The Journal of Heredity 8:233-234 (1927)
An Interesting Lily Hybrid

David Griffiths

U. S. Department of Agriculture


At left are plants of L. concolor, with nearly matured seed capsules. At right are the taller plants of the hybrid, just coming into flower. These were propagated from a single bulb, the only seedling of its kind in over a thousand raised from cross pollinated seed; and the only one that did not exhibit straight maternal inheritance. This unexpected hybrid has a number of desirable characteristics, and if it becomes popular it will be another posthumous gift of the great plant breeder, Dr. Walter Van Fleet, who made the cross.
Late in the autumn of 1921 my friend and associate, the late Dr. Walter Van Fleet, brought into my office, according to a previous promise, his crop of seed of two lilies — Lilium tenuifolium and L. concolor. He had two small paper bags of pods which may have yielded a total of an ounce or more of clean seed, some of which was light and more than likely would not grow.

I had visited his grounds the previous summer and expressed a desire to get up some stock of both of these species, and he had volunteered to save the seed for me. The packages were marked L. tenuifolium x L. concolor, and L. concolor x L. tenuifolium. I expressed some surprise at receiving hybrid seed.The Doctor became rather embarrassed but finally hesitatingly and modestly apologized for not being able to resist the temptation of crossing these two lilies again this year, as he had done two or three times before. He assured me, however, that I would get only "straight" seedlings for he had previously grown two such reciprocal crosses to maturity and had always gotten nothing but maternal inheritance. In one single seedling he thought he detected slightly increased vigor but nothing more. The seed was sent to Bellingham, Washington, and planted immediately. It germinated in the spring and was left two seasons in the seed bed. Owing to the inroads of Chinese pheasants many tenuifolium seedlings were destroyed, but a larger quantity of the concolor reached maturity. All the seedlings were dug in the fall of 1923 and again in 1925. Again there was noticed only maternal inheritance, but at the digging in 1925 there was noted one large symmetrical bulb which put me in mind of the bulb of the dwarf L. tigrinum in the otherwise uniform concolor stock. This bulb was easily separable into six angular divisions. These were planted side by side in a part of a row. In 1926 these all blossomed and showed unmistakable evidence of hybridity. If stock can be worked up this hybrid will be as desirable as the popular L. tenuifolium. The lily is best described as a robust L. concolor with the inflorescence of L. tenuifolium. It blossoms fully a month later than either parent. In color of flower, as nearly as I could tell from memory, it is closer to L. concolor, but identical with neither parent. In 1926 it blossomed August 15, but the season was an erratic one in which most lilies blossomed early. The cross is of special interest in that it is between two quite divergent sections of a genus which, as a whole, has been rather stubborn in yielding hybrid progeny. It is of particular interest that no other variant has been observed in the two progenies of close to 1,000 bulbs, nor in the two previous reciprocal crosses grown by the Doctor himself with but one doubtful, slight variation.

The incident bears, in company with other lily crosses, a further confirmation of the desirability of large progenies when hybridizing lilies.