Amaryllis is a monotypic (only one species) genus of plant containing the Belladonna Lily , a native of South Africa. The Belladonna Lily is a bulbous plant, with each bulb being 5-10 cm in diameter. It has several strap-shaped, dull green leaves, 30-50 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, arranged in two rows. The leaves are produced in the autumn and eventually die down by late spring. The bulb is then dormant until late summer.
The Belladonna Lily was introduced into cultivation at the beginning of the 18th century. However, most of the so-called Amaryllis bulbs sold as 'ready to bloom for the holidays' belong to the allied genus Hippeastrum, (below, left) despite being labeled as 'Amaryllis' by sellers and nurseries. Adding to the name confusion, some bulbs of other species with a similar growth and flowering pattern are also sometimes called "naked ladies", even though those species have their own more widely used and accepted common names, such as the Resurrection Lily (Lycoris squamigera).
Another meaning of Belladonna, "beautiful lady" in Italian, is from the use of Atropine from the Deadly Nightshade or belladonna (Atropa belladonna) ,right, below, to dilate the pupils. It was thought that this increased a woman's beauty. Optometrists and opthalmologists still use atropine for this purpose and the drug is also used to treat cardiac arrest and poisoning by organophosphate fertilizers and nerve gases.