Bunga Bakung Merah or 'Red Pearl' Amaryllis is scientifically called Amaryllis. This plant is one of the varieties of the Amaryllis genus which is divided into two species, namely Amaryllis vittata and Amaryllis belladonna.
The genus name Amaryllis comes from a word in Greek 'amarysso' which means sparkling, that is also the name of a shepherd in Virgil's pastoral Eclogues (Growing and Caring for Amaryllis, 2020). In Indonesia, the red amaryllis plant is more popular with the name red lily. This may happen because the Amaryllis leaf's shape is very similar to lilies or Hymenocallis littoralis, even though the flowers look very different.
Controversies Around the Genus Name and Taxonomy
Initially, the Amaryllis genus consisted of nine species, especially when Carl Linnaeus created the species name Amaryllis belladonna as a type of the Amaryllis genus. At that time, plants originating from South Africa and South America belonged to the same genus. This creates the question of whether the type referred to by Carl Linnaeus is one that originates from South Africa or South America. Because if what Carl Linnaeus meant was originating from South America, then the genus name should be Hippeastrum.
The genus Hippeastrum was discovered in 1828 by a German botanist in Chile. Hybridization of this genus occurred over many years to produce more than 300 cultivars (Amaryllis: A Gift That Keeps on Giving, 2023).
The 14th International Botanical Congress held in 1987 decided that Amaryllis L. was the accepted name for the genus of the species Amaryllis belladonna originating from South Africa. Until now, the Amaryllis genus has been divided into two species, namely Amaryllis vittata and Amaryllis belladonna. Meanwhile, the other seven species belong to different genera.
- Amaryllis vittata
- Amaryllis belladonna
Following the naming of the genus approved at the 14th International Botanical Congress held in 1987, the origin of the genus Amaryllis is from the South African region.
This species was brought to the European continent in the 1700s. However, it is believed that the Amaryllis plants that are usually purchased and grown as ornamental plants are hybrids from the genus Hippeastrum which originate from Central and South America (Growing and Caring for Amaryllis, 2020). Its cultivation began in England in 1799 while new hybrids were cultivated in the US in the mid-19th century (Amaryllis, Hippeastrum, 2023).
Shape Description and Growth
The uniqueness of the Amaryllis plant can be seen from the shape of its flowers which are like trumpets with beautiful color variations which sometimes consist of two colors such as red and white, pink, green, and bright red.
Each Amaryllis flower bulb can grow to a diameter of up to 5 - 10 cm and a length of up to 5 - 25 cm. The flower stalks are erect and hollow which often develop before the leaves are produced. Large bulbs can produce more than one flower stalk that grows either simultaneously or sequentially.
The green leaves with a shape that resembles long, narrow shields can grow up to 30 - 50 cm long and 2 - 3 cm wide. Meanwhile, the stems can grow up to 45 - 63 cm.
At the start of planting the tubers must be firm and dry without any signs of mold, rot, or other damage. This plant requires good drainage to minimize the possibility of rotting of the tubers and roots due to excessive moisture.
Uses and Benefits of Amaryllis for Health
Species from the Amaryllidacaea family, especially the leaves and flowers, are said to contain alkaloids which are known to have antitumoral, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties. However, the leaves of the Amaryllis genus are not recommended for consumption by animals because they can cause animals to experience mild digestive disorders and consuming the tubers can have more severe consequences (Amaryllis: A Gift That Keeps on Giving, 2023).
In Europe, galanthamine, an alkaloid found in several species of the Amaryllidacaea family, has been used as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Its use as medicine was initially carried out by the locals living at the foot of the Ural mountains. It was discovered by a Russian pharmacologist in the 1950s until it was finally developed commercially in the 1990s under the brands Reminyl and Nivalin. Now galanthamine has been approved for use in the United States, many countries in Europe and Asia. However, this drug is said to only delay more severe symptoms and does not offer curative treatment (Ignacio et al., 2024).