Saturday 7 July 2012

Turkscap lilies

Three stems of a good white clone of Lilium martagon.
Perhaps the most outstanding plant in flower in the cottage garden this week has been a group of three stems of a white-flowered Lilium martagon, the Turkscap Lily. This is a very robust clone, which differs from the usual white martagons in having a pink tinge to the outer surface of the segments: the usual white version, known as var. album, has no pink in the flower. Var. albiflorum has pink spots on a white background, so this plant doesn't fit either name - if it matters.

Pink tinges on the outer surface of the segments distinguish this excellent clone.

Lilium martagon var. album shows no trace of pink.
The origin of the rather strange epithet martagon is unclear, but it has been used since the mediaeval times for lilies with reflexed segments forming the typical 'turkscap' flower shape. Lilium martagon is regarded as something of a country cousin amongst lilies by some  - 'coarse and unattractive' was the rather harsh judgement of Woodcock & Stearn (1950), whose monograph Lilies of the World remains essential reading for the genus, but I am very fond of it. It has the very useful attributes of toughness and resilience, naturalizing freely and surviving where more refined lilies would soon disappear, and is perfectly happy on alkaline soil. It is naturalized in many wild gardens, including here at Colesbourne, and looks lovely under a light tree canopy.

A normally-coloured Lilium martagon at Colesbourne Park.

Paler pink than average.

L. martagon var. dalmaticum 'Naoussa Boutari'
 - a wonderful red form, introduced by the Alpine Garden Society's seed-collecting expedition to Greece (MESE) in 1999, named in commemoration of the red wine enjoyed by the team members each evening.

The 'three graces' in evening light.


  1. Jim Fox (Seattle) has asked me to post this: Lovely clone you have. Woodcock and Stearn's comment is ridiculous. Even the hummingbirds love the darker colored flowers. I'm infatuated with martagons in all varieties and hybrids. There's a marvelous black flowered form of L. m. var. cattaniae in your neck of the woods and in Sweden, too. Martagons grow well in Alaska and are disease resistant. What more does one need in a plant?

  2. Fabulous as always John, The Lilium martagon are particularly beautiful, so delicate.

  3. Love the L. martagon var. dalmaticum 'Naoussa Boutari', fab colour.


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