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

The Amaryllidaceae (amaryllids) are a family of herbaceous, mainly perennial and bulbous (rarely rhizomatous) 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 leaves are usually linear, the flowers usually bisexual and symmetrical, arranged in umbels on the stem. The petals and sepals are undifferentiated as tepals, which may be fused at the base into a floral tube. Some also display a corona. Allyl sulfide compounds produce the characteristic odour of the onion subfamily (Allioideae).

The family, which was originally created in 1805, now contains about 1600 species, divided into about 75 genera, 17 tribes and three subfamilies, the Agapanthoideae (agapanthus), Allioideae (onions and chives) and Amaryllidoideae (amaryllis, daffodils, snowdrops). Over time it has seen much reorganisation and at various times was combined together with the related Liliaceae. Since 2009 a very broad view has prevailed based on phylogenetics, and including a number of other former families.

The family are found in tropical to subtropical areas of the world and include many ornamental garden plants and vegetables.


Floral diversity in Amaryllidaceae. A: Crinum, B: Narcissus, C: Sprekelia, D: Agapanthus, E: Allium, F: Tristagma
Rhizome of Agapanthus
Narcissus shoots emerging, with sheathed leaves
Floral morphology
Crinum moorei, showing radial symmetry

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 (underground stems).[2]

The leaves are simple rather fleshy and two-ranked with parallel veins. Leaf shape may be linear, strap like, oblong, elliptic, lanceolate (lance shaped) or filiform (threadlike). The leaves which are either grouped at the base or arranged alternatively on the stem may be sessile or petiolate and possess a meristem.

The flowers, which are hermaphroditic (bisexual), are actinomorphic (radially symmetrical), rarely zygomorphic, pedicellate or sessile, and are typically arranged in umbels at the apex of leafless flowering stems, or scapes and associated with a filiform (thread like) bract. The perianth (perigonium) consists of six undifferentiated tepals arranged in two whorls of three. The tepals are similar in shape and size, and may be free from each other or fused at the base (connate) to form a floral tube (hypanthium). In some genera, such as Narcissus, this may be surmounted by cup or trumpet shaped projection, the corona (paraperigonium or false corolla). This may be reduced to a mere disc in some species.

The position of the ovary varies by subfamily, the Agapanthoideae and Allioideae have superior ovaries, as do the while the Amaryllidoideae have inferior ovaries. There are six stamens arranged in two whorls of three, occasionally more as in Gethyllis (Amaryllidoideae, 9–18).

The fruit is dry and capsule-shaped, or fleshy and berrylike.

The Allioideae produce allyl sulfide compounds which give them their characteristic smell.[3][4]



The history of this family can be traced back to Linnaeus' Hexandria monogynia (1753) which contained 51 genera that have come to be treated as either liliaceous or amaryllidaceaous (see Taxonomy of Liliaceae).[5] From 1763, when Adanson conceived of these genera as 'Liliaceae'[6] they were included in this family. The family was formally named 'Amaryllidées' in 1805, by Jean Henri Jaume Saint-Hilaire[7] (which later became 'Amaryllidaceae' with John Lindley's treatment in 1836[8]). In 1810 Brown proposed that a subgroup of Liliaceae be distinguished on the basis of the position of the ovaries and be referred to as Amaryllaceaceae. Since then seven of Linnaeus' Hexandria monogynia genera have consistently been placed in a taxonomic unit of amaryllids, based on the inferior position of the ovaries. Thus much of what we now consider Amaryllidaceae remained in Liliaceae because the ovary was superior, till 1926 when John Hutchinson transferred them to Amaryllidaceae.

