Amaryllis (/ˌæməˈrɪlɪs/) is the only genus in the subtribe Amaryllidinae (tribeAmaryllideae). It is a small genus of flowering bulbs, with two species. The better known of the two, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of the Western Cape region of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest area between the Olifants River Valley and Knysna. For many years there was confusion among botanists over the generic names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum, one result of which is that the common name "amaryllis" is mainly used for cultivars of the genus Hippeastrum, widely sold in the winter months for their ability to bloom indoors. Plants of the genus Amaryllis are known as belladonna lily, Jersey lily, naked lady, amarillo, Easter lily in Southern Australia or, in South Africa, March lily due to its propensity to flower around March. This is one of numerous genera with the common name "lily" due to their flower shape and growth habit. However, they are only distantly related to the true lily, Lilium. In the Victorian Language of Flowers (see Plant symbolism), amaryllis means "pride".
Amaryllis is a bulbous plant, with each bulb being 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) in diameter. It has several strap-shaped, green leaves, 30–50 cm (12–20 in) long and 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) broad, arranged in two rows.
Each bulb produces one or two leafless stems 30–60 cm tall, each of which bears a cluster of two to twelve funnel-shaped flowers at their tops. Each flower is 6–10 cm (2.4–3.9 in) diameter with six tepals (three outer sepals, three inner petals, with similar appearance to each other). The usual color is white with crimson veins, but pink or purple also occur naturally.
The single genus is in subtribe Amaryllidinae, in the tribe Amaryllideae. The taxonomy of the genus has been controversial. In 1753 Carl Linnaeus created the name Amaryllis belladonna, the type species of the genus Amaryllis. At the time both South African and South American plants were placed in the same genus; subsequently they were separated into two different genera. The key question is whether Linnaeus's type was a South African plant or a South American plant. If the latter, Amaryllis would be the correct name for the genus Hippeastrum, and a different name would have to be used for the genus discussed here. Alan W. Meerow et al. have briefly summarized the debate, which took place from 1938 onwards and involved botanists on both sides of the Atlantic. The outcome was a decision by the 14th International Botanical Congress in 1987 that Amaryllis L. should be a conserved name (i.e. correct regardless of priority) and ultimately based on a specimen of the South African Amaryllis belladonna from the Clifford Herbarium at the Natural History Museum in London.