Information on BX 197

Jim McKenney
Sat, 21 Feb 2009 16:24:56 PST
Dell Shirk quoted Jim Waddick “3. Lilium leichtlinii (aka L. tigrinum)
diploid form. This is the
common 'Tiger Lily'. Most cultivated tiger lilies are sterile tetraploids,
but this is  the less common diploid form that produces fertile seed. I
think I have supplied stem bulbils in the past too. 
This plant can be somewhat weedy in producing seedlings, but they are easy
to control.  The plant looks like the typical Tiger Lily.”

That is potentially very confusing. 

First of all, Lilium leichtlinii and tiger lilies  are not the same thing.
Although there has been general agreement for a long time that the tiger
lily is in some way derived from Lilium leichtlinii, as far as I am aware no
one has so far proposed a generally accepted parentage for the tiger lily.
By tiger lily I mean the triploid forms (not tetraploid) known in western
gardens since the early nineteenth century at least (but first observed by
Europeans in Japan in the late seventeenth century). 

There is one simple way to distinguish tiger lilies and Lilium leichtlinii:
as far as I am aware, Lilium leichtlinii does not produce stem bulbils. In
fact, the presence of stem bulbils in tiger lilies is one of the features of
those lilies which is hardest to account for – which parental species would
have provided the genes for stem bulbils? The triploid tiger lilies are
evidently hybrids; that Lilium leichtlinii is one parent is generally
agreed; the identity of the other parent is a mystery.  

There are diploid lilies which resemble tiger lilies and which can be grown
from seed. These are sometimes called Lilium lancifolium (as the triploid
tiger lilies are also). But as I know them these diploid tiger lilies bloom
earlier that the triploid tiger lilies and thus are doubtfully related. 

To confuse matters, the triploid tiger lilies are not sterile (a statement
contained in many books, especially older books): they will form abundant
viable seed if pollinated by suitable tetraploid lilies. The progeny of such
crosses resemble tiger lilies when the pollen parent has tiger lily in its
background;  and they have a range of ploidy levels. Some are diploid or
tetraploid and set seed freely – such plants might be the origin of the
so-called diploid tiger lilies. Some are triploid, and this might account
for the origin of the many forms of triploid tiger lilies recorded over the

So Jim, what do you think you’ve got there? I suspect that your lilies might
be some of those distributed in recent decades as Lilium lancifolium –
lilies not to be  confused with the triploid tiger lilies.  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where it's taking forever it seems for things to get going this year. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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