Sunday, November 3, 2013

Could it be?

Growing plants from seeds is one of the most rewarding undertakings to be had by gardeners of any persuasion.  Growing seeds of one species, when obtained from various sources (differing in provenance), can be particularly intriguing in light of the natural variation that exists in many species.  A couple years back I put a out a request for seeds of Lilium catesbaei.  Through the generosity of the few that read my blog, and that of newfound friends, I was able to obtain, germinate, and grow seeds of various collections of L. catesbaei from throughout the species range.  While this species is known to be variable in coloration and petal width, there was one seedling that blew away all of my expectations.  What do you think?

I had to do a double take when this flower opened.  While this was unexpected, it was not unprecedented.  There is a photo of a similar plant on the website of the Pacific Bulb Society that shows a similarly colored plant that originated in the Florida panhandle (

While the Florida plant is quite showy and similar, it differs from my seedling in that the petals are more narrow, and there is a complete absence of spotting.  Whatever the differences are, they are both exciting plants and are monumentally rare, as is any form of L. catesbaei, in collections.

One more photo comparing a typical L. catesbaei and the aberrant cream-colored seedling.

There is one slight "problem" with Lilium catesbaei.  Based on my experience with the species, it appears to be monocarpic.  So, in order to maintain such variations, it will need to be periodically regenerated from seeds.  Unfortunately, this was the only such seedling to appear in this batch of seedlings, so the only plant with which it could be crossed was a typical orange flowered plant from the same seed batch. Fingers crossed.  Hopefully this proves to be a heritable trait and the next batch of seedlings will yield many more of these beautiful variants.


  1. Very interesting. Thanks for posting - quite striking really! I didn't know that Lilium catesbaei was monocarpic > are there other lilies that are monocarpic (Philadelphicum)?

  2. Thanks Victor. Based on my experience growing Lilium catesbaei, it appears to be monocarpic whether or not seed is set. More observation is necessary. L. philadelphicum may also be monocarpic, but we have had some clones of phliadelphicum return and flower several years in a row. Thanks for your comment!

  3. That is a beauty. It would be interesting to see if the muted color transferred to any of it's progeny. Wouldn't mind having one of those around.

  4. Hello Peter,
    This is a surprise indeed! Did you have other seedlings from the same seed lot, and if so, were they a typical red?

    I looked around at other posts and sites and found a photo that shows both the red L catesbaei in the background of a cream yellow flower, here:

    This makes me think about the often debated L. henryi var. citrinum, the yellow form of L henryi. Is it a hybrid of the orange henryi or a species variant? I don't know but should see some crosses of two clones (Ypsilante and Beaverton) flower in 2014. I hope they are yellow.

    Do "sports" occur in species or hybrids?

    I hope all is well with you and your family,