Bristol Botanic Garden sees giant lilies bloom

After 12 years of waiting, eight giant Himalayan lilies, Cardiocrinum giganteum, are in full bloom at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden.

Visitors will have the opportunity for the next 7-10 days to see these unusual plants with hand-sized white trumpet flowers held aloft on vertical spikes, some almost three metres in height. The blooms which are pollinated by moths have a spice enriched scent, intensifying at the end of the day to attract moth pollinators to visit their 20 centimetre long trumpet flowers. 

The Garden’s horticulturists are hoping Bristol’s own native moth population will be able to pollinate the flowers to ensure a healthy crop of seed, as after flowering this unusual lily dies.

If conditions are right, occasionally the dying bulb will, as a last ditch attempt at survival, produce one or two egg-sized bulbils that can grow on for future years. If they are too dry, this will not happen and all effort will be put into seed production. The Garden’s horticulturists are monitoring soil and weather conditions to ensure that seed and bulbils are produced for future years.

Curator Nick Wray said: "This is the first time in over 30 years at the Botanic Garden that I have seen so many Cardiocrinums in flower at once. Their beauty and majesty is adding to the garden that is full of bloom at this time of year.

"I have seen visitors stop in their tracks, mouth open at the sight of such a large and majestic plant unlike anything else found growing in the UK."

In the wild this lily, which is the largest species of any lily is found growing in the Himalayas, China and Myanmar. The original plant came to the Botanic Garden in 1994 from a Cornish garden and nursery. They are not the easiest plants to grow. They do not like strong sunlight or being allowed to dry out during the summer months. Also they are attractive to pests including molluscs and occasionally red lily beetles.

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