Tiger Lily of Bangkok
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Tiger Lily

Tiger LilyTiger Lily

The Tiger Lily, Lilium lancifolium, is a true lily of the genus lilium, just to get that straight right away. The Tiger Lily is native to north and eastern Asian and has a strong 'lily-like' smell. However, just to confuse matters, these plants go by a number of not only local, but Latin names. It now grows wild throughout many parts of north-east America.

The Tiger Lily is widely cultivated for its flowers and its edible bulbs, which taste like potatoes. Various parts of the plant are also of medicinal use. An extract from the fresh plant is said to alleviate morning sickness in pregnancy and suppress aggressive behaviour.

On the negative side, the Tiger Lily is one of those lilies that has a negative affect on cats that ingest it. Normally, it will only induce vomitting, but in extreme cases, it can cause renal (kidney) failure, which will result in the death of the animal eventually.

Lilium lancifolium , also known as Lilium bulbiferum propagates itself by forming bulbils at the juncture where the leaves meet the stem. Growing new plants by cultivating these 'seeds' (for they are not seeds) takes a long time - up to about three years, so those gardeners who want to display Tiger Lilies usually buy the rhizomes or 'bulbs'.

If you want to try eating the Tiger Lily, the flowers are excellent in soups and the pollen can be collected in sufficient quantities to sprinkle on food such as eggs (omelettes), soups and stews. You may well read on the Internet that this plant is dangerous to humans, so you ought to check it out for yourself, but you will probably find that it is all right to eat, unless you are a cat.

The Tiger Lily is incredibly easy to grow because it is not too fussy about its environment. Lilies, in general, prefer well-drained soil, but Tiger Lilies also thrive well in moist to wet soils and hence grow well in or near roadside ditches, which gives it one of its North American rather derogatory nicknames - the Ditch Lily.

The Tiger Lily does not require any special care and feeding is only required in the poorest of soils. However, Tiger Lilies are subject to attack by slugs, snails and lily beetles, but you can grow the Tiger Lilies in raised pots and use biological controls to keep the slugs and snails at bay. The beetles can be removed by hand.

There is an old Asian fable about the Tiger Lily in which a Korean hermit helped a wounded tiger by removing an arrow from its body. The tiger asked the hermit to use his powers to perpetuate their friendship after its death. The hermit agreed and when the tiger died, its body became a Tiger Lily. One day, the hermit drowned and his body was washed away and the Tiger Lily spread everywhere searching for its friend.

Superstition has it that smelling a Tiger Lily will give you freckles and that the Tiger Lily will bring those who grow and admire it great wealth and prosperity.

Many who say that they know, proclaim that the Tiger Lily is definitely a feminine plant, standing for all the characteristics normally associated with human females.

by +Owen Jones