Jim McKenney
Mon, 23 Aug 2010 12:28:06 PDT
Ina, Lycoris and Nerine, while similar in appearance, are distinct genera.
As the two parallel threads now running show, they also have very different
cultural requirements. Lycoris are Asian in origin, Nerine are from southern


Historically there is good reason to confuse them. Back in the seventeenth
century, a ship returning to England from Japan wrecked off the coast of
Guernsey (one of the Channel Islands between England and the Continent).
Among the flotsam and jetsam were live bulbs which took very well to the
Guernsey conditions. When the plants flowered, they were seen to have bright
red flowers on 12-18” scapes. Because the ship in question was returning
from Japan, some looked to the flora of Japan for the identity of the
plants. In fact, the first description of the plant attributed it to Japan.
Also, the plants answered pretty well to Lycoris radiata, and this began a
confusion which persisted right up into the middle of the twentieth century.


Evidently the ship in question had stopped during the trip around the Cape
and taken on cargo – among other things bulbs, Nerine bulbs. And eventually
the proper identity (and place of origin)  of the bulbs from the ship wreck
was established: they were Nerine sarniensis (the species name sarniensis is
Latin for Guernsey). 


Superficially, Lycoris radiata and Nerine sarniensis are similar in


When I was a kid, I bought bulbs of Lycoris radiata in a bag with a crude,
color printed label which identified them as Nerine sarniensis – this nearly
three hundred years after the events which started this confusion.  



Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

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