19 March, 2014

March lilies Amaryllis belladonna

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity

For Alice, and all my readers with March birthdays

Our garden year for South Africa begins in March. As the summer heat fades, and the autumn equinox approaches, the March lilies Amaryllis belladonna burst into an exuberant cancan. The days are shorter, the evenings at least are cool and kind to soft green leaves. In March Western Cape gardens heave a deep sigh of relief.

Jurg's March lilies in 2013

Diana's March lilies in 2013

Amaryllis belladonna

In the North American style of Naked Ladies, first the pink flowers burst thru, standing tall and proud in frou frou skirts. Some have darker deeper pink skirts, others are so pale as to be almost white.

March lily buds in 2011

We've had THREE millimetres this month with rain promised for the weekend. The fynbos in the Western Cape, in a good year – a recovering from a previous fire year, has drifts and swathes of March lilies. Along the roads, as we rush thru our busy lives, these flamboyant flowers are unmissable.

March lilies opening in 2011

Amaryllis belladonna  in 2011

Later these flowers will make large green seeds, almost as big as grapes. The seedlings grow easily where the seed falls. And these plants multiply. I can imagine them becoming an invasive problem elsewhere – but we love to see our gardens returning to life. Later still, when the party is over, with the benefit of winter rain, the big bulbs will send up the daily grind of green leaves for next year’s flowers. Fleshy thick strap-shaped leaves like Clivia. Building up reinforcements to see the plant thru the next summer’s aestivation rest (swirling ice cubes in a tall glass of something cold on the verandah!) till the cycle starts again.

March lily petals in 2011

The flowers open white, deepening to pink as the flowers wear their grownup party dresses.

From PlantZAfrica - The family Amaryllidaceae forms a large group of over sixty genera, which are mainly centred in southern Africa with smaller distributions in Andean South America. Other southern African genera in this family include Clivia, Crinum, Cyrtanthus, Nerine and Scadoxus. Hippeastrum, which some gardeners mistakenly call amaryllis, is a large South American genus. Other northern hemisphere genera include Narcissus (daffodils), Galanthus and Leucojum

Scented flowers (bit fiercely so, if you park your nose IN the trumpet). Flowers face into the full sun. ‘Naked Lady’ – flowers before leaves – is called hysteranthy. Amaryllis was a beautiful Greek shepherdess. Belladonna = beautiful lady. Their natural habitat is a small dense group among rocks. Bulbs must be planted with their necks at soil level (which helps the gardener, ‘cos you can SEE where the dormant bulbs are lurking). Tolerate quite arid conditions. Growing naturally in fynbos, they emerge abundantly after fire. Pollinated by hawk moths or carpenter bees.

Stamens in the March lily in 2011

Pollen of March lily in 2011

All these stages in the life of a March lily flower were photographed on the 22nd March 2011. From the emerging bud, thru the opening and fully opened flower, all the way to pollen on the stamens.

Amaryllis belladonna at Elephant's Eye in 2014

In 2014 the flowers are coming slowly. Since the bulbs can be grown in pots of sandy soil, some will go with us to False Bay.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer of Elephant's Eye 
(in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)

(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.
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  1. Such beautiful,delicate shades of pink. So much prettier than the lilies we have growing wild here.
    Jane x

  2. Im so glad you are bring ing some with you, what amazing blossoms, and your writing is beautiful,

  3. If you took all these photos on the same day, does that mean these flowers have only a short life-span / season of flowering?

    1. each flower head lasts for days, and we have MANY bulbs which bloom in succession.

  4. Your Bella Donna's are so beautiful....I would so much rather see them here in their natural habitat then the hoards that my Boss used to bring down to clear out the green house...

    They look much better here, lovely pink, frilly and beautiful.


  5. Last year in Cape Town I saw them wild for the first time... What wonderful flowers! In my new life I will try them if the climate is conducive. But if we remain around here I'm afraid our very wet summers will mean elaborate pot culture...

  6. I've had some of these for a while now, but so far never a flower. The leaves look healthy at the moment; they would flower here in September, if they do at all. I can't imagine them becoming a problem. Lovely images.

  7. So pretty! I really like seeing how they look budding. I've seen them at botanical gardens before, but it's nice seeing them where they are native!

  8. Interesting you call them March lilies. Here on the central coast of California, they always, always, bloom right as August gets underway. I like calling them naked ladies just to make people look.

    1. back in August 2010 in California

  9. They are gorgeous! I can't even imagine how wonderful it would be to have these beauties naturalize. I planted some of these in my garden, but no sign of them. Now that I've seen the pictures of yours, I really, really hope they come up. Yours are gorgeous - love that pink!

  10. Gorgeous captures, Diana! I always enjoy seeing the Lycoris squamigera (called resurrection or assumption lilies, or naked ladies here) in my August garden. They have a similar pattern of seemingly rising up out of nowhere and bursting into bloom. Enjoy!

    1. I've been visiting your Lycoris

  11. How exotic and fabulous it is to see such beauties growing outside. They are stunning and your photos truly do them justice. Hugs C x

  12. I thought at first these were the decadent lilies that we grow indoors around Christmas but read that only yours are true Amaryllis - our cosseted ones are Hippeastrum. What a sight for Autumn - the way Nerines add zing to the Fall

  13. Diana, beautiful photos once again. I now have some Amaryllis belladonna in my own garden, I like them in big clumps... but I haven´t seen it in bloom yet. We must wait until next September here, I ´m looking forward to see those gorgeous blooms.

  14. Driving in Settlers Park here in PE yesterday I was on the lookout for March lilies cause I know you get to see them there this time of the year

  15. Diana I do hope you are having a lovely fall...those lilies are a treat.


Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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