Lycoris (plant)

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Higanbana in a woods.jpg
Lycoris radiata, a species with long stamens
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Amaryllidoideae
Genus: Lycoris

See text

Lycoris sanguinea, a species with short stamens
Lycoris and butterfly (Papilio xuthus) in Japan

Lycoris is a genus of 13–20 species of flowering plants in the family Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Amaryllidoideae.[1] They are native to eastern and southern Asia in Japan, southern Korea, eastern and southern China, northern Vietnam, northern Laos, northern Thailand, northern Burma, Nepal, northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and eastern Iran. They were imported into North Carolina and now grow wild. In English they are also called hurricane lilies or cluster amaryllis. The genus shares the English name spider lily with two other related genera.[2][3][4]

They are bulb-producing perennial plants. The leaves are long and slender, 30–60 cm long and only 0.5–2 cm broad. The scape is erect, 30–70 cm tall, bearing a terminal umbel of four to eight flowers, which can be white, yellow, orange, or red. The flowers divide into two types, those very long, filamentous stamens two or three times as long as the tepals (subgenus Lycoris; e.g. Lycoris radiata), and those with shorter stamens not much longer than the tepals (subgenus Symmanthus Traub & Moldenke; e.g. Lycoris sanguinea). The fruit is a three-valved capsule containing several black seeds. Many of the species are sterile, reproducing only vegetatively, and are probably of hybrid origin; several additional known hybrids occur.[2][3][5]

Selected species[edit]

As of April 2012, the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families recognizes 22 species and one hybrid:[6]


Cultivation and uses[edit]

Lycoris are extensively cultivated as ornamental plants in Japan and China, and also in other warm temperate regions of the world. In Japan, they are widely used at the edges of rice paddy fields to provide a strip of bright flowers in the summer, and over 230 cultivars have been selected for garden use. They are locally naturalised in the southeastern United States, where they are often called hurricane flowers. Chinese people often use them as decorations in festivals or celebrations.


Since these scarlet flowers usually bloom near cemeteries around the autumnal equinox, they are described in Chinese and Japanese translations of the Lotus Sutra as ominous flowers that grow in Diyu (also known as Hell), or Huángquán (Simplified Chinese: 黄泉; Traditional Chinese: 黃泉), and guide the dead into the next reincarnation.

When the flowers of lycoris bloom, their leaves would have fallen; when their leaves grow, the flowers would have wilted. This habit gave rise to various legends. A famous one is the legend of two elves: Mañju (Simplified Chinese: 曼珠; Traditional Chinese: 曼珠), who guarded the flower, and Saka (Simplified Chinese: 沙华; Traditional Chinese: 沙華), who guarded the leaves. Out of curiosity, they defied their fate of guarding the herb alone, and managed to meet each other. At first sight, they fell in love with each other. God, exasperated by their waywardness, separated the miserable couple, and laid a curse on them as a punishment: the flowers of Mañju shall never meet the leaves of Saka again.

It was said that when the couple met after death in Diyu, they vowed to meet each other after reincarnation. However, neither of them could keep their word.

In commemoration of the couple, some call the herbs "Mañjusaka" (Simplified Chinese: 曼珠沙华; Traditional Chinese: 曼珠沙華), a mixture of "Mañju" and "Saka", instead of their scientific name. The same name is used in Japanese, in which it is pronounced manju-shage.

Some other legends have it that when a person sees someone that they may never meet again, these flowers, also called red spider lilies, would bloom along the path. Perhaps because of these sorrowful legends, Japanese people often used these flowers in funerals. Popular name Higanbana (彼岸花 Higan bana?) of Japanese for lycoris is literally higan (the other or that shore of sanzu river) flower means, decorate and enjoyable, flower of afterlife in gokuraku jyōdo (極楽浄土 gokuraku jyōdo?).



  1. ^ Stevens, P.F., Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Asparagales: Amaryllidoideae 
  2. ^ a b What is the Genus Lycoris?: Taxonomy
  3. ^ a b Flora of China: Lycoris
  4. ^ Germplasm Resources Information Network: Lycoris
  5. ^ What is the Genus Lycoris?: Species Evolution by Hybridization in the genus Lycoris
  6. ^ Search for "Lycoris", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2012-04-12 

External links[edit]