Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Amaryllis belladonna L.

A frost-hardy, deciduous, bulbous perennial, the leaves evenly spreading or sub-erect, in a basal cluster, usually narrowly strap-shaped, sometimes broader, tapering towards the end, with a prominent midrib.  Inflorescence a spreading, somewhat one-sided, umbel on an erect scape, appearing before the leaves, the flowers trumpet-shaped, the pedicels shorter than the perianth, elongating when fruiting.  Stout purple or purple-green spathes, often exceeding 60cm tall, bear umbels of 6 or more funnel-shaped, scented flowers in autumn.  It is a highly variable species in the wild, in width and length of leaves, in circumference, colour and height of scape, but particularly in flower colour, which, although usually pink, ranges from white to almost red.  There are several named garden forms.  [RHSE, Hortus, Baker Am.]. 


Horticultural & Botanical History

First published as Amaryllis belladonna by Linnaeus in 1753 [Sp.Pl. p293/1753]. Unfortunately Linnaeus had previously named a South American plant, a species of Hippeastrum as Amaryllis, the cause of controversy and confusion for the next 200 years or more. A number of alternatives names were proposed over the two centuries, hence the large number of synonyms, but an exception to the Principle of Priority has been made for this plant and Amaryllis belladonna is now the accepted name. Confusion does still occur, and as recently as 2006 I visited an orchid nursery, and in talking to the owner learnt that he had begun hybridising Amaryllis, which greatly interested me. However, the seeds he showed me were obviously Hippeastrum.

‘This showy and truly splendid bulb has, I fear, not been treated with the attention which its merits as a late autumn-flowering bulb deserves.  It is true that we may here and there see a few imported plants of it in pots, decorating the greenhouse or conservatory at this season, but they afford but a poor idea of the gorgeous flowers which the lily produces when cultivated out of doors’.  [Gard. Chron. 1849].  In contrast to Britain it is a very common garden plant in Australia. 

Early descriptions of Amaryllis belladonna L. often confuse the type species of Linnaeus, from South Africa, and Hippeastrum species from the Americas, also called Amaryllis by Linnaeus.  One of the earliest coloured figures is in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, and, although the description and figure are of A. belladonna L., much of the text refers to Hippeastrum species.  [BM t.733/1804]. 

The variety pallida, varying from the type only in its paler flowers, is figured in the Botanical Register.  [BR f.714/1823]. 

Flore des Serres figures Amaryllis belladonna rubra, raised by the celebrated Ghent nurseryman Louis van Houtte, with bright pink flowers with a white throat and paler tube.  This variety is particularly hardy in northern Europe and is probably the variety later used in hybridisation experiments with Brunsvigia species in Holland.  [FS f.1415/1859].  A. belladonna purpurascens is also figured.  [FS f.911/1853-54]. 

Introduced to Britain in 1712.  [Baker Am.].  IH pl.228/1859. 


History at Camden Park

An early introduction to Camden Park it was recorded as received per ‘Sovereign’ in February 1831, [MP A2948], but may have been present much earlier.  Listed in all published catalogues [B.35/1843].  Forms of A. belladonna are still present in the gardens in large numbers but most show unmistable signs of hybridity and many are superb examples of x Amarygia parkeri, which see. 



Published Jan 13, 2009 - 05:20 PM | Last updated Jun 20, 2012 - 04:31 PM

The image shows trumpet shaped flowers, pink with paler striations.  Curtis's Botanical Cabinet t.733, 1804.

Amaryllis belladonna L. | BM t.733/1804 | BHL


Family Amaryllidaceae
Region of origin

South Africa

  • Amaryllis rosea Lam.
  • Amaryllis blanda Ker Gawl.
  • Amaryllis longipetala Lem.
  • Amaryllis oblique L.f ex Savage
  • Amaryllis pallida Delile
  • Amaryllis pudica Ker Gawl.
  • Amaryllis regalia Salisb.
  • Belladonna blanda (Ker Gawl.) Sweet
  • Belladonna pallida (Delile) Sweet
  • Belladonna pudica (Ker Gawl.) Sweet
  • Belladonna purpurascens Sweet
  • Brunsvigia major Traub
  • Brunsvigia rosea (Lam.) L.S.Hannibal
  • Callicore rosea (Lam.) Link
  • Coburgia belladonna (L.) Herb. ex Sims
  • Coburgia blanda (Ker Gawl.) Herb. ex Sims
  • Coburgia pallida (Delile) Herb.
  • Coburgia pudica (Ker Gawl.) Herb. ex Sims
  • Coburgia rosea (Lam.) Gouws
  • Imhofia rosea (Lam.) Salisb.
  • Leopoldia belladonna (L.) M.Roem.
  • Zephyranthes pudica (KerGawl.) D.Dietr.


Common Name

Belladonna lily, Naked lady

Name in the Camden Park Record

Amaryllis belladonna 


Confidence level high