Western lilies

Kenneth Hixson khixson@nu-world.com
Thu, 17 Jun 2004 00:30:45 PDT
Dear Members:
	Jane and Mary Sue's comments are both interesting, and probably
both correct--and I disagree, or rather see some things a little bit
differently.  No plant is really hard to grow--we people simply don't
know what they need, or are unable to supply those needs.  Western 
american bulbs, including lilies, are adapted to certain conditions,
which they do well under, and don't do well without.
	First, the lilies native in this area of western Oregon are 
L. columbianum, often called "wild tiger lily", and L.washingtonianum,
or Lady Washington lily.
	L columbianum to me is most like a martagon with orange yellow 
flowers.  In fact, western american lilies and martagons are now being
hybridized together, which supposedly indicates a close relationship,
although these days almost any lily may be hybridized with any other.
The bulb is small(I disagree here with Glen Keator), seldom much over 
1 inch in diameter, with scales which are unjointed, a characteristic 
(jointed scales) which is found in many western american lilies, and 
at one time considered a diagnostic feature.  It is also concentric, 
meaning the stem comes out of the center of the bulb.  The bulb seldom 
or never divides, and propagation probably is almost exclusively by seed.  
As a plant, it is fairly shade tolerant.  I've seen one plant which grew 
to about 9 feet tall, with the first six feet being invisible, as it was 
growing in dense brush to that height.  It will also grow in meadows with 
grass less than two feet tall, so is also sun tolerant.  I've never tried
growing this one from seed, but one good lily grower I knew said it
took seven years to get flowering plants.  This lily is wide spread
in western america, but is usually reported to do poorly in gardens.
I have grown it, and do not regard it as difficult, but it is slow growing
and does not propagate rapidly like other lilies.  The few hybrids I've made 
with it were not any more difficult than the other parent, though the small 
flower size seems dominant.
	L. washingtonianum as I've known it, is different.  The bulb is
"subrhizomateous", meaning the stem comes out of the bulb near one side,
with all new scales being added to that side, just as if it were
rhizomateous.  In effect, the new bulb is formed on the side of the old
one, forming one elongated bulb, not two bulbs.  At the back end of the 
old bulb, scales decay, leaving an old basal plate almost like a rhizome.  
Scales in this lily also are unjointed, but tall and thin, and I've never 
tried to scale one.  I would not regard this lily as having "single" bulbs
--in fact, it can make such large clumps that it will push the bulbs out 
of the ground, where they can freeze and be destroyed.  Personal experience.
Given that the new bulb is formed on the side of the old one, it would 
seem reasonable that the bulb, or clump, should in the course of some years, 
move sideways.  In fact, the stems come up in the same spot year after year.  
I've seen three years stems coming almost out of the same hole, and on 
occasion have seen this years' stem coming up through last years.  The only 
thing I can think of is that perhaps the new scales force the bulb sideways 
into the area where the old scales are decaying, which seems unlikely.
Anyone have a better suggestion?
	Both lilies are reported as occuring at higher elevations, but when
I was growing up, were found near my home on the floor of the Willamette
Valley, elevation less than 500 feet.  These lower elevation lilies no
longer exist, mosty as the result of cultivation and the grazing of
domestic livestock.  Lane County used to spray the roadsides with brushkiller,
and in the process, killed hundreds of L. columbianum.  Brushkiller is
no longer used, but the lilies are gone.  I also knew one colony of
L. columbianum which was bulldozed out when the county widened the road.
Farmers used to have fencerows where lilies could survive, but now the fences 
are gone, and land is cultivated (and sprayed) to the roadside.  Thus, lilies 
are now found only where grazing and cultivation are impractical, and where 
forest doesn't shade them out. In other words, steep slopes, etc.
	It is usually said that the "dryland" group, including L. washingtonianum,
should not have summer water.  In my garden, regular summer water does
not seem harmful, provided drainage is good.  They are adapted to the
weather or climate here, and do seem to resent being moved.  I have
with when they are moved, so far without firm conclusions.  They make new
roots well before the fall rains (September?), which is much earlier than
most lilies are shipped by suppliers.  If they don't get their new roots
established, they "sulk", sometimes for several years.  Thus, when obtained
from normal suppliers, they often do not do well.  I suggest experimenting
with moving them just after they finish flowering, and with a rootball if
practical, to keep the roots from drying out.  Many western american bulbs
will mature the seeds if the stem is detached from the bulb just after

>L. pitkinense is only known from two populations, both wetland. 
	Note that L. pitkinense was originally described from a marsh
on the Pitkin family farm, but was growing on hummocks, not in the water,
although they may have been submerged in winter.  L. pardalinum is 
sometimes described as being in running water--which presumably is well
oxegenated, not stagnant.  At one time, the marsh where L. pitkinense
was first found was overgrown by blackberries, and the lily was thought
to be extinct.  In fact, Ed McRae in his book, suggested that the
L. pitkinense he grew from seed were simply hybrids.  Whether or not this
species still exists, or whether or not it should be regarded as distinct
from L. pardalinum, can consume a lot of time and opinion.  Given the
things that have been dumped into L. pardalinum, you might almost call
any western american lily, L. pardalinum.  (personal opinion there!)

	L. pardalinum grows from a rhizome which branches and rebranches, and
if happy in a few years will have made a massive carpet of bulbs, one
on top of another, about three or four layers deep.  If happy one bulb
will make three or four bulbs each year.   One person reported having 
to use an axe to separate his clumps, a shovel simply didn't work.
Here in western Oregon, this should have full sun, and regular water
at least until it dies down.  I water all summer, and it didn't resent
being irrigated while dormant, but it definitely didn't like being moved.
This is a big problem with western american lilies, and especially with
L. pardalinum.  The first one I bought as a single bulb, in about five
years made a clump almost four feet square and about 8" deep, the depth of 
the raised bed it was planted in.  In the ground it is much less aggressive.  
I tried growing it in containers, and killed all of them, possibly because
I potted them too late.  Bulbs of L. pardalinum have jointed scales, and 
are almost impossible to dig without leaving small bits of scales in the 
ground.  These may take several years to make above ground leaves.  
L. pardalinum has received several lilies which previously were species in 
themselves, so there is considerable variation in height, flower color and 
shape, and even bulb form and amount of propagation.  There is one 
interesting variant called the yellow (or fragrant) pardalinum, which grows
in southern California.  This could easily be a hybrid with L. parryi,
but my understanding is that it is presently considered pure pardalinum.
	This lily seems to attract monarch butterflies, and a large 
planting will almost always have a butterfly in attendence, its' wings 
dusted with pollen.

>I never been able to get seed 
>of L. washingtonianum to germinate so I could kill it.
	That's ok, Mary Sue, I've killed enough for both of us--

Ken, western Oregon Z7

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