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

Jim McKenney
Mon, 12 Jul 2004 14:53:43 PDT
At 05:07 PM 7/12/2004 -0400, Ellen Hornig wrote:

>Has anyone blocked out, in a methodical way, the
>regional variations of this species - and are regional variations
>meaningful, or is it just variation from one local population to another?

I'm not a practicing botanist, so there may well be something out there I'm
not aware of. But here's what I do know:

Lilium superbum has yielded at least two apparently good species: L.
iridollae in Northern Florida and adjacent Alabama and, more recently,  L.
pyrophilum in coastal sand dunes of Virginia, North and South Carolina.
These are regarded as meaningful regional variations. Recognition has been
proposed for other variants, but these proposals have not met the test of
peer review. 

Other than that, I'm not aware of other superbum variants which have formal
recognition. (That's confusing: Lilium iridollae and L. pyrophilum are not
Lilium superbum variants, they are discrete species. But there was a time
when they would have been considered L. superbum variants).

The variations in vigor probably relate to culture. Here in my garden,
Lilium superbum is relatively small. The plants are about five feet high
and the inflorescence is small - up to six or seven flowers. But these
plant are grown in a very lean mixture. 

Years ago I grew this species in a border situation in a medium which was
largely organic: those plants regularly went up to seven or eight feet
(although they still had relatively low bud counts). Wild plants I've seen
here in the Washington, D.C. area are also tall but with low bud counts.

I would keep them away from the tiger lilies. I have both tiger lilies and
several of our native lilies here in my small garden - so far, I've (or
they've) been lucky.  

When you say "When the flowers open, they're immense," do you mean the
individual flowers or do you mean the entire inflorescence? I have not
noticed a lot of variation in the size of individual flowers. But not for
nothing was the plant named superbum: the inflorescence of a big plant can
be huge.

I can't wait to see the photos!

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where apparently in the old
days tiger lily meant Lilium superbum in the local vernacular - just as
tiger lily means Lilium columbianum in some parts. And then there are the
totally clueless ones who call Hemerocallis fulva a tiger lily. On second
thought, maybe that's not so clueless: the daylily may not have spots (but
then, neither do tigers), and it does get the color right. 

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