Bidwell's Amaryllis belladonna x 'multiflora' discussion

David Sneddon
Fri, 07 Nov 2003 21:23:10 PST
Jim Lykos and I had an offline discussion (approx september 2003) about Amaryllis belladonnas and multiflora hybrids which we feel would be beneficial to share. Much of this converstation is based on snippets from the PBS and ABA bulb forums during the year. In particular it may help those currently making enquiries about amarygias.
An easy to read table format of this discussion can be found at:…
However if you can't access this or do not have the appropriate software eg. MS Word then here is the text version:
<David Sneddon:
I'm still trying to understand the multitude of information I've read on Belladonnas. I'll 
try to list some of my questions and if you can spare a minute or two I would greatly 
appreciate your feedback.
I'm bit confused about the Brunsvigia used in Bidwell's multiflora. Were you and Les of 
different opinions or like opinions on this, and did you feel it was B. Orientalis?>
<Jim Lykos: 
I think that the most likely identity of Brunsvigia multiflora used in the initial Bidwell 
hybrids is either B. orientalis, litoralis or grandiflora. I'm also sure that all three were 
used at different times in creating further intergeneric crosses in NSW. The F1 that Les 
Hannibal obtained from Pinnaro in Sth Aust was I think from a Amaryllis x B. 
grandiflora cross, and from the collections I have seen thus far I believe they are probably due to the different Brunsvigia crosses created during the 1840's to the 1930's - when a 
couple of species of mature Brunsvigia's continued to be sold from a Victorian (State) 
Back to Bidwell, the synonym for B. multiflora is indeed 'orientalis', however, I have 
noticed that in an 1866 catalogue of bulbous plants sold by the Exotic Nursery in Double 
Bay Sydney, that they were selling Brunsvigia orientalis, gigantica and multiflora as well 
as josephinea and pumila? and a interspecific hybrid called B. Guilfoylei – as well as 
other Brunsvigia hybrids. So my suspicion is that B. grandiflora was possibly at that time identified with either B. gigantica or B. multiflora!>
<David Sneddon: 
Do you think that a second Brunsvigia was used at all?>
<Jim Lykos: 
I'm quite certain that following Bidwell's initial hybrid crosses that there were a series of 
similar Amaryllis and Brunsvigia crosses carried out both at the Camden Park Estate and the Guifoyles Exotic nursery. It is also very likely that Alexander MacLeay (the creator of B. Guilfoylei ) who probably had the best collection of South African bulbs in the world at that time - engaged in creating other Brunsvigia crosses that haven't been 
recorded. He and William Macarthur were the sponsors of Bidwell's trip to Australia and 
they later in 1847, worked hard to get him appointed to the Botanical Gardens.>
<David Sneddon:
In a previous correspondence to myself you were going to attach a picture of Stormy 
Sunset, which didn't come thru. I'm also keen to see Blanda (1843), Ameliae(1850) and 
Ruby Cunda(1861) if you have pics. (Please let me know if you sell any of these or any 
of the other historic types).>
<Jim Lykos: 
I don't know if any of these cultivars are still in existence. It's likely from the name that 
Ruby Cunda is a bright red flowered variety – that was noted in garden shows around that date. 
William Macarthur in his catalogue of plants for sale from Camden Park in 1843 - has 
crossing Amaryllis blanda with B. josephinea. It is quite possible that he had grown 
seedlings of the original A. blanda, and had obtained then from Kew, or Paxton or 
Lodggies of London. He was sending shipments of live rare Australian plants and orchids 
in Edwardian cases to these botanical/ nursery institutions, and in return was requesting 
lots of bulbous plants (Crinums, hippeastrums etc) and orchids in return. The original A. 
blanda is now regarded as probably being a natural Brunsvigia hybrid with Amaryllis 
belladonna. The use of A. blanda - itself quite fertile as we know from other sources, 
could explain the increased fertility level of the crosses that we now recognise as x 
Now we don't have any pictures or descriptions of Ameliae or Ruby Cunda so its 
impossible to know if they still exist or not. The likelihood is that they are still around 
somewhere in Australia - we may already have seen one of them and overlooked them 
unless they have very  desirable qualities.>
<David Sneddon: 
I note in  correspondence that there was Amaryllis and Brunsvigia both used as seed 
parents in Bidwill's multiflora. This led to the creation of what is termed the 'old 
multiflora' and was typical of: Glaucous foliage, poor seeders, sometimes sterile, short 
pseudo stem, intense colour and difficult to flower.>
<Jim Lykos:
Les Hannibal decided to use the name x Multiflora to describe the hybrids that arose from Bidwill's hybridisation using B. x Multiflora. So it is applicable only for those crosses attributed to Bidwell made with an Amaryllis seed parent. However, my present 
perception of events is that following the results of Bidwell's and Macleay's intergeneric 
hybrids that it was repeated probably with whatever Amaryllis cultivars were then 
Attached is an image of Brunsvigia x Amaryllis from Pleasant Hills in SW NSW - its a 
colony I believe of a hybrid from the Brunsvigia seed parent and it was planted around 
1890 to 1910 in the gardens of a farm house in that district. The picture was sent to me by the owner. [image removed]
Now initially in Australia the progeny were all called Brunsvigia multiflora hybrids but it 
is important to distinguish those plants that have Brunsvigia and those with Amaryllis 
seed parents.  I have at present 8 different cultivars of  Brunsvigia/Amaryllis  hybrids 
from a Brunsvigia seed parent. They are quite different from the Amaryllis seed parent's 
in that they are more likely to have glaucous foliage and be hard to flower and no pollen 
is usually present on the flowers anthers. They have differently shaped flowers and their 
colour range is different than those we recognise  as Amaryllis hybrids. I have seen a 
couple in photos and have flowered one - those I have seen vary from lilac-pinks to lilac 
reds. They are very difficult to flower unless they get an exceptionally dry summer and 
most tend to be sterile parents.>
<David Sneddon:
A more recent multiflora hybrid we see: has increased fertile capacity, prolific seed 
bearer; easy to grow and flower; long pseudo stems and 20-30 flowers in soft tones.>
<Jim Lykos:
These are the Amaryllis seed hybrids - and it is possible that they were further developed by a couple of nurseryman - the Guildfoyles of the Exotic nursery and John Baptist in his Sydney nursery. We know in particular that John Baptist created thousands of these 
seedlings which in the 1920's came to be known as Amaryllis baptisti ' Rosea' and 'Alba'. 
Throughout their history the background of these crosses was often confused, some early nurserymen recognised them as arising from Brunsvigia hybrids and catalogued as either Brunsvigia 'Rosea' or Brunsvigia multiflora 'Rosea', while others regarded them as 
Amaryllis bulbs and called them Amaryllis belladonna multiflora etc.>
<David Sneddon:
I missed the point of what actually made the difference between the old multiflora and 
that currently about, was it a different breeding process (i.e. different brunsvigia used?).>
<Jim Lykos:
In Australia here were only ever about 10 cultivars specifically named as being of A. 
multiflora decent in Australia, and about thirty cultivars were named as Amaryllis 
belladonna colour varieties. What you need to bear in mind is that apart from crosses 
between Amaryllis multiflora colour varieties, there would have been backcrosses with a 
wide range of Amaryllis belladonna colour varieties.
The progeny of these crosses would have fewer Brunsvigia genes and some of their 
Amaryllis characteristics would be more dominant.>
<David Sneddon: 
Is a pseudo stem the term for how much stalk comes out of the bulb before leaves start? 
(assuming it is below).>
<Jim Lykos: 
Yes - it's the soft growth of the stem that emerges after the hibernation period is over. 
Species Amaryllis belladonna's show hardly any pseudo neck with the leaves coming 
directly from the bulbs dorsal growing area. Most A x multifloras do have pseudo necks 
up to about 24cms tall. However A. Worsley wrote an article about the 27 different 
characteristics between Amaryllis and Brunsvigia's.  There hybrid progeny demonstrate 
variance in many of these characteristics.>
<David Sneddon:
If I look at A. Belladonna or its hybrid and see a long pseudo stem can I automatically 
say that the plant is of the more recent hybrid of belladonna (multiflora)?>
<Jim Lykos:
Yes - it is likely to be either a straight A. x multiflora or one back crossed with A. 
belladonna. Then you must take into account A.multiflora x multiflora crosses which 
should bring out some recessives including short/no pseudo necks in a few progeny - but is still a A.multiflora cross.>
<David Sneddon:
If I look at A. Belladonna or its hybrid and the leaves come out of the top of the bulb can 
I say that I'm either looking at species A. Belladonna or an older multflora hybrid?> 
<Jim Lykos:
There are some exceptions - it is not found in all x multifloras. The other major 
characteristic is that the flowers on the umbel have a radial pattern and the pedicels are 
reasonably long i.e. 8cms +. In the species all the belladonna flowers face to the location of the midday sun, or where most sunlight to the plant comes from. The flower count is 
also limited to around 8 flowers.  A. mutliflora crosses because they have been 
backcrossed can show some of these characteristics but the more pure the A. multiflora is - the more likely that it will have 20 to 40 flowers on an umbel.>
<David Sneddon:
I've attached a picture [picture removed] which shows various lengths before the leaves, I 
also notice that some Belladonna are now dying back this also an indication of what 
hybrid it is? I notice that one of the potted plants has wider leaves that are less shiny 
(though I don't know if I'd call it glaucous) and the green is a little bluer or greyer than 
usual. This same plant seems to be less prolific when found that the other types.>
<Jim Lykos:
I believe that the glaucous coloured leaves are found in some of the Brunsvigia seed 
raised hybrids. Thus far only B. josephinea , B orientalis and B. grandiflora in my 
experience have glaucous coloured leaves. I have only seen normal coloured leaves on  
A. x Multiflora plants with an Amaryllis seed parent. However, remakes of these these 
crosses will confirm if this observation holds up. Two of the plants in your photo show 
the signs of being x Multiflora cultivars.

