A Legendary Flower with Many Names

A Legendary Flower with Many Names

By Noah Salt   •   Photographs by Amy Freeman

Lycoris Radiata is nice surprise in the autumn. Sometimes called the Hurricane or Red Lily — also the red Magic or Resurrection flower — this hardy perennial owns a treasured place in many Triad gardeners of our acquaintance.

A member of the amaryllis family, the plant originally hails from China and Japan, where it grows wild and is sometimes used by rice farmers to surround their paddies because the flowers, if consumed, are deadly poisonous, prized for keeping away mice and other pests. Long associated with death and memory, they herald the “death” of the growing season and reportedly are used in Buddhist ceremonies to honor the arrival of fall and memory of their ancestors. A Chinese legend holds that these flowers — which seem to grow best near rivers and in cemeteries — guide departed souls to their next reincarnation.

In the case of the Hurricane Lily, which has its glowing moment as your summer garden gives up the ghost and the Atlantic hurricane season winds down, death may have its compensations. Typically blooming around the time of the autumnal equinox and a heavy burst of rain – hence two of its additional nicknames — these beautiful lilies add a bold burst of color to a fading landscape with their vibrant scarlet blooms fading to pink as the weeks pass, sometimes enduring until the first frost. Another legend holds that if they are found growing along a path where you meet someone — you may never see them again.

At least until Resurrection Day.

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