Wild Lily: L. regale Wilson 1912, Regal Lily

Perhaps the most important of all E. H. Wilson’s discoveries. Found in China in 1903, L. regale is confined to a small area, only part of a valley through which the River Min flows in northern Chengtu. The valley is desolate, uncultivated, excessively hot in summer, desperately cold in winter, and surrounded by the steeply rising cliffs of snow-covered mountains 18,000 feet high. But during June the valley changes into a veritable paradise full of the blossom and the sweet scent of the Regal Lily, which grows in hundreds of thousands on the rocky cliffs at about 5,000 feet above sea level. E. H. Wilson nearly lost his life and had his leg crushed by stones when he returned to this spot in 1910; but he collected between 6,000 and 7,000 bulbs which today still form the basic stock of L. regale in the Western world.

The lanceolate scales of the round, 6-inch diameter bulbs turn purple if exposed to the light. The wiry, slightly arched stem reaches 2 feet 6 inches-4 feet, occasionally even higher, and has numerous one-veined linear leaves. There are one to eight (often more) highly fragrant

wide-open, trumpet-shaped flowers, arranged in a wheel-shaped umbel, with more or less strongly recurved, shiny, silk-like, white petals and yellow throat with an outer flushing of pink-purple, particularly along the centre rib. The anthers and pollen are yellow, the style and stigma green. Flowers during the first half of July.

It is a prolific seed producer, irrespective of whether self- or cross-pollinated; the only possible true cross is with L. leucaiithum var. ceiitifolimn. When used as a pollen provider it has crossed with L. sargentiae (L. x imperiale), L. sitlphitreum (L. x sulphurgale). Good and quick germination. This stem-rooting lily should be planted in a sunny position in soils rich in humus, and must be protected from late frosts with heavy layers of mulch or a covering of straw. There is no other lily which is less demanding, more rewarding and more long-living than L. regale, and none so easily and cheaply raised from seed.

It is not certain whether the pure-gold-yellow L. regale (Royal Gold) is a hybrid or a mutation – but its beauty is beyond doubt.

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