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.
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…
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.
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!