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[9] and Thorne 1976[10]) 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.[11]

Modern era[edit]

The modern era began with the work of Fay and Chase (1996) who developed the broader (sensu lato) concept of the family, utilising the plastid gene rubisco rbcL to demonstrate monophyly across three earlier families (Agapanthaceae, Alliaceae, Amaryllidaceae)[12] and incorporating them into one large Amaryllidaceaefamily, the component families being reduced to subfamilies.[13] The 2009 APG classification (APG III of 2009) formally adopted this broad view of the Amaryllidaceae. The Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (2013 onwards) lists 73 genera and 1605 species,[14] while The Plant List (2013) gives 80 genera and 2,258 species.[15]


The Amaryllidaceae has three subfamilies;[16]

  • Agapanthoideae - previously the Agapanthaceae family with a single genus
  • Allioideae - previously the Alliaceae family with around 20 genera
  • Amaryllidoideae - previously the Amaryllidaceae family with about sixty genera.

These subfamilies are then further divided into tribes and genera as follows (see also Cladogram, below);

Phylogeny of Amaryllidaceae[edit]


Family Amaryllidaceae

Subfamily Agapanthoideae (monogeneric, Agapanthus)

Subfamily Allioideae

Tribe Allieae (monogeneric, Allium)

Tribe Tulbaghieae

Tribes Gilliesieae, Leucocoryneae

Subfamily Amaryllidoideae
Tribe Amaryllideae

Subtribe Amaryllidinae

Subtribe Boophoninae

Subtribe Strumariinae

Subtribe Crininae

Tribe Cyrtantheae

Tribe Haemantheae

Tribe Calostemmateae

Eurasian clade

Tribe Lycorideae

European tribes

Tribe Galantheae

Tribe Pancratieae

Tribe Narcisseae

American clade
Hippeastroid clade

Tribe Griffineae

Tribe Hippeastreae

Subtribe Hippeastrineae

Subtribe Zephyranthinea

Andean clade

Tribe Eustephieae

Tribe Stenomesseae

Tribe Eucharideae

Tribe Clinantheae

Tribe Hymenocallideae


Tropical to subtropical areas of the world.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

The Amaryllidaceae include many ornamental garden plants such as daffodils, snowdrops and snowflake, pot plants such as amaryllis and Clivia, and vegetables, such as onions, chives, leeks and garlic. A number of tropical lily-like plants are also sold, such as the belladonna lily, tuberose (Polianthes), blood lily (Cape tulip), Cornish lily (Nerine), and the Eurasian winter daffodil, Sternbergia.

Their economic importance lies in floriculture for cut flowers and bulbs, and commercial vegetable production.


  1. ^ APG 2009.
  2. ^ Dimitri 1987.
  3. ^ McGary 2001.
  4. ^ Rossi 1990.
  5. ^ Meerow et al. 1999.
  6. ^ Adanson 1763, VIII. Liliaceae. Part II. p. 42.
  7. ^ Jaume Saint-Hilaire 1805, Amaryllidées vol. 1. pp. 134–142.
  8. ^ Lindley, J. 1836. The vegetable kingdom, 2nd ed. Bradbury and Evans, London.
  9. ^ Cronquist, A. 1988. The evolution and classification of flowering plants, 2d ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.
  10. ^ Thorne, R. F. 1976. A phylogenetic classification of the Angiospermae. Evolutionary Biology 9: 35–106.
  11. ^ Michael Hickey and Clive King. Common Families of Flowering Plants. Cambridge University Press, 1997. ISBN 0521576091. page 177
  12. ^ Kamenetsky 2012, p. 25.
  13. ^ Fay & Chase 1996.
  14. ^ Stevens, P.F. (2013), "Asparagales: Amaryllidaceae", Angiosperm Phylogeny Website 
  15. ^ The Plant List 2013.
  16. ^ 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 




Table of 58 families, Part II: Page 1
Table of 1615 genera, Part II: Page 8



APG system[edit]


  • Vigneron, Pascal. "Amaryllidaceae". (in French). Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  • Meerow, A (2009). "Neotropical Amaryllidaceae". Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  • Dutilh, J.H.A. (2009). "Neotropical Alliaceae". Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics. Retrieved 8 January 2015.