Wild Lily: L. auratum Lindley 1862, Golden-Rayed Lily of Japan

A beautiful, elegant, colourful and sweet-scented lily. The best of all wild lilies, much sought after in its natural state, although difficult to grow.

Called Yamei-Yuri in its native Japan, it extends over the whole of the main island of Honshu (with the exception of the western point), and also over some others. Prefers the eastern side of mountain faces up to a height of 5,000 feet; it is occasionally found growing in the fissures of vertical rocks but mostly among low-growing grass, bamboo, and rhododendrons; it is often found growing in the company of L. japonicum, L. maxiniowiczii, and L. medeoJoides on volcanic ash and thin, stony ground. The bulbs are bigger than those of other lilies, in cultivation 3-4 inches in diameter, flat-round, yellow with pink spots. Strong purple stems 3-8 feet high, dark-green, short-stemmed leaves, small to broad lanceolate and up to 8 inches long. Large, outward-facing flowers, 10-12 inches wide, very fragrant, flat bowl-shaped, slightly reflexed, wax-white, rayed golden-yellow with carmine-red spots, papillose; chocolate-brown pollen. Under good cultivation the flowers, which in the wild only number six at the most, can be considerably increased. The flowering period is from August to September; 300-400 seeds in oblong seed capsules; slow germination, stem-rooting.

Grows best in temperate maritime climates, including England, Oregon and Washington, particularly well in Victoria, Australia, and New Zealand. Should be planted in light, lime-free, peat soils.

A. and R. Buckley, of Langley Prairie, British Columbia, recommend that L. auratum be planted no deeper than 3-4 inches, increasing to 4-6 inches in light soils. Bulbs should be planted in slightly acid soil of pH

5.5-6.5, well surrounded with sand and topped with leaf-mould. Compost must be well rotted and only applied as a top dressing.

L. auratum consists of a number of varieties in the wild which have been used to introduce several new lilies into cultivation. Work on a massive scale, conducted by the Buckley brothers, has enabled them to produce 60 clones from which the Esperanza seedlings originated and found their way into commerce.

L. auratum Crimson Queen. One of the best varieties with large flowers, rayed in broad crimson along the centre of the flower petal.

L. auratum var. platypliyllmn is hardier and broader-leaved than the type, with numerous large flowers, up to 1 foot wide. E. H. Wilson notes that this form is native in southern Japan.

L. auratum var. rubro-vittatum. The yellow median band in this form is continued in dark crimson right up to the segment point; heavily spotted in red.

L. auratum var. rubrum. Crimson median band rarely found in the wild in Japan, only in the ratio of one red-rayed type to 100,000 of the others.

L. auratum var. tricolor. Similar to platyphyllum, with yellow band, and slightly speckled.

L. auratum var. virginale. Pure-white, golden-rayed with yellow speckles. Successfully crossed with L. speciosum (L. x parkmaunii). Other lilies crossed into this complex are the Japanese L. japonicum and L. rubellum (Dr N. E. Pfeiffer, Boyce Thompson Institute, New York, 1942).

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