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Jun 13, 2021 1:45 AM CST
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I received this from @scvirginia and have been trying to work out what it is. The article itself notes that it is not Lilium brownii, Lilium regale, Lilium leucanthum var. centifolium, Lilium sargentiae or L. sulphureum, although seems to have similarities to it.

scvirginia said:The photo is from 1915, and when published in The Gardeners' Chronicle in 1920, apparently was still unnamed. 101 years on, it probably has a name, though I don't know what it is...

The source of this lily, as with most Chinese lilies introduced elsewhere in the world, was E. H. Wilson.

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I am wondering if it was an unusual form or variety of a known species that would now be classified under its parent species; e.g. a form of L. sulphureum. The other idea I had was that it may be a natural hybrid of some kind.

I'm hoping some of the other Lilium species aficionados may have some ideas?
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Jun 13, 2021 2:33 AM CST
Name: Luka
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Kansu means Gansu province?
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Jun 13, 2021 2:49 AM CST
Name: Luka
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It's 100% not brownii because brownii has white bulb and it's not even trumpet lily. This could very well be natural hybrid with sargentiae or sulphureum genes or variation of them.
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Jun 13, 2021 3:17 AM CST
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Thanks Luka.
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Jun 13, 2021 3:24 AM CST
Name: Luka
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I really hope mister Gao will do some research in trumpet section. We need it.
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Jun 13, 2021 3:34 AM CST
Name: Virginia
Charleston, SC (Zone 9a)
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I thought to check back to see if there were any later addenda or correspondence regarding this Lily, and I found the following letter written in response to the above article.

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Looking ahead to 1921, I see that there is more correspondence of greater bulk, though I'm not less confused after looking it over. Hopefully, it will be less so for you lily cognoscenti.

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And before I head off to Dreamland, here is a closer look at the photo from the original article:

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Jun 13, 2021 3:58 AM CST
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Name: Joshua
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Hmm. Well that's just even more confusing... No consensus whatsoever! I'll have to do some more research when I have the time.
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Jun 13, 2021 4:24 AM CST
Name: Virginia
Charleston, SC (Zone 9a)
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I found another photo in a different magazine, The Garden, 1920. I guess I was mistaken in thinking this was a Wilson discovery.

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Also, Google books supplies a passage from a book called The Modern Flower Garden, vol. 6 (Lilies) by W. A. Constable (copyright 2013, but is it a reprint?) that references this Farrer No. 316:

centifolium Farrer No. 316 (China) syn, leucanthum chloraster: an exceptionally fine trumpet lily introduced by the late Mr. Reginald Ferrar under the name of L. Brownii kansuense. Flowers resemble a large L. Brownii or sulphureum with green to purple-brown streaks on the outside. Bulbs should not be planted in permanent positions until they are of flowering size. Keep fairly dry in winter and apply moisture during the summer. Plant 9 in. deep; equal parts loam and leaf-mould with sand and charcoal; perfect drainage; partial shade amongst low-growing shrubs sheltered by taller plants; 6 ft. to 7 ft. Aug.
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Jun 13, 2021 4:57 AM CST
Name: Luka
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Thx Virginia.
I think we should not break our heads about this lily because it's clear to me that even authors don't know what they are talking about. The early info about Chinese trumpets are all over the place and sometimes they use different name for every color variety. They even use wrong synonyms as you can see in tha last post. Leucanthum var. chloraster is synonym of var. leucanthum and not var. centifolium. Centifolium has brownish, pinkish or purplish reverse with green vein. So it's very variable. Var. leucanhum has greenish reverse. Lilium sulphureum always produce bulbils so trumpet without bulbils is not sulphureum and so far there is no sulphureum reported in Gansu. They also stated that sulphureum is not variable species which is again wrong. You have many color variations of that species: some are completely sulphur yellow, some has white flowers with yellow throat and some even has green reverse. All of these variations produce bulbils.
One more thing. They mentioned this mysterious lily doesn't produce any offset bulbs which is characteristic of leucanthum, a lily from Gansu.
Last edited by Lucius93 Jun 13, 2021 4:59 AM Icon for preview
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Jun 13, 2021 7:03 AM CST
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Interesting findings. We may never have a concrete answer here, if there is or ever was one. I do like the readings from those old books. Thanks for sharing.
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Jun 13, 2021 8:02 AM CST
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I guess one thing to keep in mind was that at the time a lot of these plants were just being discovered and their knowledge was far less comprehensive than ours is now. I've see the same thing in orchids when I've read up on their history; plenty of plants were given varietal or species names when often they were just variations within a species (colour forms being a common example that doesn't really warrant a separate taxon).

I don't think we're going to get a concrete answer, but I think we can narrow it down based on the descriptions of the plant and bulb, at least.
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Jun 13, 2021 8:59 AM CST
Name: Luka
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The best candidate would be lilium leucanthum.
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Jun 13, 2021 1:40 PM CST
Name: Virginia
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Australis said:I guess one thing to keep in mind was that at the time a lot of these plants were just being discovered and their knowledge was far less comprehensive than ours is now. I've see the same thing in orchids when I've read up on their history; plenty of plants were given varietal or species names when often they were just variations within a species (colour forms being a common example that doesn't really warrant a separate taxon).

