Lycoris, the Cluster Amaryllis

It’s the time of year in Kyoto when the rice starts hanging heavy in the fields, gradually browning. The grains brush against each other, the winds from the mountains cooling the city, harkening the last, lingering days of summer. Fall is upon us.

The maturing of the rice brings with it a general sense of excitement in Kyoto. The first rice harvest is always the best, and with so many fields speckled across the prefecture, it’s hard not to be reminded of how short the distance is from the field to one’s rice bowl. As far as the harvest goes, timing is everything.

While farmers in America use farmer’s almanacs, there is a slightly more obscure method in Japan, and especially in Kyoto, where September also bringsย higanbana, otherwise known as lycoris, the cluster amaryllis. Higanbana, while considered one of the most beautiful flowers of late summer and early autumn, has an interesting set of superstitions attached to it.

Farmers use this flower to gauge when is the best time to harvest the rice grain. When the flowers die, the rice should be cut. But while this flower is beautiful and cultivated for its ornamental qualities, Kyoto-ites would warn you not to cut the flower and take it home. The higanbana is a famed flower of Buddhist Hell, and to bring it into your home would be to invite a calamity of fire.

I find the flower quite beautiful, and it excites me as the first real swash of red for autumn. In a month or so more, this city will be aflame with kouyou, the autumn colors. The lycoris begins the season with its short, spider lily fireworks.

In some places, the leaves have already begun to change.

Mantises are the insect of September this year. I've seen one every day I've gone out this week.
Mantises are the insect of September this year. I’ve seen one every day I’ve gone out this week. –ย taken with an iPhone

29 thoughts on “Lycoris, the Cluster Amaryllis

    1. I agree with you, Denise! Shame you didn’t have a camera. Honestly, though, I’d never seen a mantis until Japan, though!


    1. Yeah. They look like fire, and areas of Kyoto get really prone to fire around this season (a wooden warehouse burned down in my neighborhood this month), and thus, superstition was born, I think. ๐Ÿ˜› Shame, because I want a whole vase of them at home!

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    1. Thank you, Anabel! A lucky shot! I couldn’t see anything with the glare. I’d actually thought the capture was blurry when I looked at it on my phone. Glad it didn’t get deleted.

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  1. You seriously took that last picture with an iphone? O.o

    But anyway, beautiful! The most our seasons have changed here is the wind shifting and bringing with it that sense of autumn. As per usual, it will probably sneak up on us and change all at once when it does!

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    1. Thank you, Melissa! I almost had to write a different post, but managed to find a bunch of blooming lycoris on my way to the store yesterday. Yay!

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  2. Beautiful flowers, and a beautiful mantis. I was out and about this weekend myself, and discovered the cotton harvest is in full swing. It’s a little early, but from the looks of things it’s a good one. There’s a little magic in knowing when to bring in any crop, I think. They measure moisture and such, but you still see farmers looking at the sky.

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    1. They’re a short-lived spectacle around here, but Kyoto has cultivated itself naturally over the centuries to have a flower for each month of the year. There’s always something pretty to look at!


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