Delightfully fragrant, this elegant flower is lovely for weddings.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
1 sweet blossoms. Eucharis grandiflora (pronounced YOU-kar-is gran-di-FLO-ra), commonly known as Amazon lily, Eucharist lily or Madonna lily, forms on a low bulbous plant with broad, glossy green basal leaves. The glistening, fragrant white flowers are starlike or trumpet shaped like those of a daffodil and have delicate, apple-green throats. They bloom in clusters of two to eight blossoms on fleshy stalks that are approximately 18 to 24 inches.
2 know the relatives. Amazon lilies are members of the Amaryllidaceae family; however, sometimes they are listed as members of the Liliaceae family. Relatives include amaryllis (Hippeastrum), Narcissus, Nerine and Clivia.
3 deep roots. Eucharis is derived from the Greek word kharisma, meaning “grace” or “charm,” and refers to the plant’s attractive, fragrant flowers. In Latin, eucharis means “elegant.” The species name grandiflora means “large flowers.” In the language of flowers, Amazon lilies symbolize “maiden charms.”
4 an amazonian. Amazon lilies are shade-loving plants native to Central America and South America. They are indigenous to the bordering equatorial regions of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and originally were collected along the Rio Magdalena in Colombia.
5 hard to find. Amazon lilies are available year-round but on a limited basis, and they can be hard to find. Check in advance of need with growers or wholesalers for availability and the lead time required for ordering.
6 to market. When shopping for Amazon lilies, look for open blossoms that show no signs of bruising or damage. Watch also for yellowing or rot. The stems should be thick and turgid. These flowers often are sold individually, like Gardenias, and packaged dry in airtight boxes. If purchased off the stem, they should be kept at 45 F to 50 F in a floral cooler and misted with water. These delicate blossoms are susceptible to chilling injury and should be handled with care.
7 hollow stems. Upon the flowers’ arrival in your shop, cut at least 1 inch off each stem (if the blooms are on the stem), and dip or place the stems into a hydration solution. Then place them into a flower-food solution and allow them to take up water for at least two hours before designing with or selling them. Poke a tiny pinhole just below the blossoms; this will allow air to escape and water to fill the hollow stems and keep them turgid. Amazon lilies purchased on the stem can last for seven to 10 days.
8 no sun, no wind. Recut the stems and change the flower-food solution every other day to ensure cleanliness and prevent bacteria buildup in vase water. Display in a cool location, out of direct sunlight and away from air vents. Avoid excessively hot or cold areas. Misting is beneficial.
9 instant focal area. These blossoms create a focal point in any type of design. Their unusual forms make them excellent choices for bridal bouquets and corsages.
10 warning. Handling Amazon lily plants may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction, so it is best to wear gloves when processing them. All parts of the plant can be toxic if ingested in great enough quantities, so instruct customers to keep Amazon lilies out of the reach of children and pets. In several villages in Ecuador, however, the plants are cultivated for their medicinal value; decoctions of the whole plant are used as remedy and tonic medicine.
some information provided by:
Roy Borodkin of Brannan Street Wholesale, San Francisco Flower Market;
Aggie Horticulture Network, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/interiorscape/Eucharis_sp.html; Gardino Nursery Corp., www.rareflora.com/eucharisgra.htm;
Dave’s Garden, http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/2678/index.html;
Merrifield Garden Center, www.merrifieldgardencenter.com.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 28 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry. You may contact him by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (415) 239-3140.