Tiger Lilies

Tiger Lilies are in fact usually hybrids of a cross between the species tigrinum or lancifolium and an asiatic hybrid. A true tiger lily is now considered to be of the species tigrinum. They reproduce prolifically, especially along the stem...ever wondered what those little brown nibs forming along the stem of one of your lilies was? They are called stem bulbils, and if you plant them, in time each one will produce another lily exactly like the one it came from! Plants grown from these bulbils cannot be expected to produce blooms in their first year, but if you happen to get some of the earliest ones and plant them, they just may get a surprise the following year. Some of the bulbils will fall off the parent stem already with their roots started and the first leaf popping up! You can guarantee that any lily which produces stem bulbils has tigrinum/lancifolium in it's genes. A good example for us is the orange/red Asiatic, 'Orange Beauty', we have in one of our beds and is featured on the Asiatic page. It, like the 'Tigers' we have in our front yard, produces a huge number of bulbils every year.

Tiger Lilies

From the website of the South Saskatchewan Lily Society comes some of the following information:

Lilium lancifolium Thunberg 1794 - TIGER LILY

(Lilium tigrinum Ker-Gawl)

As with the up-facing Thunberg's lily, the tiger lily was also documented by the Swedish botanist, Dr. Carl Peter Thunberg. He visited Japan in 1776 and undoubtedly found specimens growing there. The tiger lily was actually known by the German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer as early as 1692, but as this preceded the binomial plant naming system devised by Linnaeus, whatever Latin name he used is not recognized today. Even today, many still prefer to use the name L. tigrinum, a close match to the common name known to practically anyone in Canada, gardener or not. Ker-Gawl is an abbreviation for a botanist who was first known as John Gawler, and later John Bellenden Ker or John Ker Bellenden. He lived from 1764-1842. The tiger lily was introduced to Kew Gardens in 1804 by William Keff who obtained bulbs from Canton, China.

The tiger lily is, of course, famous for its spotted orange flowers, pendant on tall stems, and stem bulbils. As with other old lilies, it is often virus-infected. It has even been nicknamed the "typhoid Mary " of the lily world for this reason, and many advocate banning it from gardens where modem (healthy?) cultivars; are grown, although the risk is less for asiatics than orientals. Several cultivars have been developed over the years, although today they rarely have any cultivar names attached, except perhaps for the double form. In its native habitat of Japan, Korea and China, this lily has been known for its culinary value, having been cultivated there for at least a thousand years. It was first brought to the USA in 1823. In Canada, it has been grown as far north as Fort Smith, NWT. Here the name tiger lily is so well known that it is sometimes applied to any orange lily. And that really is a shame, because it is misleading. We were at a large US based building supply store 3, 4 weeks ago and this gent was buying what was tagged as 'Tiger Lily', but in fact it probably was an 'Orange Pixie'. Shame on the grower for labeling it that way and shame on the staff in the garden center for accepting an improperly identified product.

It's taken us a while to finally get some Tiger Lily shots up. It wasn't that we didn't have any, they have just taken a back seat to the other lilies we have around the yard. Wit our attention turned mostly toward the backyard over the past few years, these reliable performers have really been somewhat under-appreciated for that time. But every year they do make a magnificent display in late July/early August and they do deserve high praise. Here they are in the third week of July '04 providing a nice contrast for a clump of Orientals which were sold to us as 'Anglia', but of course they bear little resemblence to that.

They have occupied the same spot in the front bed for many years now and from their humble beginnings they have naturalized readily to where we have to make sure the bulbils they produce don't take over the bed. You'll find us spring and fall in the front garden bed picking out all the bulbils that have started to sprout.

Tiger LilyThese orange tigers came courtesy of our neighbour Darlene Burns. If memory serves we started off with 3 or 4 small ones and before you knew it we had to be diligent about picking sprouting bulbils out the garden beds to keep them from spreading too fast.

You may have read elsewhere on our site that we got some lily bulbs at the Richmond City Works Yard in 2003. So did Darlene, except she got a few bags of 'Tiger Lilies', one of which she graciously shared with us. It supposedly contained 5 yellow and 5 salmon coloured ones. By the time we got the bulbs they were in rather though shape already and we didn't hold out much hope of anything actually coming from them. Imagine our surprise when this salmon coloured one opened up the first day of summer: June 21st, 2004.

Salmon Tiger

It'll be interesting to see if this one is as prolific as it's orange cousin. At this point all we can ask for is that it has built up enough strength this year to give us a better showing next year, never mind thinking in terms of producing, bulbils, seeds or offshoots.

New for us this year, courtesy of our friend Roak, is this 'White Tiger', which I suspect really is an Asiatic hybrid of some sort, like the pink one above. This one by late August has started to develop a couple of nice seed pods, so, who knows.......

Both of these new tiger additions are rather on the compact side (which isn't a bad thing 'cause you need a variety of sizes and heights in the garden). However, where they were planted they were somewhat obscured, so we'll have to change that for next year.........

I'm sad to say however that this bulb appears to have made a meal for a rodent, likely a rat. The spot is was planted now has just a nice hole....

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