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Botany Photo of the Day
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Cardiocrinum giganteum

Cardiocrinum giganteum
Cardiocrinum giganteum

Taisha is the author of today's entry:

Today's images are of Cardiocrinum giganteum (image 1 | image 2), or the giant Himalayan lily. The first image of the species in blossom is from Safia girl@Flickr and the second of the capsules is by Meighan@Flickr. Both photos were submitted via the BPotD Flickr Pool. I wrote today's entry after recently seeing an article about a plant at the University of Aberdeen's Cruickshank Botanical Garden blossoming for the first (and only) time after seven years of growth.

The plant at Cruickshank Botanical Garden is Cardiocrinum giganteum var. yunnanense. It has been in the ground in the Garden for three years, having been planted as a four-year-old bulb. The 2-meter tall plant will apparently die after this blossom, but horticulturalists at Cruickshank Botanical Garden say they will attempt to regrow it from seed in hopes of seeing another flowering of this species in future years.

After reading this article, I realized we too have this species growing in the David C. Lam Asian Garden here at UBC. It blossomed about three weeks ago, although I wasn't able to snap a picture. Our Cardiocrinum giganteum only stood a meter tall this year, though the Garden has a dried stem from a previous planting towering over 3 meters tall! It's amazing to see how enormous this lily can get.

The giant Himalayan lily occasionally reaches up to 4 meters in height. The flowering stem carries leaves that are similar to those in the basal rosette of leaves. Trumpet-shaped flowers are white with stripes of red-purple. The fruit, as shown above, is a capsule holding reniform (or kidney-shaped) seeds.

12 Comments

Interesting that the flower in the Cruikshank Botanical Garden appears to be pale green, and above the flower appears to be pink.
I believe these also bloomed this year at the Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way, Washington.

We have had them for some time at VanDusen.

I remember cardiocrinum flowering in My grandparents garden on Banks Peninsula, Canterbury NZ, They also grow and flower freely in the Eastwoodhill Arboretum Gisborne NZ.

Only last weekend i went to see these at Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire -- flowers creamy white with dark pink throat. I've seen them at Crathes in previous years -- this year they were actually 'advertising' them on boards as you approached the gardens.

At VanDusen this year the flowers on one stem were up some 10-feet in the air.
The visitors who saw it were wowed to see such a lily.

Why not explain to us the differences between the known cultivars, species and other clones ?

Another common name in wide circulation for this plant is Himalayan flute lily. The hollow stems are used to make musical instruments: the longer the stem, the deeper the pitch.

There are two known variations of Cardiocrinum giganteum, var. giganteum and var. yunnanense, differing from each other in a few ways. According to Bryan J. E. in Bulbs (1989), Cardiocrinum giganteum, var. giganteum is native to the Himalayan regions of Bhutan, Myanmar, India and Nepal growing at elevations of 2,100-3,400 meters, whereas Cardiocrinum giganteum var. yunnanense originates from China and prefers elevations of 1,200-3,600 meters. Var. yunnanense is not as tall as var. giganteum, has brown stems, and it’s also noted that the young foliage is bronze-tinted. In a publication by the Royal Horticulture Society (PDF), it is noted that var. giganteum flowers have less maroon coloring at the throat, are paler, and more pendulous. Also, it is said that var. giganteum’s flowers open from the bottom of the raceme upward, where var. yunnanense opens from the top down. The writer does note that it is difficult to tell whether it has opened from the top or the bottom.

We grow this lily in our back yard in Seattle, WA. Although each bulb is monocarpic so that when it blooms that bulb dies, it usually creates multiple offset bulbs, so is increasing for us nicely. Was getting too baked in the sun, but some other plants have grown up on the south side of it now, so it looks good for longer.

Thank you.

Heranne

I live in Olympia (100km south of Seattle), Zone 7b. In the autumn of 2007 I purchased one bulb of this plant (var. yunnanense) for $16--a price that made me follow the planting instructions (no direct sun) and devise special protections against burrowing animals when I finally did plant it in the spring of 2008. That year it produced only basal foliage, and I was surprised to see it send up a 2m (6') bloom stalk the next summer, 2009, and also produce 3 bulblets, which sprouted basal foliage in 2010.

The winter of 2010-11, a very harsh winter for plants here, introduced us to 8 seasons of unseasonable extremes in temperature and precip, including a destructive ice storm in Jan 2012. Nevertheless, by "Junuary" of our non-summer of 2012 the clump had put forth one 7' bloom stalk. One morning just before it had fully opened I went to photograph it and found the top flowering section broken off the main part of the stalk and lying on the ground! We suspect it was hit by an animal--anything ranging from a deer to our new kitten, who liked to take flying leaps at any erect object--and the warmth-deprived stalk was too weak to hold up the moisture-laden flowers.

Happily for the gardener, 2013 has brought us a mild winter, a "normal" spring, and a beautiful early summer. And the giant Himalayan lily produced 3 flower stalks, one nearly 8' tall, which bloomed at the same time that our Dracunculus vulgaris (aroid), just a short distance away, produced 3 massive purple spathe-and-spadix flowers, the stench of which lasted only a couple of days, no match for the longer-lasting fragrance of the lilies.

It looks like we'll have to divide the lily clump soon; there just isn't room in that spot for 9 bulblets to mature and reproduce. I'm very pleased with this plant; overall, it has been very easy to grow and should be included in the PNW's Great Plant Picks.

I live in Olympia (100km south of Seattle), Zone 7b. In the autumn of 2007 I purchased one bulb of this plant (var. yunnanense) for $16--a price that made me follow the planting instructions (no direct sun) and devise special protections against burrowing animals when I finally did plant it in the spring of 2008. That year it produced only basal foliage, and I was surprised to see it send up a 2m (6') bloom stalk the next summer, 2009, and also produce 3 bulblets, which sprouted basal foliage in 2010.

The winter of 2010-11, a very harsh winter for plants here, introduced us to 8 seasons of unseasonable extremes in temperature and precip, including a destructive ice storm in Jan 2012. Nevertheless, by "Junuary" of our non-summer of 2012 the clump had put forth one 7' bloom stalk. One morning just before it had fully opened I went to photograph it and found the top flowering section broken off the main part of the stalk and lying on the ground! We suspect it was hit by an animal--anything ranging from a deer to our new kitten, who liked to take flying leaps at any erect object--and the warmth-deprived stalk was too weak to hold up the moisture-laden flowers.

Happily for the gardener, 2013 has brought us a mild winter, a "normal" spring, and a beautiful early summer. And the giant Himalayan lily produced 3 flower stalks, one nearly 8' tall, which bloomed at the same time that our Dracunculus vulgaris (aroid), just a short distance away, produced 3 massive purple spathe-and-spadix flowers, the stench of which lasted only a couple of days, no match for the longer-lasting fragrance of the lilies.

It looks like we'll have to divide the lily clump soon; there just isn't room in that spot for 9 bulblets to mature and reproduce. I'm very pleased with this plant; overall, it has been very easy to grow and should be included in the PNW's Great Plant Picks.

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