Its important also to recognise that Les Hannibal who wrote so extensively about the A x 
Multiflora crosses never actually recreated a cross between Brunsvigia x Amaryllis, and 
all the hybrid plants he worked with were from Amaryllis seed parents - but he did have 
what he Considered to be an original F1 multiflora plant from Sth Australia - and white 
<David Sneddon:
Also I saw in the PBS today mention that A. Blanda was available in the states, I thought that I'd read it was this the same plant and what is A. Blanda...I'd interpreted this one as being an A.Belladonna Hybrid or even an early multiflora.>
<Jim Lykos:
No - A. blanda may yet exist in Australia - it was sold under that name by William 
Macarthur's nursery from at least 1843 to 1857 but we cannot verify that it was the 
original A. blanda which was a natural hybrid. However, the plant variety with this name 
in America is a new release of a white Amaryllis that turns pink with age. There are quite 
a few of them around in Australia as they turn up frequently from multiflora crosses 
between white and lighter pink forms.
I have attached a line drawing from the Horticultural Society of NSW 1866 journal of a 
red Brunsvigia x Amaryllis hybrid flowered in Sydney in 1861. There is also a picture of 
a lovely A. xMutiflora cultivar that has the lavender - pink colour described as being 
present on the initial flowerings from the Amaryllis seed parent. [images removed]>
Regards, David.

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