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Amaryllis belladonna sfbg 2.jpg
Amaryllis belladonna
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae

The Amaryllidaceae are a family of herbaceous, perennial and bulbous flowering plants included in the monocot order Asparagales. The family takes its name from the genus Amaryllis, hence the common name of the amaryllis family.


The Amaryllidaceae are mainly terrestrial (rarely aquatic) flowering plants that are herbaceous or succulent geophytes (occasionally epiphytes) that are perennial, with the exception of four species. Most genera grow from bulbs, but a few such as Agapanthus, Clivia and Scadoxus develop from rhizomes.[2]

The leaves are simple rather fleshy and two-ranked with parallel veins. Leaf shape may be linear, oblong, elliptic, lanceolate or filiform. The flowers are typically arranged in umbels at the apex of leafless flowering stems, or scapes. The Agapanthoideae have superior ovaries, as do the Allioideae, the onion subfamily, while the Amaryllidoideae have inferior ovaries. The Allioideae produce allyl sulfide compounds which give them their characteristic smell. [3]


Floral diversity in Amaryllidaceae. A: Crinum, B: Narcissus, C: Sprekelia, D: Agapanthus, E: Allium, F: Tristagma


The history of this family can be traced back to Linnaeus' Hexandria monogynia (1753)[4] although not formally named as such till 1805, by Jean Henri Jaume Saint-Hilaire who used the term 'Amaryllideae',.[5] and then 'Amaryllidaceae' by John Lindley in 1836.[6] The Linnaean grouping contained 51 genera which over the course of time have been variously classified either liliaceous or amaryllidaceous.[4] This uncertainty of circumscription reflected a wider problem with the petaloid monocots in general. over the course of time there have been widely differing views as to the limits of the family, and consequently much of the literature dealing with this family requires careful inspection to determine which sense of the Amaryllidaceae the work treats. At one stage in recent history the Amaryllidaceae were joined together with the Liliaceae (e.g. Cronquist 1988[7] and Thorne 1976[8]) included Amaryllidaceae within broad concepts of Liliaceae.

A wide variety of suprageneric classifications existed within the Amaryllidaceae, for instance Hickey and Clive (1997) describe ten tribes by which the family were divided, such as the Zephyrantheae.[9]

Modern era[edit]

The most recent APG classification (APG III of 2009) takes a broad view of the Amaryllidaceae, which then has three subfamilies, the Agapanthoideae (the old Agapanthaceae family with a single genus), the Allioideae (the old Alliaceae family with around 20 genera) and the Amaryllidoideae (the old Amaryllidaceae family with about sixty genera).[10] With this definition, the family includes about 75 genera and 1600 species.[11]


  1. ^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009), "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161 (2): 105–121, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x, retrieved 2010-12-10 
  2. ^ Dimitri, M. 1987. Enciclopedia Argentina de Agricultura y Jardinería. Tomo I. Descripción de plantas cultivadas. Editorial ACME S.A.C.I., Buenos Aires.
  3. ^ Mary Jane McGary. 2001. Bulbs of North America. Timber Press, pp. 251. ISBN 0-88192-511-X
  4. ^ a b Meerow, Alan W.; Fay, Michael F.; Guy, Charles L.; Zaman, Faridah Q. & Chase, Mark W. (1999). "Systematics of Amaryllidaceae based on cladistic analysis of plastid sequence data". American Journal of Botany 86 (9): 1325–1345. doi:10.2307/2656780. 
  5. ^ Exposition des Familles Naturelles 1: 134. 1805. (Feb-Apr 1805)
  6. ^ Lindley, J. 1836. The vegetable kingdom, 2nd ed. Bradbury and Evans, London.
  7. ^ Cronquist, A. 1988. The evolution and classification of flowering plants, 2d ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.
  8. ^ Thorne, R. F. 1976. A phylogenetic classification of the Angiospermae. Evolutionary Biology 9: 35–106.
  9. ^ Michael Hickey and Clive King. Common Families of Flowering Plants. Cambridge University Press, 1997. ISBN 0521576091. page 177
  10. ^ Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L. & Fay, M.F. (2009), "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161: 132–6, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x 
  11. ^ Stevens, P.F., "Asparagales: Amaryllidaceae", Angiosperm Phylogeny Website