Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How to Tell If They're Junk Lilies

LaBarque Creek was once beautifully edged with wild lilies in June and July, and when construction came I dug up some of their corms -- which look like fingers of ginger -- determined to save all I could, unaware they were mere "ditch lilies" or "junk lilies," and planted them around the house and then ignored them. Thirteen summers later it's their yard, not mine.

Because they're so common and called junk lilies I'd assumed they were native, but there are no lilies native to the Americas, or Europe either; they're originally Asian and have spread through gardening. Junk lilies and their corms are so hardy they'll go without water and sun (there's no sun in this corner of my yard) and they multiply like mad -- spreading from underground, because they have no seeds. I'll dig up some corms for you, and you'll never have to plant expensive annuals again. Or water them. Deer won't eat these.

"Genuine" lilies are from a different botanical family, Liliae; those bloom at the very top of their stalks, while Hermocallis fulva (the junk lily) blooms from the sides of main stalk. Junk-lily blossoms last one day, presenting all of us with a unique moment in history and a spiritual lesson. A tiger lily (Lilium columbianum) with its poppy-seed spots is a lovely thing, but lacks the daylily's exuberance. Did I know any of this before I moved out here, near the creek? None of it.

1 comment:

Pablo said...

There is some thought that all of the orange lilies -- all of them -- are a single clone. Since they reproduce vegetatively rather than by seed, this is possible.