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Friday, November 25, 2011


The tiger lily is a relative of the much less in your face, lily-of-the-valley, as they are both Liliaceae family members. I think I first encountered a Tiger lily in my great-aunt’s garden in Worcestershire, England, and then in the Disney adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice Through the Looking-Glass.” The tiger lily was the first in the Garden of Live Flowers (Chapter 2) to talk to Alice:
“'O Tiger-lily,' said Alice, addressing herself to one that was waving gracefully about in the wind, 'I wish you could talk!'
'We can talk,' said the Tiger-lily: 'when there's anybody worth talking to.’"
The tiger lily was much nicer to Alice than the rose, violet and daisy and I felt she was one of the better sorts of flower.
    There’s no doubt that these flowers are impressive, as they can grow to heights of 4 feet, and the ones in that garden of my childhood were much bigger than me. There is a superstition that if you smell the flowers of the tiger lily you will get freckles, probably because the vibrant orange petals are covered with black spots which resemble freckles.
  Tiger lilies are associated with remedies for uterine problems and it seems that a tincture of the plant is used to strengthen and tone the nerves of that region. It was used in cases of prolapsed uteri. However in traditional Chinese medicine, in which the plant has been used for at least 4,000 years it would seem that it is used for respiratory problems such as bronchitis while the bulb, dried is used in soups as an anti-flu measure. The buds, bulbs and young shoots are all edible, with the roasted bulbs being compared to a baked potato in flavour. They can also be used like kachnar flowers and cooked with meat. Dried parts of this plant are used in egg dishes, so go well in scrambled eggs and omelettes. In China they are symbols of wealth and prosperity.
  In the Kyoto region of Japan the bulbs are traditionally boiled (they are said to taste a bit like parsnips) and combined with pickled plum puree to serve at New Year’s festivals.
  The tiger lily is native to China, Japan and Korea and found its way to the States in 1804. There are native lilies in the US but this is not one of them.
  There have been several studies carried out by Chinese researchers into the properties of the tiger lily and it has been found to exhibit some anti-tumour activity (Journal of Phytochemistry 1994, September, Vol. 34 (1) 227-32 Mimaki Y. et al “Steroidal Saponins from the bulbs of Lilium lancifolium and their anti-tumour activity”), to be useful in the treatment of mastitis and breast cancer and the bulbs exhibit antibacterial properties as well as being diuretic and antiparasitic.
 Hu Wy et al, August 2007, Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi Vol. 32 (16):1656-59, “Studies on chemical constituents in fresh fleshy scaleleaf of Lilium lancifolium” found that it contained berberine, the first time this has been found in a lily. It is found in Berberis Lycium or Wolfberry and the Barberry. (The scale-leaf is on the bulbs of the tiger lily.)
  The roots also have anti-inflammatory properties according to research carried out by Kwon Ok et al, July 26th 2010, Journal of Ethnopharmacol “Anti-inflammatory effects of methanol extracts of the roots of Lilium lancifolium in LPS-stimulated RAW264.7 cells.”
  Research is limited however and more needs to be done to discover if the results of these studies can be reproduced.
  It is known that cats and tiger lilies do not get along as the plants can cause renal failure and death to cats. So think twice if you buy Tiger lilies for your garden and have a feline friend.

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