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Amaryllis belladonna sfbg 2.jpg
Amaryllis belladonna
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
J.St.-Hil. nom. cons.[1][2]
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).[3]

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.[4][5]




The name Amaryllis had been applied to a number of plants over the course of history. When Linnaeus formerly described the genus Amaryllis in his Species Plantarum in 1753,[6] there were nine species with this name. He placed Amaryllis in a grouping he referred to as Hexandria monogynia (i.e. six stamens and one pistil)[7] containing 51 genera in all.[8]

The history of the Amaryllidaceae family can be traced back to the Hexandria monogynia that have come to be treated as either liliaceous or amaryllidaceaous (see Taxonomy of Liliaceae) over time.[9] From 1763, when Adanson conceived of these genera as 'Liliaceae'[10] they were included in this family, placing Amaryllis in Section VII, Narcissi.[11] With de Jussieu's formal establishment of families (Ordo) in 1789, Amaryllis was one of sixteen genera in Ordo VII, Narcisse (Narcissi), of the third class (Stamina epigyna) of Monocots.[12]

The Amaryllidaceae family was formally named as 'Amaryllidées' (Amaryllideae) in 1805, by Jean Henri Jaume Saint-Hilaire.[13] 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 Amaryllideae[14] and in 1813 de Candolle described Liliacées Juss. and Amaryllidées Brown as two quite separate families.[15] Since then seven of Linnaeus' Hexandria monogynia genera have consistently been placed in a common taxonomic unit of amaryllids, based on the inferior position of the ovaries (whether this be as an order, suborder, family, subfamily, tribe or section).[16] 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.[17] This usage of the family entered the English language literature through the work of Samuel Frederick Gray (1821),[18] William Herbert (1837)[19] and John Lindley (1830,[20] 1846[21]). Meanwhile Lindley had described two Chilean genera which for which he created a new family, Gilliesieae.[22]

The number of known genera within these families continued to grow, and by the time of the Bentham and Hooker classification (1883) the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllideae) were divided into four tribes, of which only one (Amarylleae) is still included.[23] The Liliaceae[24] were becoming one of the largest families, and Bentham and Hooker divided it into 20 tribes, of which one was the Allieae,[25] which as Allioideae would eventually become part of Amaryllidaceae as two of its three subfamilies. The Allieae included both Agapantheae,[26] the third of the current subfamilies, and Lindley's Gilliesieae[27] as two of its four subtribes.[28]

The family were treated similarly in the German language literature, for instance Engler's classification. In Engler's system (1903) Allieae and Gilliesiae are both considered tribes of subfamily Allioideae, within Liliaceae.[29]

Modern era[edit]

The early twentieth century was marked by increasing doubts about the placement of the alliaceous genera within Liliaceae. Lotsy was the first taxonomist to propose separating them, and in his system he describes Agapanthaceae, Alliaceae and Gilliesiaceae as new and separate families from Liliaceae.[30] This approach was adopted by a number of other authorities, such as Dahlgren (1985)[31] and Rahn (1998).[32]

Another approach was that of John Hutchinson (1926), who performed the first major recircumscription of the family in over a century. He doubted that Brown's dictum that the position of the ovary was the distinguishing feature that separated Amaryllidaceae and Liliaceae. He believed that the characterising feature of the family was rather "an umbellate inflorescence subtended by an involucre of one or more spathaceous bracts".[17] His work on this has been upheld by subsequent research and his definition remains valid today.[33] Using this criterion, he removed a number of taxa (Agavaceae, Hypoxidaceae, Alstroemeriaceae) and transferred the Agapantheae, Allieae and Gilliesieae from Liliaceae to Amaryllidaceae.[17]

Other writers proposed reuniting Amaryllidaceae with Liliaceae. Thorne (1976)[34] and Cronquist (1988)[35] both included Amaryllidaceae within a broad concept of Liliaceae[16] (although Thorne would later separate them again, but keep Alliaceae as a third family).[36] Thus 'Alliaceae' were variously included in either Liliaceae, Amaryllidaceae, or as a separate entity. 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.

