The Red Lily
Amaryllis Belladonna (Linn.)
Karl King
Chapter 7
Herbert's Coburghia

Herbert (1819) acknowledged that Linnaeus had not described the Cape Belladonna in Hortus Cliffortianus. Later he changed his mind:

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 referred, when he assigned to it the name of a beautiful woman. To suppose he would have alluded to a bright orange flower would be perfectly absurd. It is therefore quite indisputable that Belladonna is the type of the Linnaean genus Amaryllis, and it would be an idle insult to the memory of Linnaeus to remove it without cause.
Herbert was mistaken. For one thing, the reference would have been to beautiful Italian women, who are not noted for a Nordic complexion. He confused Linnaeus and the younger von Linné, accidentally or not, and claimed that equestris was one of the original species of Amaryllis. In fact, despite the association with Merian's painting of "Lilium rubrum", this A. equestris was based on a white-flowered specimen from Surinam. If it must be included with Merian's plant, the name Amaryllis Belladonna Linn. (1753) has priority. If it is a separate species, Amaryllis equestris possibly cannot be retained because it does not distinguish the white from the red. Unfortunately the name "equestris" reportedly refers to the emblem of the Equestrians, which is inappropriate for a white-flowered plant. Amaryllis 98 dubia was presumably not intended to be a permanent name, so Amaryllis barbata (Herb.) would seem to be both accurate and acceptible.

Linnaeus took the name Belladonna from Hermann (1689, 1698), and no one doubts that Hermann's plant had "orange" flowers. Rochefort (1665) and DuTertre (1667) also described the West Indies flower as "orange". Furthermore, Rochefort regarded "vermeille" (vermilion) as flesh colored (the color of the healthy complexion), which would include "incarnato". Herbert even described the similarly colored Hippeastrum stylosum as "dull orange flesh".

Herbert stated that Amaryllis belladonna must be the type of the Linnaean genus Amaryllis. Since the Cape Belladonna is Amaryllis reginae L., it cannot also be A. Belladonna L. Nor can it be the "type" for the genus since it was added by Linnaeus only in Systema Naturae 10th ed. in 1759.

At one time Herbert separated the Cape Belladonna as a Coburghia, along with some of the Brunsvigia species, including B. josephinae which will cross with it and give fertile offspring. He wanted to abolish the Brunsvigia of Heister (1755) in order to separate some of the species that had been placed in that genus. Actually, he wanted to preserve the genus Brunsvigia without the type-species selected by Heister. Herbert later admitted that his Coburghia was probably not sufficiently distinct from Brunsvigia to outweigh the "general law of priority."

Herbert later rejected his own genus, claiming that Amaryllis Belladonna (1753) referred to the Cape Belladonna, and not to the plant described in Hort. Cliff. This was the historical wedge he needed to cancel Heister's genus of 1755. His ploy was unsuccessful, as few botanists have been willing to transfer Heister's type species back to Amaryllis. This has left the Cape Belladonna, Amaryllis reginae L (1759), as the "True" Amaryllis Belladonna (1753).

Herbert's revision has merit, of course, as it is rather unusual to place cross-fertile species in separate genera. There has been no move to break-up Brunsvigia as he had hoped, so the most sensible course would be to accept Les Hannibal's suggestion to place the Cape Belladonna with its closest relatives. However, as we have seen, the name he suggested, Brunsvigia rosea, is untenable because reginae (L. 1762 sensu Martyn 1768) has priority over rosea (1783). By a charming coincidence, the queenly Brunsvigia reginae would then become sister-species to B. josephinae, which was named for an empress.