Monday, September 04, 2006

Amaryllis Belladonna (Naked Lady)

Amaryllis Belladonna

Last year I wrote about birthday flowers, the idea that one might associate a particular flower with each day of the year. You can read my newsletter at this link:

My idea came from a floral calendar that I had found, which listed a flower for every day of the year, and which I later identified, thanks to the Internet as Flora’s Dial, written by J Wesley Hanson in 1853

Unfortunately my one dissatisfaction with Flora’s Dial was the flowers didn’t seem to be chosen with any attention to the season. In fact, they seemed to be written down in sporadic gusts of alliteration. As someone who’s been writing about the seasons for years, this offended me. And I thought one way to come up with a more useable calendar would be to invite my readers to submit nominations for birthday flowers, that is a flower that is blooming on your birthday. I got a few nominations, then about six months later I found the French Republican calendar with its very seasonal attributions of plants, and I am slowly working my way through those.

Today the plant of the day on the French Republican calendar is the buckthorn, which sounds interesting, but I’m going to focus on MY birthday flower, the naked lady or amaryllis belladonna, a fragrant flower that comes in pink, red and white and always blooms in Southern California around the time of my birthday. My mother received a bouquet of them after my birth and ever since the sight and scent remind her of that happy occasion. Unfortunately, they do not bloom here in Seattle. And I have not been able to find a photograph of one that is not copyrighted.

This lily is often called a naked lady, because it produces a flower before it has any leaves. The name belladonna means beautiful lady. It’s also called a March lily, I suppose, because in South Africa, which is where it comes from, it blooms in March.
This website
also mentions several other common names including: Jersey Lily in the UK., Bordão de São Jose (St. Joseph's Staff) in Portugal (it does resemble the flower sprouting from the pot next to St Joseph in this picture—however that flower is probably really a hippeastrum which blooms in spring), St Rosalina in Sicily (there is a saint Rosalia whose feast day is on September 4 so this may be a seasonal association), St Rosa or the Madonna Lily in Italy, and Meninas Para Escola in Spain (whatever that means--translation anyone?). The name amaryllis comes from the name of a shepherdess in one of Virgil’s Ecologues, the root word of her name means “sparkling,” according to the Wikipedia entry:

You have to be careful with this flower. The flower most often sold as an amaryllis, often at Christmas time, is the hippeastrum. And on one web site, I found a flower essence that claimed to be a naked lady but was really an autumn crocus.

In the language of the flowers, the Amaryllis stands for pride, a coquette and splendid beauty. I'm not sure which species is meant.

1 comment:

Waverly Fitzgerald said...

I love the way this flower of the day project works. Walking to work today, following my regular route, I was stopped in my tracks by the apparition of an autumn crocus, one of those flowers sometimes called a naked lady. There it was, poking out of the brown ground, no leaves, lovely pink, fragile flowers, and it must have arrived right around my birthday. So maybe I will have to switch my birthday flower to the autumn crocus.