Just under three years ago, on 3 July 2006, Daniel featured the recently-bloomed giant Himalayan lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum, on Botany Photo of the Day, and aptly referred to the plant as a "hallmark" of the Garden’s collection. In the cool, breezy air of last Friday morning, after passing the towering giganteum stem that still stands in the stairway of our administration building, Tom Wheeler welcomed the plant’s fragrant flowers back into the garden, and recorded the encounter on the film of his camera. Thank you to Tom for sharing today’s lovely photo. Steve Coughlin wrote the entry.
Cardiocrinum—another herbaceous, bulbiferous member of Liliaceae—is a small genus conventionally split into three species: Cardiocrinum cathayanum, Cardiocrinum cordatum , and Cardiocrinum giganteum. The genus is distributed broadly throughout the sub-alpine regions of northeastern India and Nepal, through several parts of China and northwestern Myanmar (Burma), and into Bhutan as well. Cardiocrinum species generally grow in forests or on hillside slopes, where they excel in a combination of shade, humid air, and moist soil.
Cardiocrinum giganteum, first collected in the second decade of the 20th century, is native to elevated forests at 1200-3600 metres. The plant’s hollow green stem reaches its apex at a height of 3-5 metres and spreads its large, leathery, and heart-shaped leaves out to a diameter of around 100 centimetres. In mid-summer, an ensemble of large trumpets, creamy-white or green and internally streaked with red or purple-red, unfold from the lengthening raceme. The plants die after flowering, leaving behind small offsets that will flower some 3 or 4 years later.
Today, the flowers hang quite close together, like members of a swaying choir pushed shoulder-to-shoulder. The fact that they have just arrived combines with our knowledge of their transience to make us ever more attentive to the sweet subtleties of their aromatic melody.