature." He knew which plant Linnaeus had named Belladonna, but accepted the erroneous though "traditional" common name. In his description of Amaryllis Belladonna (non L.) (vol. 3), De Candolle blamed the northern botanists (Hermann, Linnaeus, etal.) for introducing confusion by assigning the name "Belladonna" to the wrong plant. Alas, De Candolle followed Plukenet and L'Héritier in supposing that the Lilionarcissus rubeus indicus Hort. Farn. was a Cape Belladonna, and in copying the misspelled "rubens".

"It is to me inconceivable that a genus proposed by one author should be interpreted by others with every original species excluded." — E. D. Merrill: An Interpretation of Rumphius's Herbarium Amboinense (1917).

Since 1954 an unlabeled specimen of a 4-flowered red Cape Belladonna in the Clifford Herbarium has been recognized as the type specimen of Amaryllis Belladonna L. Uphof, Traub, Moldenke, Tjaden and others have disregarded this specimen because there is no reason to connect it to Linnaeus, and because it does not agree with any of the plates cited by Linnaeus, or with his descriptions (petals recurved at the base). Linnaeus saw Clifford for the last time in 1738, but Clifford continued to collect and distribute new plants until his death in 1760.

Contrary to Sealy's claim, there was really very little confusion about which plant Linnaeus described, even in England. Linnaeus's Hort. Cliff. phrase-name was associated with Sloane's. As long as the confusion over which plant Sloane had collected in Barbados persisted, Linnaeus's phrase-name was also misapplied to the Cape Belladonna. If any of the gardeners had bothered to read Sloane's description, which described wide-open flowers and a hollow scape, they could have recognized their error. This illustrates one of the flaws of phrase-names: they were were treated as descriptions, while the actual descriptions were often ignored.

The whole scope of the errors reaches far beyond Amaryllis Belladonna, and is far too complicated to explain here. Plukenet was particularly loose in his identifications, and even managed to confuse a Zephyranthes with Sprekelia, but the errors run from Parkinson (1629) through Rea, Morison, Plukenet, Ehret, P. Miller, L'Héritier, de Candolle, Salisbury, Hort. Kew., and Herbert to Sealy. Significantly, all these writers worked in England, often associated with Kew, particularly from the late 18th century forward.

Botanists of the 18th and 19th centuries from Portugal, Spain, France, Bavaria, Switzerland, Denmark and even England agreed that Linnaeus described the genuine American plant and called it Amaryllis Belladonna. There remains some uncertainty as to the identity of A. reginae L, but Miller (1768) and Lamarck (1783) understood it to be the Cape Belladonna.

In Hort. Cliff. (1738) Linnaeus wrote that all the species of the genus Amaryllis have beautiful, and that the second was without equal. Several were called Bella donna, and he noted that the bella donna of Virgil was named Amaryllis. He further noted that the second species was called Amarella or Amaryllis in gardens.

Tjaden (1979) found that in the list of sources quoted in Hort. Cliff. Linnaeus had written "No. 63 Douglas, James — Lilium sarniense 1725 fol. angl. p. 35 t. 2 — Docte describit Amaryllidem 2dam.", which indicates that at one time Linnaeus had the Guernsey lily as the second species in his list. Tjaden then argued that the high praise for the second species must have been borrowed from earlier writers who had written about the beatiful "gold dusted" Amaryllis sarniensis.

Tjaden was unable to trace the name "Amarella" as being applied to any of the plants described. And while it is true that Bradley, Douglas and Philip Miller agreed that the Guernsey lily was most beautiful, there is no reason to suppose that Linnaeus shared their opinion. Miller had also mentioned the Guernsey Lily in the 1724 Gardeners and Florists Dictionary where he translated Louis Liger's descriptions of the "Narcissuses of Japan". This work was previously translated into English in 1706. Liger did consider the Narcissuses of Japan to be most beautiful of the genus, but he did not have the American plants for comparison. Besides, Miller wrote (1731) that the flowers of Amaryllis striata Lam. "are much more beautiful" than those of the Crinum blooming about the same time (Spring) with no mention of the autumn flowering species.

John Simson painted the American Belladonna in 1729, calling it "Amarilla", which is close enough to "Amarella".

Portuguese "amarella" and Spanish "amarilla" indicate gold as well as yellow. Patrick Browne (History of Jamaica) described the native Amaryllis as "croce", referring to the orange (=saffron) color of the flowers. The Portuguese word amarela refers to a gold coin. If this usage can be traced back to the 18th century, then Amarilla or Amarellas might be construed as "Gold Coin Lily", an appropriate name alluding to the yellow center of the flowers. Whatever its origin, the name was definitely associated with the American plant before Linnaeus, and this species must be regarded as the "type" of the Linnaean genus Amaryllis.