I don't think we're going to get a concrete answer, but I think we can narrow it down based on the descriptions of the plant and bulb, at least.


One thing that I'm reminded of, when reading old accounts of plants of all kinds is how arbitrary the distinctions between a species or a variety can seem, and how lack of specimens can make it impossible to know which criteria are best to use when trying to make those distinctions.

Imagine being a botanist studying lilies in the late 1800's and early 1900's, and you're realizing that new discoveries from China may end up comprising half of the true lily species. If you choose the wrong criteria for distinguishing species, confusion will result, but when looking at brand new plant material, you won't magically know which criteria are the important and useful ones.

I liked Mr. Grove's skepticism/ humility when he admitted he didn't know how important the presence or absence of bulbils is, and that he thinks most lily species could be cultivated in a way to get them to produce bulbils. With 2021 hindsight (ha! I made a joke!), that question may seem like it's decided, but how many gardeners or botanists have set out to see if he was wrong?

Grove also pointed out that there are somehow two different lilies confused when I originally thought there was just one mystery lily, and helpfully lets us know that Farrer's Lily No. 316 was not found growing wild, but in cultivation—in Chinese gardens.

At one point, something I read elsewhere made me think this might be Lilium farreri, but that turned out to be a synonym for Lilium duchartrei, and even I can see the difference...

I wonder if Lily No. 316 is in an herbarium somewhere? Whistling
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Jun 13, 2021 1:47 PM CST
Name: Virginia
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Lucius93 said:Thx Virginia.
I think we should not break our heads about this lily because it's clear to me that even authors don't know what they are talking about. The early info about Chinese trumpets are all over the place and sometimes they use different name for every color variety. They even use wrong synonyms as you can see in tha last post. Leucanthum var. chloraster is synonym of var. leucanthum and not var. centifolium. Centifolium has brownish, pinkish or purplish reverse with green vein. So it's very variable. Var. leucanhum has greenish reverse. Lilium sulphureum always produce bulbils so trumpet without bulbils is not sulphureum and so far there is no sulphureum reported in Gansu. They also stated that sulphureum is not variable species which is again wrong. You have many color variations of that species: some are completely sulphur yellow, some has white flowers with yellow throat and some even has green reverse. All of these variations produce bulbils.
One more thing. They mentioned this mysterious lily doesn't produce any offset bulbs which is characteristic of leucanthum, a lily from Gansu.


Yes, leucanthum seems to be where Mr. Constable ended up, but it could be a hybrid or garden selection, and without "breaking my head", I'd still like to know what this is, and if it's still in cultivation somewhere... Smiling
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Jun 13, 2021 8:33 PM CST
Name: Virginia
Charleston, SC (Zone 9a)
Köppen climate classification Cfa
Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: South Carolina
In 1927, Frank Campbell, a nurseryman in Detroit, Michigan offered amongst his Rare Plants this lily:

Lilium Centifolium (Syn Leucanthum Chloraster)—No lily of recent introduction has caused so much favorable comment in England. Mr. Farrer found it in a cottage garden in interior China by accident. Has grown to 8 feet in England and resembles L. Brownii. Small plant bloomed with me in 1926 at 3 feet. Hardy here with 6 inches of stems thrown on it in winter. Stem rooting—plant deep. 1/2 inch bulbs, $5.

And I found another b&w photo in the 1940 catalog for Edgar Kline's nursery in Oswego, OR:

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Does it seem to you that this is Lilium leucanthum, and if so, is it var. leucanthum, var. centifolia, or something else? Thinking
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Jun 13, 2021 8:46 PM CST
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The height is suggestive of L. leucanthum. The variation in the colouration, particularly among the offspring, however, makes me suspect that this is an infraspecific form - neither centifolium nor chloraster (aka var. leucanthum) but a possibly hybrid of the two. This can be the problem with subdividing species into varieties... even in nature there almost always exists an intermediate form!

I'll do some more checks when I have time, but I'm leaning towards classifying it as an infraspecific L. leucanthum hybrid.
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Jun 13, 2021 8:58 PM CST
Name: Virginia
Charleston, SC (Zone 9a)
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In the summer of1949, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's magazine, Plants & Gardens had an issue about lilies, and within there was a reproduction of one of the photos from The Gardeners' Chronicle above with the caption "Flower cluster of a Centifolium hybrid lily":
https://www.biodiversitylibrar...
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Jun 13, 2021 9:06 PM CST
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Very interesting! Thanks Virginia.
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Jun 13, 2021 11:18 PM CST
Name: Virginia
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I thought I was done with this lily for a bit, and was just going to wait for Joshua to have a chance to do a little digging of his own, but then I found this article, "Lilium Leucanthum Baker" by David Griffiths from the April 1934 National Horticultural Magazine, a publication I'd not heard of before today.

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Jun 14, 2021 2:13 AM CST
Name: Luka
Croatia (Zone 9a)
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One important thing I heard; Leucanthum var. centifolium can only be found in the cottage gardens in China. I don't think there is any of them in nature. They are very variable in color. Some even said that this lily might be a hybrid and not true species but we can't know that before some deep research (DNA or something).

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