Tiger Lilies

Have you ever reflected upon tiger lilies’ eruption into late spring? Their six-petalled blossoms, lining fences, adorning ditches, tangled in morning breezes? Their orangeness heralding the deeper colors of summer — gold, scarlet, peach, raspberry, indigo?

Or considered the age of the lily and other flowers, known by astrophysicists to have begun proliferating planet Earth two hundred and forty million years ago? Coming closer to our time, tenth-century Chinese literature describes lilies planted in rows, cultivated for herbs and food. And in 1753, lilies also appear in the two-volume work, Species Plantarum, written by Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician, and one of the fathers of modern ecology.

Insert picture of Carl Linnaeus.

Then in 1804, William Kerr traveled to Canton, China, and brought lilies to Britain for the formal gardens of country estates. And from there, to America.

Aside from the tiger lily’s awesome history in time and space, I learn much from its ordinariness, its thriving in both cultivated and wild regions around the world, its rootedness within the mystery of death and resurrection. As humans, we have a similar rootedness. How many springs have we experienced, only to move into still another summer, followed by autumn, and winter? Only to be restored, again, by fresh colors glistening with dew?

In my neighborhood, the tiger lilies, Talk of the Town, flourish; their stamens and pistils, their six petals sculpted with soft red lines converging in the center, give me pause. I must touch, and I do, then smile and move on to the next garden.

Through reflecting upon the story of the tiger lily, it becomes my own. I invite you to do the same on your next walk.

More Lilies

On a lighter note, the following story describes my first experience with tiger lilies. As a very young nun in a semi-cloistered convent, located in a wooded area, I was asked to arrange flowers in the refectory to honor our new Vicar’s visit. It was June and very hot. Near the creek-bed bloomed a profusion of long-stemmed orange flowers. After pinning up my skirts, I cut armfuls, hurried inside, painstakingly placed them in vases, and set them on refectory tables. Excitement tore through me. Certainly I would win the approval of my superior and the other nuns. That evening, following spiritual reading, everyone processed to the refectory for supper. Titters erupted. It was about those orange flowers. They were no longer orange but knobby buds on stalks.

Much later, I learned about tiger lilies and their nocturnal habits. I’m still learning.