Thursday, July 23, 2009
Panhandle lily - Lilium iridollae
The panhandle lily, or pot-of-gold lily, (Lilium iridollae) is easily one of my favorite native Florida wildflowers and one our greatest treasures at Hawthorn Hill. This species is naturally found within the Florida panhandle from Walton County west to Baldwin County Alabama; a geographic range of 7 total counties worldwide. It is not common anywhere within this narrow range and is listed as a State Endangered species in Florida, critically imperilled in Alabama, and is under review for listing nationally by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The panhandle lily is found in seasonally wet areas; low flatwoods, seepage bogs, and wet prairies. These habitats are similar to those where pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.) are commonly associated. In these areas, they get good moisture and at least a half day of sun. Don't try to grow them in too much shade or they will get lanky and fall over. If you give them a lot of sun, however, you best make sure that they get ample moisture.
Like all of Florida's true lilies, the panhandle lily is deciduous and dies back to its bulb in late fall. By early spring, new leaves appear and they form a basal rosette quickly. This begins to elongate in late spring and flowering occurs by mid- to late-July. Native lilies often fail to flower, however, and may spend years emerging each spring as a basal rosette of leaves if conditions are not quite to their liking. Young plants also are slow to mature and may take more than 2 years from seed to flower - even under ideal conditions.
The flower stalk may reach as tall as 6 feet, but is often a foot or two shorter. Individual flower stalks produce only one solitary flower that ends up hanging downward from the stem. The flowers are spectacular. Each is 3-4 inches across and ranges from a pale yellow to a rich orange in color. The petals recurved and touch each other over the back of the stem; forming a sort-of basketlike appearance. The petals are also heavily spotted and the stamens hang downward like spider legs.
Like other native lilies, the panhandle lily is pollinated mostly by large swallowtail butterflies. If pollination occurs, a large seed capsule eventually ripens that may contain many hundreds of seeds. Getting these to grow, however, is quite the feat.
Here at Hawthorn Hill, we hope to eventually get our panhandle lilies to produce seed and seedlings. To date, we have not been very successful with the latter. Until that time, we will simply admire our plants and look forward to each blooming season.