Friday, July 12, 2013

The lilies: who are they, really?


Above, small and pert,  with beautiful, backflared petals (really "recurved" but I like backflared better) and whiskery anthers, Madam Butterfly is a new lily on the terrace. She flopped over while I was away - many lilies will need staking in their first year. Now she is tethered gently by the waist. Shoulders, perhaps. I love the green stripes on the tops of the petals and the subtle painting of yellow on the bottom.


An old and very reliable favourite - Dunyazade. Blooming so much earlier than usual. They are usually the last to open, in August. What gives?


And another "lily", though not in the family Liliaceace at all: the climbing Gloriosa superbum - gloriosa lily - belongs to the family Colchicaceae, which may sound familiar to gardeners: the crocuses that bloom spectacularly in fall are Colchicum - named after a poisonous alkaloid in their tubers. In short, don't eat the tubers of  those crocuses or this lily.

Conversely, the tubers of  Lilium species (family is Liliaceae), like the first two flowers pictured, have edible tubers. Things become complicated with hybridization, though. It's safer to avoid cultivars. Case in point, day lilies. Yet another "lily". Hemerocallis. The orange species, Hemerocallis fulva has edible tubers, shoots and flowers. I love them. But once you get into fancy cultivars their chemicals becomes all mixed up and can make you sick.

How do you know something is cultivar? In print, it has a fancy name, in quotation marks, like Lilium "Madame Butterfly". In fact, the English is a dead giveaway. If it's nice, safe, impenetrable botanical Latin or Greek, you're fine. In the field (...the lilies of the field..), you simply have to learn to differentiate the plain old orange day lily from its fatter or frillier or brighter yellow, maroon or white cultivar cousins.

I didn't mean to go off on a foraging tangent. But there it is.

7 comments:

  1. Well if you would like some of those orange ones, I have loads. All the deer eat is the bud. I wouldn't mind if they ate the tubers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep - really invasive, aren't they? Try the buds - they're a very nice raw addition to salad, or an interesting vegetable, steamed. I promise.

      Delete
  2. Perhaps I should have got some stakes ready; I thought they might do a racehorse sprint, but hoped(wrongly!) they'd be OK til you returned.
    Interesting that your Gloriosa is a more blue-red than ours.Also, yours has thicker stems.And ours is declared "unwanted." :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny - everything South African is unwanted in Australia, and everything Australian is unwanted in South Africa!

      I think this cultivar of Gloriosa is 'Rothschild'. The wild SAfrican one I've seen is quite orange.

      Delete
  3. Love the gloriosa - was thinking the other day that i might want to try one. Even more interested now. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My Casablanca lilies don't normally bloom until late July early August, but they have already bloomed and gone....what gives???

    ReplyDelete
  5. And good ol garlic and other alliums used to be considered liliaceae but I see that has changed of late. The lilies appear not to have been affected at all by the salt water of sandy adding to their hardiness if not charm.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...