Amaryllis or Hippeastrum?  A question on everyone’s lips at this time of year and below you will find the answer.

A combination of snow, then freezing rain, then real rain, then a cold night has created an unusual lace curtain of ice hanging around the deck canopy that looks like the trim on a wedding dress.  It is quite unsupported apart from its connection to the ice above it on the roof and we are waiting with bated breath fro its collapse but thus far it seems simply to be lengthening steadily.

Also out in the garden, our friend the rabbit is happily hopping in the snow.

Meanwhile, indoors  we are enjoying a glorious Amaryllis (or is it a Hippeastrum?) just coming into bloom – pictures below.  This event give me an opportunity to channel my inner bio-nerd , about which you can read further down the page after the flower photographs.


Ice-lace 2

Ice-lace 3 with drips

Ice -lace 4

Interesting technical problem photographing these icicles – getting the depth of field right is critical

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) partly opened last night

Hippeastrum (Amaryllis) 80% opened

So, let’s have a bio-nerd moment. A couple of centuries ago Linnaeus classified two species of , on the face of it, similar flowering plants – one from South-Africa and one from South-America.  One was put into the genus Amaryllis and one into Hippeastrum.  The flower we have in our house right now, and the flower that you and a million others probably also have is sold as an Amaryllis … but it isn’t.  Back in the 1930’s the botanists of the world realised that nobody knew which was the type-specimen that Linnaeus had studied and after much discussion it was determined that the South American plant is really the Hippeastrum while the South African one is the Amaryllis … all well and good were it not for the fact that the one the florists sell and we grow and enjoy is the South American species and so should be named and sold as a Hippeastrum yet the floral trade resolutely and totally incorrectly have stuck to calling them Amaryllis.  After 70+ years you would think that they might have caught on my now and got it right, but no, too much trouble.  After all, what do these botanical taxonomists know about it?

Does it matter?  Yes it does – to bio-nerds like me anyway.  By being deliberately obtuse the plant breeders and sellers have caused people to be misinformed, and really for no good purpose.  Harrumph.