Onira, Bot. Leafl. 9. (2): 9-20 (2003)


Pierfelice Ravenna

Abstrac. Datation of a specimen of Brunsvigia rosea in the Clifford Herbarium at BM, revealed that it was pressed around 1794, and not earlier than 1744. As it was argued by several authors, this sheet had supposedly been studies by Lynnaeus during the specimen had been inserted much later than 1737, when this work was published and cannot be considered type of Amaryllis belladonna L. The last argument of those who wanted to hold Hippeastrum falls before this new evidence. At this stage, it is definitely proved that the latter name is a synonym of the New World genus Amaryllis. On the other hand, new species of the genera Amaryllis, and Habranthus (Amaryllidaceae), namely A. buccinata Rav., A. lavrensis Rav., H. amambaicus Rav., H. auratus Rav., H. caaguazuensis Rav., H. calderensis Rav., H. lilaceus Rav., and H. minor Rav., are decribed. In addition, A. guarapuavica Rav., Myostemma bifida (Herb.) Rav., Habranthus teretifolium (C.H Wr.) Tr. & Mold., H. tubispathus (L'Her.) Tr., and Hymeocallis niederlenii Pax. are reported as novelties in the Paraguayan flora. Synonymy of the treated species is revised and completed.


Amaryllis L. is the proper botanical name of a showy neotropical genus. This designation is in accordance with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, and to several relevant works, some of them recent, by Traub (1954, 1970: see pp 46-47), and Tjaden (1979,1981).These authors, especially the latter, contributed whit new evidence that demolished the ficticius and inconsistent positions of Baker (1878,1888). Sealy (1839), Dandy & Fosberg (1954), which concur with Herbert's (1837) arbitrary concept that the name Hippeastrum should prevail for the neotropical species. According to these authors, Linnaeus supposedly applied the binomial Amaryllis belladonna to a South African species which, as would be several, perfectly recognized species. As the reader will see, the matter originated from an ill-intentioned nomenclatural fraude. Sealy's statements are not based on facts but on supposed circumstantial considerations. He ellucubrated on what Linaeus had thought when naming Amaryllis belladonna. Seally failed in stating that the protologue phrase "Amaryllis spatha multiflora corollas campanulatis aequalibus genitalibus declinatis", was used by Linnaeeus for the first time in 1737. He based it including the genus name from pre-Linnean authors. Under nr. 4 of his statements, Sealy remarks that "the seconds species to which Linaeus referred in this note is the one he named A. Belladonna in 1753". But the "second" actually refers to the Guernsey Lily, Nerine sarniensis, as Tjaden (1981) has fully demonstrated, not to Amaryllis belladonna. Actually, Miller (1755), was the first who confused the New World plant for the African now called Brunsvigia rosea; he was followed by L'Heritier (1788). Sealy realized on the existence in the Clifford Herbarium of specimen "immediately recognizable as the Cape belladonna. The specimen bears no name or identification, and therefore (he suitably argued) there is no ground for stating either that it is the basis of Amaryllis belladonna, or that it is the plant which Linnaeus looked in the Clifford Garden, for the specimen may have added to the herbarium after Linnaeus had left Holland." By exposing different mixed viewpoints, Sealy appears as showing equanimity. An expert eye will see, however, that his statement are tendentious and misleading. In his last conclusion (nr. 4) he states: "We may therefore say that the name A. belladonna should be retained for the Cape Belladonna, and the specimen in the Clifford Herbarium may well be accepted as the lectotype." By this he contradicted his previous appraisal (see it in bold types). The presence of this specimen appears therefore as the last heavy argument for maintaining the name Amaryllis belladonna for the African plant.

Dyer's and Dandy's & Fosberg's papers appear superficial and equally misleading as Sealy's. In their last remark, the latter authors state: "The fact that every one agrees that Amaryllis must by typified by A belladonna L, makes it follow that the generic name must by applied to the African, not to the American genus." No comments to this sophism.

The last argument for retaining the name Amaryllis belladonna L for the African plant now called Brunsvigia rosea (Lam.) Hann., falls down before the evidence that this specimen, a scape in flower, was pressed well beyond 1737, the year of publication of Hortus Cliffortianus. In fact, the writer obtained a 3-mm-long piece from the scape base, and sent it to Geochron Laboratories datation company, a division of Krueger Enterprises, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mr. Harry Krueger, Manager, informed that the C14 procedure on the AMS sample, revealed that the specimen was alive on a date between 1744 and 1844, on account of the markered date. Therefore, hardly could Linnaeus had examined this material when he elaborated Hortus Cliffortianus. Who inserted the specimen in the Clifford Herbarium? Who could had special interest in doing that? The reader may judge.

Hippeastrum was declared nomen genericum conservandum against Leopoldia Herb.

This was a trick, since the latter is a nomen ambiguum and nomen provisorium, and therefore invalid. This action does not affect the status of the previous, validly published genus Amaryllis L.


CybeRose note: The blank specimen is remarkably similar to a variety of the Cape Belladonna illustrated in Flore des Serres, iv. t. 1415 (1861) and identified as Amaryllis belladonna var. rubra and Amaryllis mutabilis speciosa purpurea Truff. The latter name was the one listed in Truffaut's catalog.

Charles Truffaut (1818-1895) and his son Albert (1845-1925) were plant breeders who worked with Amaryllises, among other plants. In short, the Blank Specimen in the Clifford Herbarium was a cultivated plant, probably of hybrid origin, raised in the 19th century.