Cardiocrinum giganteum




Approach our Plant Explorers’ Walk with the same sense of adventure and discovery as these intrepid plant hunters did and you will be well rewarded!

Nathanial Wallich, a Danish born surgeon, became the first Director of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. He was also the first person to successfully introduce Himalayan plants to Europe. Read about his ingenious transport medium for seeds as you pass his portrait along the Walk. Wallich discovered the Giant Himalayan Lily in 1821, describing it as Lilium giganteum and assisting its European introduction in 1852.

The heart-shaped leaves distinguish this genus from ‘true lilies’ with their strap-shaped leaves and the name Cardiocrinum (kardio = heart, krinon = a lily) now applies to these handsome plants. Also, fewer bulb scales and highly toothed seed capsules added weight to the move from Lilium.

Moist, fertile soil in a woodland setting, that provides shelter from wind, best suits the Himalayan Lily. The Himalaya, from Nepal through northern Burma to southwestern China, in wet forests and scrub at 1600 to 3300 m is the natural distribution of this species. Bulblets, formed from the original bulb that dies after flowering, may take five years to flower. The Explorers Walk plants represent a succession of plantings since 1996 with at least two previous flowerings. As well as the cultivated plant material we are fortunate in having wild collected material. From a stream-bank at 2350 metres altitude, in western China near the Burma border, our Horticultural Development Officer, Ross Ingram, carefully harvested seed.

The hill people of Nepal make music with pipes of the hollow stems and to the Chinese, ‘lily’ means ‘Forever in love’. Add to this the divine fragrance and life is sweet indeed.