Lilies forum: Lily divisions

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Name: Dave
Southern wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Region: Wisconsin Peonies Bulbs Seed Starter Pollen collector Plant and/or Seed Trader
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Mar 10, 2018 9:27 PM CST
Ramona asked me to do some posting on her Facebook page about lily divisions and breaking them down a bit. Given that she has some new to lily people for customers. This is what I wrote to start it. Then over the next couple weeks, I will break down each division.

Lily Classifications

Okay, well Ramona has asked me to do a weekly post about lily classification. So here it goes. Anyone, and everyone, feel free to add to these posts any information, along with any questions anyone might have. In this first post, I will explain how the classification system is broken down. In my post next week and subsequent posts thereafter, I will break down each class so as to give everyone time to add input on each subject, and to ask questions.

The classification system has been updated a few years ago, and there are rumors of changing it up again. But as it sits right now, this is how it all breaks down. According to the agreed upon format used by both NALS (North American Lily Society) and the RHS (Royal Horticulture Society) Lily group of the UK, each class is called a division.

Division 1. Asiatic hybrids

Division 2. Martagon hybrids

Division 3. Candidum hybrids

Division 4. American hybrids

Division 5. Longiflorum hybrids

Division 6. Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids

Division 7. Oriental

Division 8. Interdivisional hybrids

Division 9. Species type.

Before I break down each division, I want to clarify what a hybrid is. A hybrid is a cross of 2 different species or hybrids, which makes a new and unique flower. It has genes from both parent plants making a new plant all together. For those interested in breeding Lilium, we can start another post about that at another time.

The species division, which might be the smallest division, consists of a group of lilies that occur naturally in their native environment. There are somewhere around 126 known species, not including subspecies or forms. This class does get confusing, as names and taxonomy changes.

Some divisions have sub-divisions as well. All based on the orientation of the flower, labeled 'flower aspect'.

A: which means the flower has an upright facing orientation

B: Which means the flower generally faces outward, or horizontal with the ground.

C: Which means the flower faces downward, or pendant in orientation. These are ones where you have to lay on the ground to get a good picture of the flower.

The next sub-division addresses the 'flower form'.

A: being a flower that is trumpet shaped

B: a flower that is bowl shaped

C: a flower that is flat shaped

D: flowers that are recurved, or turks cap style.

Another example of this would be:

'Firebolt' in the registry is classified as a VII(Division) a/b(aspect) – c(form).

This means it is in the Oriental Division (Division VII). The a/b (aspect) means it has an orientation between up-facing and outfacing. The c (form) mean it is a flat shaped flower.

The Division system was derived by the assumption that certain species flowers, despite the regions and locations they grow, are closely related to one another. Why do we classify flowers? Why does it matter? It's one way to denote when someone creates a new hybrid. Also, for registration purposes. This helps us form classes during our lily shows, as well. With the different classes, it offers a chance for more people to get ribbons for their chosen class of flower.

I'll answer a question off the bat that I'm sure many will ask. What are the OT flowers that Ramona sells? These weren't mentioned. OT stands for Oriental Trumpet, or Orienpet. If you are looking in Dutch catalogs or online, they refer to the OTs as tree lilies. Don't buy into that. Trees do not die back to the ground every year, lilies do. It was a marketing name they gave them, basically meaning they have sturdy and thick stems. These are what belong to the interdivisional hybrids, or Division 8 as these are a cross between Division VII and VI. This is where one division, was bred with another division, and some lucky breeder was able to get good seed that eventually was grown to bloom. These are often bred in labs by embryo rescue techniques. Some other examples of Division 8 flowers are Asiapets (Asiatics/Trumpet), LO(Longiflorum/Oriental), and LA(Longiflorum/Asiatic). There has been talk of adding or changing the classification so that OT's have their own Division, as there are so many of them, and new ones are being introduced to the mass market every year.

Here is a link to the lily registry. The files are downloaded in PDF format and free.

I hope everyone enjoyed this little article. Feel free to share this with your friends as well to get more people into growing lilies.

Also, join NALS at or a local society if you are near one. Annual spring bulb sales, annual lily shows, take a stem, you might win. It's fun to get out with other like-minded lily people and talk……about lilies of course.

I hope you enjoyed this first post and found it informative.


David Whaley

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