Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lilies in December? A Look at Lilium canadense

A recent post on Lilium iridollae has garnered some attention, and my attention has turned high summer, when several of Ohio's native lilies flower.  Although it was my original intention to post images and information about plants in 'real-time', one of the great joys of blogging is the opportunity to relive exceptional botanical moments, even during dark and dreary days of December.

I have been interested in species lilies for a number of years, and despite having grown a variety of them for my former employer, 2010 was the first time that I was really able to explore different regions of Ohio, locate populations of native lilies, and study them. I started with Lilium canadense.  In Ohio, this species can be throughout the eastern section of the state in glaciated and unglaciated of the Allegheny Plateau, but can be found in great abundance at the northern edge of the Cumberland Plateau in Adams, Highland, Pike, and Scioto counties.   With this is mind, I headed south from Columbus on July 8 2010.  I found the first Canada lilies growing in a roadside ditch in Pike county.

These Lilium canadense var. coccineum grew along a rural road in SW Pike Co.  The vigorous plants were protected from deer browsing by a nearby barbwire fence and were treasured by the owner of the property, who randomly appeared from the woods and engaged me in conversation.  This after I had not seen single car or person in the previous two hours.

Lilium canadense var. coccineum on a miserably hot July day in southern Ohio.

Isolated stems of Lilium canadense var. coccineum can be found along roadsides in the Shawnee State Forest region.  Large populations are uncommon.

The interior portions of the petals can vary in color. This one is particularly pale and mostly golden-yellow.

The largest population of Lilium canadense var. coccineum that I have found occurs in Scioto Co. and can be found along a state highway growing in a shallow ditch.


There are hundreds of plants in this population; some of them are over 240 cm tall and flower color varies from a pale rosy-red to scarlet-red.

At the germplasm center where I work, Lilium is a priority genus.  We are interested in growing various accessions of native lilies that have been collected across a geographical transect.  We are growing forms of Lilium canadense from various portions of the United States, but this form, brought to us by a good friend and coworker from Coos Co. New Hampshire, is one of the finest of them all.

Lilium canadense var. flavum is one of the most striking lilies.  In Columbus, OH, this genotype flowers about one month earlier than in it's native northern New Hampshire.

Another view of Lilium canadense var. flavum.  This genotype grows vigorously for us, but attempted pollinations produce mostly aborted seed.  Seeds that develop embryos will germinate and produce healthy seedlings.

More about Ohio native lilies in the near future