Amaryllis flower buds

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp. cultivars) are grown in most cold regions of the United States as an indoor houseplant that people work hard to force to flower. One of the nice things about living in coastal Orange County is that plants like amaryllis can live year-round outdoors in the soil, and need no forcing to flower.

We put in a few small plants 7 or 8 years ago, and they’re now giant bulbs that send up multiple flower stalks every spring. I’ve been watching this year’s flowering stalks grow daily, and finally made some time last week to go out and get some pictures.

Three young developing amaryllis ([Hippeastrum] sp cultivar) inflorescences can be seen growing on their scapes, long leafless stems that support them.  Amaryllis inflorescences contain multiple flowers that develop inside spathes, bracts (modified leaves) that surround the young flowers.  The two spathes are just starting to split open on the closest flower, revealing a bit of red from one of the flowers.  The two flower stalks in the background are blurred out of focus.  This image was captured outside using natural light; no flowers were harmed in the production of this image. (Marc C. Perkins)
Teamwork: Three developing amaryllis inflorescences.

Amaryllis flowers grow in inflorescences, clusters of multiple flowers growing from a single leafless stalk called a scape (three scapes with their developing inflorescences are visible in the picture above). The actual flowers develop at the tips of the scapes surrounded by two modified leaves (bracts) called spathes.

In the image above you can see the two spathes starting to split apart on the front-most inflorescence, revealing one of the red amaryllis flowers inside. As the spathes open further, the multiple flowers contained inside start to elongate their pedicels (the stalks that attach each flower to the scape) and they emerge from the spathes:

An amaryllis ([Hippeastrum] sp. cultivar) inflorescence pictured just as its flower buds are emerging from their sheath.  There are three red and green flowers easily visible.  These flowers are growing from a scape, a leafless stem that is used to support flowers.  The three emerging buds are surrounded by two spathes, bracts (modified leaves) that surround the flowers as they develop (and then stay present as the flowers bloom).  This image was taken outdoors using natural lighting on an intact plant growing in my yard; no flowers were destroyed in the making of this image :) (Marc C. Perkins)
Opening Day: Three amaryllis flower buds emerge from their sheath

Amaryllis are showy, long-lasting flowers, but I think the buds are under-appreciated.

Technically these shots were fun to capture. I wanted to create a studio-esque feel, so the viewer could focus on the details of the buds themselves without distraction from the background. I worked on a partly cloudy day, and set up a black backdrop behind the subjects I wanted to photograph, using a reflector to add highlights or fill as needed. The second image is a blend of five images to get additional depth of field (using the technique described in my poinsettia behind the scenes post), but the first is a single-frame capture. All plants were left completely intact, and if all goes well they’ll be in full flower soon.

More pictures

To see more of my pictures of plants, head to my plants portfolio page or my botany demonstrations gallery.

Here are two more images of amaryllis. The first is another image from the day’s work (a single inflorescence up close) and the second is a closeup of one of my amaryllis flowers from last year.

A young developing amaryllis ([Hippeastrum] sp cultivar) flower just starting to emerge from its sheath.  Amaryllis flowers grow on a scape, a long leafless stem, and develop inside spathes, bracts (modified leaves) that surround an inflorescence (cluster of multiple flowers).  The two spathes are just starting to split open, revealing a bit of red from one of the flowers.  This image was captured outside using natural light, with a reflector used to angle light on to highlight the texture of the flower bud's tip.  No flowers were harmed in the production of this image. (Marc C. Perkins) Amaryllis are commonly grown as indoor plants in cold regions, but here in Southern California I can grown them out in my yard.  The flowers are absolutely huge, and I wanted to capture the immensity of the blooms with this picture.  Seen in the background is a plot of roses, with a post-sunset dusky sky in the background.  As a side note, this may actually be a Hippeastrum, as plants sold as Amaryllis are apparently often actually Hippeastrum. (Marc C. Perkins)

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