Phylogenetic era[edit]

The current phylogenetic 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)[37] and incorporating them into one large Amaryllidaceaefamily, the component families being reduced to subfamilies.[38] 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,[39] while The Plant List (2013) gives 80 genera and 2,258 species.[40]

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


A wide variety of suprageneric classifications existed within the Amaryllidaceae, for instance Hickey and King (1997) describe ten tribes by which the family were divided, such as the Zephyrantheae.[41]

The Amaryllidaceae has three subfamilies;[42]

  • 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);


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. ^ Jaume Saint-Hilaire 1805, Amaryllidées vol. 1. pp. 134–142.
  2. ^ APG 2009.
  3. ^ Dimitri 1987.
  4. ^ McGary 2001.
  5. ^ Rossi 1990.
  6. ^ Linnaeus 1753, Amaryllis I pp. 292–293.
  7. ^ Linnaeus Sexual System 2015.
  8. ^ Linnaeus 1753, Hexandria monogynia I pp. 285–332.
  9. ^ Meerow et al. 1999.
  10. ^ Adanson 1763, VIII. Liliaceae. Part II. p. 42.
  11. ^ Adanson 1763, VIII. Liliaceae Sectio VII. Part II. pp. 55–57.
  12. ^ Jussieu 1789, ordo VII Narcissi. pp. 54–56.
  13. ^ Jaume Saint-Hilaire 1805, Amaryllidées vol. 1. pp. 134–142.
  14. ^ Brown 1810, Prodromus. Amaryllideae p. 296.
  15. ^ A. P. de Candolle 1813, Théorie élémentaire de la botaniquep. 219.
  16. ^ a b Meerow et al. 2000a.
  17. ^ a b c Hutchinson 1926.
  18. ^ Gray 1821, Fam. XIV Amaryllideae Brown. II p. 190–193; Liliaceae p. 173.
  19. ^ Herbert 1837.
  20. ^ Lindley 1830, CCXXXVIII Amaryllideae The Narcissus Tribe pp. 259–260; Liliaceae p. 279.
  21. ^ Lindley 1846, Order XLVI Amaryllidaceae—Amaryllids pp. 155–158; Liliaceae p. 200 .
  22. ^ Lindley 1846, CCXLVIII Gilliesieae. pp. 275-277.
  23. ^ Bentham & Hooker 1883, Vol. 3, Part 2. Amaryllideae pp. 711–740.
  24. ^ Bentham & Hooker 1883, Vol. 3, Part 2. Liliaceae pp. 748–836.
  25. ^ Bentham & Hooker 1883, Vol. 3, Part 2. Allieae pp. 798–807.
  26. ^ Bentham & Hooker 1883, Vol. 3, Part 2. Agapantheae p. 798.
  27. ^ Bentham & Hooker 1883, Vol. 3, Part 2. Gilliesieae pp. 804–806.
  28. ^ Bentham & Hooker 1883, Vol. 3, Part 2. Allieae (Conspectus) pp. 750.
  29. ^ Engler 1903, Subfamily Allioideae p. 96.
  30. ^ Lotsy 1911, Agapanthaceae, Alliaceae, Gilliesiaceae pp. 732–734.
  31. ^ Dahlgren, Clifford & Yeo 1985, Alliaceae pp. 193–198.
  32. ^ Kubitzki 1998, K. Rahn. Alliaceae pp. 70–78.
  33. ^ Wilkin 2012.
  34. ^ Thorne 1976.
  35. ^ Cronquist 1988.
  36. ^ Thorne 1992.
  37. ^ Kamenetsky 2012, p. 25.
  38. ^ Fay & Chase 1996.
  39. ^ Stevens 2013.
  40. ^ The Plant List 2013.
  41. ^ Hickey & King 1997, p. 177.
  42. ^ Chase et al. 2009.




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. 
  • "Linnaeus Sexual System". CronkLab. Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia. Retrieved 26 January 2015.