|This article's section captioned "Legends" needs additional citations for verification. (July 2009)|
|Lycoris radiata, a species with long stamens|
Lycoris is a genus of 13–20 species of flowering plants in the family Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Amaryllidoideae. 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.
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.
- Lycoris albiflora Koidz. (treated as the hybrid L. × albiflora by some sources) – White Spider Lily
- Lycoris anhuiensis Y.Xu & G.J.Fan
- Lycoris argentea Worsley
- Lycoris aurea (L'Hér.) Herb. – Golden Spider Lily
- Lycoris caldwellii Traub – Magic Lily
- Lycoris chinensis Traub – Yellow Surprise Lily
- Lycoris flavescens M.Kim & S.Lee
- Lycoris guangxiensis Y.Xu & G.J.Fan
- Lycoris haywardii Traub
- Lycoris houdyshelii Traub
- Lycoris incarnata Comes ex Sprenger – Peppermint Surprise Lily
- Lycoris josephinae Traub
- Lycoris koreana Nakai
- Lycoris longituba Y.C.Hsu & G.J.Fan – Long Tube Surprise Lily
- Lycoris radiata (L'Hér.) Herb. – Spider Lily, Red Spider Lily
- Lycoris rosea Traub & Moldenke
- Lycoris sanguinea Maxim. – Orange Spider Lily
- Lycoris shaanxiensis Y.Xu & Z.B.Hu
- Lycoris sprengeri Comes ex Baker – Tie Dye Surprise Lily
- Lycoris squamigera Maxim. – Naked Lady, Surprise Lily, Magic Lily, Resurrection Lily
- Lycoris straminea Lindl.
- Lycoris uydoensis M.Kim
- Lycoris × chejuensis chejuensis K.H.Tae & S.C.Ko
Cultivation and uses
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.
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?).
- Stevens, P.F. (2001 onwards), Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Asparagales: Amaryllidoideae
- What is the Genus Lycoris?: Taxonomy
- Flora of China: Lycoris
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Lycoris
- What is the Genus Lycoris?: Species Evolution by Hybridization in the genus Lycoris
- Search for "Lycoris", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2012-04-12
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