Humboldt’s Lily

Humboldt’s lily is a species of lily endemic to Baja and Alta California, where it is native to the San Bernardino Mountains, as well as the High Cascade Range, High Sierra Nevada, the south Outer South Coast Ranges, the Santa Monica Mountains and other spots in Southwestern California.
Within its habitat, it is one of the most visually striking of plants.
Known scientifically as the Lilium humboldtii. It has two subspecies ocellatum and humboldtii. Both flourish at elevations from approximately 2,000 feet to 3,900 feet. Subspecies humbodtii is found primarily in the foothills of the Sierras and central California; subspecies ocellatum is found primarily in southern California on the coastal side of the mountains and on the Channel Islands and in Baja California. Both subspecies are considered rare.
Its preferred habitat is chaparral and oak woodland near intermittent streams and in a spot providing dappled sunshine.
Classified by Roezi and German horticulturist Max Leichtlin and named by them after the naturalist and explorer Baron Alexander von Humboldt, it has sometimes been misidentified. Albert Kellog, unaware that the plant had already been named by Roezl and Leichtlin, gave it the name Lilium bloomerianum. Laymen quite often confuse it with the tiger lily, a different plant.
Growing on occasion to a height of 8 feet, with flowers that are large and showy, golden-orange with dark red or maroon splotches and orange to brown stamens, it sports leaves that grow in whorls, and are undulate, shiny, and oblance-shaped.
The plant flowers from May to July, with flowers growing in a pyramidal cluster, with approaching 50 flowers on a healthy plant. The flowers are on stout stems, which are sometimes brown-purple. The subrhizomatous bulb is large, with yellowish-white scales, and grows very deep in the soil. It is summer-deciduous, dying back after flowering in mid-to-late summer. Often, the flower will stand above eye level. The flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals, which look alike, curving upward and back. From the center of the flower hang six long stamens with orange-colored anthers. The bright green leaves are 3-to-5 inches long,
Humboldt’s lily can be grown beyond its naturally occurring range. It is sold as a garden bulb. If raised in that circumstance, it should be allowed to go dry in late July or early August, with no water after blooming, as it prefers a dry summer dormancy and if possible good drainage and part shade. In winter it will do well with minimal supplemental water unless it is an especially dry winter.
Both subspecies are on the California Native Plant Society Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of California and described as “fairly endangered in California.”
It was one of the parents, along with Lilium pardalinum, that produced the Bellingham hybrid lilies, the most popular offshoots of which are the ‘Shuksan’ and ‘Star of Oregon’ lilies.
The plant is resistant to fire eradication in that it will germinate from seed on charred ground.

Leave a Reply