double-flowered tiger lily; was: Re: [pbs] Bulb Odds and ends

Jim McKenney
Mon, 12 Jul 2004 11:00:54 PDT
At 12:57 PM 7/12/2004 EDT, Dave Karnstedt wrote:

>The "tiger lily" has long been known to harbor a number of 
>lily viruses making of it, thus, a "Typhoid Mary"...

Dave is certainly right in noting that tiger lilies are virus carriers.
That in fact is why they have long been treated with disdain by lily
fanciers. And that's no doubt why the picture of tiger lilies disappeared
from the later of Woodcock's lily books. Back in 1950, lily viruses were a
big deal. Lily growers were convinced that the only way to go was to raise
virus-free lilies. As a result, the tiger lilies went onto the bonfires -
or lurked along the roadside (where they may well have been responsible for
infecting the native lilies which the cows didn't eat with virus in the
same way early European settlers passed on diseases to the indigenous

But since then, many lily growers have become aware of something else: I've
heard more than one hybridizer say that any lily growing in the open for
more than a season or two is probably virus infected. The simple truth is
that it is apparently very difficult to keep lily stocks virus free. So
rather than raise virus free lilies, a lot of lily people have come around
to realizing that it makes better sense to raise and grow virus tolerant

>Would that breeders could isolate those genes and get them into the other 
>lilies that would really benefit from a little stiffening of the spine, as

In a sense, this has already happened. It apparently isn't so much in the
genes as in the extra chromosomes: triploid lilies are well known to be
uncommonly vigorous and persistent - even when virused. Do you know the
clone Red Velvet? It's a triploid, and has been around for decades. The
extraordinary vigor of triploids and aeuploids (or as the euphonically
challenged spell it, aneupolids) has traditionally been attributed to the
circumstance that they don't set viable seed from diploid pollen; which is
to say, they typically don't set seed. I don't think that has ever been
proven, but there is no doubt that some triploids are very persistent. 

>There have been a number of hybrids made with this lily over the years.
>grown a few of them and, while relatively vigorous, eventually didn't shed 
>any tears when the gophers got to them .

Did you ever grow the glorious hybrid Nutmegger? It comes closer to being a
yellow-flowered tiger lily than even the so-called Lilium lancifloium
flaviflorum going around. In fact, it has some of the grace of Lilium
leichtlinii leichtlinii. I no longer have Nutmegger, but if anyone out
there does have it, I would (hint, hint) love a bulbil. 

One final comment on the double-flowered tiger lily. The first time I saw
this plant in bloom, the flower reminded me of the early twentieth century
German comic character Streuwelpeter. That's now my name for the
double-flowered tiger lily. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where, virused or not, the
tiger lilies have their place in the sun.

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