Nomocharis is a genus in the Liliaceae family from China, Tibet and Burma. Like Lilium they have scaly bulbs and leafy stems. Coming from areas with cold dry winters and summer rainfall, they bloom in summer. The flowers are very beautiful. The name Nomocharis means 'meadow grace'.
Nomocharis is closely related to Lilium. Species of the two genera have been exchanged over the years and some authorities now believe the species in Nomocharis should be added to Lilium. See for example Nomocharis and Lilium, J. Robert Sealy.
The genus reached its peak following Balfour's 1918 review in Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh Volume 27, Issue 3, page 273 in which he created three sections;
- Eunomocharis with verticillate leaves, filiform filaments to the stamina, flattish flowers and roots on the stem, including Nomocharis pardanthina, meleagrina, farrerii, basilissa and mairei.
- Ecristata with scattered leaves normal filaments flattish flowers and thick bases at the inner tepals, including Nomocharis aperta, forrestii and saluensis and also Lilium souliei and L. georgei.
- Oxypetala containing Lilium oxypetalum, lophophorum, euxanthum, and henrici.
Major reference works on Nomocharis include:
An interesting insight is the lecture "Cultivation of Nomocharis at Keillour" by Major Knox Finlay in 1953, which is reproduced in Lilies and Related Plants 2013-2014.
Seeds are much like lily seeds, in lily germination terminology they exhibit immediate epigeal germination, with a tendency to germinate best at lower temperatures (50-60 °F) and from fresh seed. See this PBS list article for expert instruction on growing from seed. Photographs by David Pilling of seed on a 10 mm grid, seedlings five weeks after sowing in a 2" pot and bulb with arrowed contractile root.
Nomocharis aperta is a species from China with pink to rosy purple flowers and variable degrees of dark spotting and a dark blotch on the base of the tepals. Photos 1-2 by Bob Rutemoeller of what we suspect is this species that was blooming in Harry Hay's gardens one May. Photo 3 by David Victor to his mind, it really is one of the most beautiful of all bulbs that can be found there or elsewhere. It was photographed on the Gaoligongshan, near Pianma, Yunnan at 3000 m - this is on the western side of Yunnan, near to the Burmese border and just east of the Salween River. Photos 4,5 and 6 by Oron Peri are photographs of this species growing in the wild in China.
This species is the one most often seen in cultivation; typically it has scattered leaves and always filiform filaments. However the bases of the inner tepals have two swollen cushionlike "warts". Nomocharis saluensis is in those respects similar but unlike Nomocharis aperta has a shorter style than ovary. Aperta is Latin for 'open'. Photos by Göte Svanholm. The second shows a predator Lilioceris lilii, the red or scarlet lily beetle.
Photographs by David Pilling show seed on a 10 mm grid, and the same seeds with transmitted light revealing the embryos.
Nomocharis farrerii differs from Nomocharis pardanthina by having linear more narrow leaves. It is named for Reginald Farrer who collected the plants in North East Upper Burma just after the first world war. Photographs Gunhild & Thorkild Poulsen. The final photograph is an example of Nomocharis pardanthina f. punctulata which is now considered a synonym of N. farrerii.
Nomocharis finlayorum is a hybrid swarm that developed in Scotland at the estate of Mrs. and Major Knox-Finlay. It is probably better adapted to a garden situation. It can be seen in the pictures that Nomocharis flowers, like Lilium but unlike Cardiocrinum, have two bracts to each pedicel. Photos by Göte Svanholm.
Nomocharis georgei is one of the accepted members of the genus, it is synonymous with Lilium georgei and was first described in 1926. It is similar to Lilium souliei but with purple blue flowers. It is named after George Forrest who discovered it. It is native to North East Burma where it grows in alpine meadows at 10,000 feet.
Nomocharis gongshanensis is from the Yunnan region of China, including Gongshan. It grows at 3200 m on sunny, grassy and bushy slopes of limestone soils. Similar to N. aperta, it was described as a new species in Gao et al., 2012, Plant Systematics and Evolution. It has been suggested this species may be a synonym of Lilium fargesii, which looks quite different. Susan Band grew this flower from seed, blooming in 2014.
Nomocharis meleagrina differs from Nomocharis pardanthina by its more narrow inner tepals. However like Nomocharis pardanthina when compared with Nomocharis aperta, Nomocharis meleagrina has leaves in whorls, no warts and filaments with swollen bases that suddenly taper to an outer filiform part. This is clearly visible in the picture below by Göte Svanholm. Meleagrina margaritifera is the pearl oyster, named for its spots, see Fritillaria meleagris.
Nomocharis nana syn. Lilium nanum
Nomocharis oxypetala syn. Lilium oxypetalum. Generally considered the easiest species to cultivate. Variety insigne (distinguished) has pink to purple flowers; the name oxypetala means 'sharp petals'. First photograph Gunhild & Thorkild Poulsen, second David Nicholson. Photo 3 of bulb of variety insigne by Pontus Wallstén.
Two photographs of the same seed by David Pilling, the second one was taken using transmitted light.
Nomocharis pardanthina Compared to Nomocharis aperta, Nomocharis pardanthina has leaves in whorls and no warts but the filaments have swollen bases that suddenly taper to an outer filiform part. This was the first species of Nomocharis to be discovered, it was found by the French missionary J. M. Delavay in 1883 on mount Koua-la-po in Yunan, China. After specimens were sent to Paris the species was described by Franchet in 1889. 'pardan' in plant names is related to the Greek for leopard (known for its spots). First two photos by Göte Svanholm, last one Gunhild & Thorkild Poulsen.
Nomocharis saluenensis The name derives from the Salween river, which flows 2800 km from the Himalayas to the Andaman Sea, forming the border between Burma and Thailand. Salween is a British mispronunciation of the Burmese 'Thanlwin'. Photograph Gunhild & Thorkild Poulsen.
Nomocharis synaptica is one of the accepted members of the genus. It is found in North East India, the flowers are white with a purple tint and maroon spots; basal blotch deep purple, fringed yellow. It was first described in 1950. Please contact us if you have a photograph.
Nomocharis hybrids - specimens that don't fit into the above species. Photos by David Pilling of a plant grown from SRGC seed sown in January 2010 flowering at the start of June 2013.
Another plant grown from seed flowering in late May 2014; it is in a 7 cm side pot.