Scientific Name: Lilium lancifolium Thun.
Family: Liliaceae (Lily Family)
China, less commonly Japan and Korea.
Saponins, steroid alkaloids.
Majestic grandeur is what springs to mind when we try to describe them – the erect lilies whose imposing flowers adorn our gardens in summer. One which is particularly striking and a little eccentric is the tiger lily with its orange-coloured flowers decorated with dark red spots. When the flowers open between July and August the petals fold back so far that the stamens and pistil are completely exposed. The tall, straight stem, which grows from a substantial bulb up to eight centimetres in diameter, is covered with white, woolly hairs and can reach a height of 150 centimetres. It bears lanceolate leaves which sprout horizontally from the stem. The leaf axils, the point where the leaf is attached to the stem, carry so-called bulbils – tiny, dark brown, pea-sized bulbs through which the tiger lily, which produces practically no seeds, can reproduce asexually. When they fall to the ground the bulbils first develop fine roots and then the first pointed leaf.
The tiger lily is used for uterine prolapse in menopause and for inflammation and pain of the female reproductive organs.
The scientific name of the tiger lily is composed of the Greek words liros = delicate and lancea and folius = lancet-shaped, lancifolium referring to the shape of the leaves.
The tiger lily has been valued in Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years. In the Shen Nung Pen Tsao Ching, a compendium on medicines which was compiled in the Han Dynasty about 2000 years ago, it was mentioned as remedy for cough and lung diseases. This important medical text is said to be based on the knowledge of the Emperor Shen Nung – a figure shrouded in legend who lived 5000 years ago, taught people the art of farming and is said to have acquired an extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs through testing them on himself. Shen Nung means divine farmer. The tiger lily did not reach the western world until the 19th century. The first description of the tiger lily outside Asia is attributed to the US-American William Payne (1845-1903) who described the homeopathic picture of the plant in 1867.
The Chinese use the edible bulbs as a vegetable, which is why the tiger lily is still grown as a crop plant in China. The bulb has a slightly bitter flavour and tastes similar to parsnips. Dried and ground, the very starchy bulb is suitable for thickening soups and sauces. In its native habitat the tiger lily is also a symbol of many godheads.
The plant from another perspective
In the tiger lily two forces wrestle with each other: lightness and heaviness. The erect stem grows up towards the light, the leaves surrounding it like a whirling circle of stars. The stem, aspiring upwards full of vitality, bears a flower whose head nods heavily towards the earth as though the flower were trying to restrain the upwards striving force. The flower almost always remains sterile, the bulbils in the leaf axils taking over the function of reproduction. Reproduction, normally the domain of the flowers, is shifted to the leafy region. The fiery colour and the extreme opening are the only flower-like qualities which the non-fragrant tiger lilies possess. The combination of intense fieriness tempered by heaviness that characterises the tiger lily's flower processes normalises inflammatory conditions of the female reproductive organs.