The Incredible Self-Shortening Amaryllis

The second spike on my ‘Bogota’ amaryllis got too big for its boots (OK pot). It grew taller than the first by a couple of inches. I was so proud … of course there was a fall! I came down one morning to a mess and downed flower. So I decided to cut the flower and put it in a tall, heavy, recycled glass vase.

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But now there is something strange happening … each time I admired it, it seemed shorter. What on earth is going on?

Well, it turns out that the stalk is curling itself up. This is because the outside stalk cells are hydrophobic (i.e. repel water), but inside the stalk it is completely the opposite situation. They are absorbing water by osmosis and swelling and swelling. So much so that the difference has caused tearing and scrolling. Here is a close up:

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If you have ever picked a bunch of dandelions for a vase (against all advice about wetting the bed, I might add), you might have noticed the same effect.

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It is really quite beautiful.

But if I’d known it was going to happen I would have cut a longer stem!!!!

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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14 Responses to The Incredible Self-Shortening Amaryllis

  1. Chloris says:

    That’s the trouble they grow so tall that they always topple over. I always cut mine now but I never noticed this curious curling. It is lovely.

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Such a pretty flower and thanks for the explanation of the curling. Recently I was gifted a bunch of calla lilies that did the same thing. Pretty neat!

  3. This is my kind of post. So interesting!

  4. shoreacres says:

    I’ve never seen this phenomenon, nor heard of it. Now, I can’t wait for the dandelions to appear, so I can give it a try. Is there something about the amaryllis stem that’s symmetrically structured? It’s amazing that the curls are so perfect. Are tendrils and vines affected the same way? Sometimes I see curls that seem to have no reasonable explanation, and I’ve just assumed their shapes were random. It’s something else to explore!

  5. I knew they did this and have observed it before but didn’t know why. I do now

  6. Cathy says:

    What great pictures! I have seen it happen before, but not so elegantly. Tying a broad rubber band around the base of the stem helps stop it happening.

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