Amaryllis (Image courtesy U.S. National
Amaryllis Featured in Arboretum
Exhibit By Alfredo Flores
December 12, 2003
The popular holiday plant known as amaryllis is being featured
in a two-month exhibit at the U.S. National
Arboretum in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of lovely amaryllis in full bloom
are on display there now, including unusual species and dazzling new
The exhibit also features interpretive displays that include a
historical retrospective on the role played by the Agricultural Research
Service in developing this important ornamental crop.
ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's primary
scientific research agency, administers the arboretum.
In 2001, indoor forcing bulbs such as the amaryllis were
purchased by 8.5 million U.S. households.
One of the foremost amaryllis experts, Alan W. Meerow, a plant
geneticist at the ARS
Horticulture Research Station in Miami, Fla., will be discussing the
development of amaryllis on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of
the arboretum's administration building. He will explain the merits, uses and
care of this easy-to-grow holiday bulb. When properly handled, an amaryllis
bulb may produce flowers year after year.
Amaryllis species belong to the genus Hippeastrum and
have large, bell-shaped or lily-like flowers in a wide range of flower colors.
Very large, robust blooms and beautiful textures add to their appeal.
While working for the University
of Florida's Fort Lauderdale Research
and Education Center, Meerow created three new amaryllis cultivars--named
"Bahia," "Rio" and "Sampa"--in 1987. The three are complex hybrids of H.
papilio and exhibit novel floral coloration patterns. "Bahia" has an
unusual color pattern of red, tipped with white, while "Rio" is intensely
fragrant and "Sampa" is a semi-dwarf that bears up to 10 flowers on each stem.
All three are also resistant to red scorch, a plant disease that causes red
spots on leaves, flower stems and flowers. Red scorch often deforms leaves or
stems and forms large, red blotches in the bulb that rot easily.
Additional information on the U.S. National Arboretum, its
amaryllis display and its hours can be found on the World Wide Web at: