Lilium formosanum 1

I remember from my youth the embankments at  road cuttings bedecked with gorgeous white lilies, very similar to St Josephs, but flowering in late summer – February and into March. And then they ended up on the Invasive Aliens list and I was up in arms. There are terrible weeds which are tolerated because they are less noticeable. But this flower, which has a small footprint so that it doesn’t elbow out other plants, and doesn’t collapse in a messy heap over other things, is seen as the enemy for the simple reason that it is SEEN. 

Lilium formosanum 2 

And so it gives me great joy to strew the seeds in my meadow, and see every year how more young lilies make a show among the grasses. In many places they are in decline. Because they are now up for grabs by anyone wanting to make a quick buck by selling them by the roadside (remember this is Africa, and a tourist area), their seeds seldom have the chance to germinate. Much more worryingly, the concept of picking wild flowers and selling them to strangers becomes a known source of income – and so arums (calla lilies) and ferns and such like follow…

Lilium formosanum 3

It is interesting that lilies are mostly considered anything from temperamental to difficult or even impossible to grow in our climates – but over quite a large area Lilium formosanum grows so happily that it has attracted the ire of the greenies and been banned nationally. There I have another gripe: there are such diverse climates in South Africa that a national list of invasive aliens makes no sense.

Lilium formosanum 4

It comes from the island formally known as Formosa – today Taiwan, and that might explain its love for our area: few lilies come from such warm areas, and the island sits astride the Tropic of Cancer; we are 70km outside the Tropic of Capricorn. Like ours, summers are hot and humid. Yet the climates aren’t too similar. Our winters – when the lilies are dormant – are very much colder. Be it all as it may. These beautiful lilies are proudly known in our area as Haenertsburg lilies – and long may they grace our area!

Lilium formosanum 5



  1. Hi Jack! Formosa Lilies grow here in NC. They get very tall (almost seven feet). A friend use to grow them and it was such fun walking beneath them in bloom.

    • Hi Jim! Here we need a very wet summer and they need to be a few years old before they could possibly reach 7 feet. However I recently measured one growing through a tree in an avocado orchard, where it was clearly determined to reach the light, and where the tree supported its growth, at over 11 feet. It had multiple flower heads and my guess is that it and the tree – some 10 years old – have been growing together since infancy.

  2. Wow, Jack, am really impressed you can get them to grow in your meadows, gorgeous! Wonder about some of the folks who proclaim this or that as not of the area, out it must go…seems they never say that about Homo SAPiens (my most definite emphasis).


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s