In the Gardens: Lilium superbum

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness. It teaches industry and thrift – above all, it teaches entire trust.”

Gertrude Jekyll

This plant has taught me patience. I have been waiting for this to bloom for 2 years!!! It finally happened. ?

Lilium superbum (Lily Superb)

Common Names: Turk’s Cap lily, Turban Lily, Swamp Lily, Lily Royal, American Tiger Lily

Lilium superbum is a true native lily to eastern North America where it occurs in wet meadows and moist woods from New Hampshire south to Georgia and Alabama. It is pollinated by the eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), one of the largest butterflies in New England.

This is the tallest of the native American lilies, typically growing 4-6′ (less frequently to 8′) tall with typically three to seven blooms, but exceptional specimens have been observed with up to 40 flowers on each stem.

The color is known to range from a deep yellow to orange to a reddish-orange “flame” coloring with reddish petal tips. The flowers have a green star at their center that can be used to distinguish L. superbum from the Asiatic “tiger lilies” that frequently escape from cultivation. Sharply-reflexed sepals and petals curve backward to touch at the stem thus forming a “Turk’s cap”. The leaves frame and balance the flowers with a delicate whorled pattern.

The roots were a food source for Native Americans, especially in times of famine. They would boil the tubers and feed their children to make them “fleshy and fat.” ?

The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds and larger insects.

This lily, in the wild, has been decimated by voles and deer. It takes particular patience to grow this lily in your garden: in keeping it protected as well as being patient for prolific flowering for, in most cases, a plant must be 7-years old before it begins to flower. ?

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”