Cardiocrinum giganteum var. giganteum

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.

Cardiocrinum giganteum

16 responses to “Cardiocrinum giganteum var. giganteum”

  1. john

    Cardiocrinum giganteum just in bloom here in coastal Nova Scotia as well. A great article on the Cardiocrinum species in the latest issue of The Plantsman.

  2. mtn_laurel

    Wow – that *looks* like it smells wonderful!
    I wish there was some sort of scale – how tall is this/how long are the flowers?

  3. yousatonmycactus

    Is this related to the “Angels Trumpet Vine”? If so, it has strong phycotropic qualities…

  4. Beverley

    Cardiocrinum kar-dee-o-kree-num From Greek kardio [heart] and krinon [a lily] referring to the heart-shaped leaves. giganteum gi-gan-tee-um. Very large. Dictionary of Plant Names, Coombes.

  5. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Wow! Fabulous! I can almost smell it.
    Here’s a photo of a plant in the UK, showing scale (I hope this works)…
    … and in case it doesn’t, I’d guess the flower trumpets are 8-10 inches long.

  6. Annie Morgan

    It worked, Mary Ann! My goodness.

  7. Annie Morgan

    I am double posting, if I may, because I just looked at the Clustr Map directly below (and usually out of sight) the posting box. If you click on it, it becomes large, and below it there is a list of countries and the number of people viewing these wonderful photos with their marvellous explications. Do take a look.

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    thank you all
    the link worked amazeing
    i just used the cluster map
    hi to every one i live florida usa

  9. Quin

    Stephen and Mary Ann – What a fun plant! Thanks!

  10. Tom Wheeler

    Dear yousatonmycactus,
    Cardiocrinum is in Liliaceae (Lily Family) and angel’s trumpet or Brugmannsia, a non-vine, is in Solanaceae (Nightshade family). You are correct that Brugmannsia is a psychotropic plant. However, Cardiocrinum is used by indigenous peoples of the Himalayas and Yunnan as a medicinal plant not as a shaman’s psychic tool.

  11. Tom Wheeler

    Dear mtn_laurel,
    There are about 30 plants in this Cardiocrinum planting in the David C. Lam Asian Garden. The plant photographed is 8ft(2.44m) tall. The tallest is 9.5ft(2.9m). A shorter giant lily plant is 4ft(1.22m). In the morning, the fragrance is of faint honeysuckle or lily.

  12. Elizabeth Revell

    A gorgeous plant indeed! And it certainly loves cool moist conditions … as the caretakers of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Garden on the slopes of Mt Taranaki (Mt Egmont) in New Zealand have learned only too well … oh, yes, another invader! It has spread throughout the Garden, and has now gone over the fence into neighbouring farmland. (NOT so popular).
    But yes, standing below the stem and inhaling the delicious scent from the flowers overhead is wonderful. And the sunlight shining down through the blooms is amazing.

  13. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    It looks like there’s a typo in the title of this page — it reads Caridocrinum instead of Cardiocrinum. Could some kind soul go in and make the correction?

  14. Stephen Coughlin

    Hi Mary Ann,
    I have fixed the error in the title; thank you for drawing the oversight to my attention.

  15. Bruce Thomson

    Both my late father and his father were very keen gardeners, here in New Zealand. My grandfather, who joined (or married into!) the family law firm in Stratford (Taranaki) and later became the chief partner in the firm, settled in Stratford about 1910, and promptly bought a large tracts of land at what was then on the edge of town. Four acres of this land became his house and garden, and he spent the rest of his life collecting an impressive collection of rhododendrons and lillies – including Cardiocrinum giganteum – which, after almost 100 years has now become an enormous, self-sown multitude of magnificent specimens!! All of us grandchildren grew up in this “private park”, as it were, and have thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous plantation as it has flowered so profusely every year. And even my mother spent the last 60 years of her life sowing giganteum seed around our own garden – so that we too now have another self-sown forest of cardiocrinum specimens! Both plantations benefit from being grown in the well-sheltered shade of rhododendrons and other well-established trees, in a rich mulch of leaf-fall: it seems to just ideal conditions for them.
    PS: I thorough endorse Elizabeth’s comments above, re. Pukeiti – just an hour’s drive or so from Stratford. Perhaps I can put a plug in here for the following outstanding event:
    The Taranaki Rhododendron Festival
    30th October – 8th November 2009
    Well worth visiting New Zealand, just to attend this!

  16. Gayden

    Our cardiocrinum giganteum didn’t do much the first two years, but this year shot up to 12 feet and produced a mass of wonderful lily trumpet flowers! We had so many people asking about it, I’m sure they will become quite common in our area (Victoria, BC, Canada) soon! Does anyone know how to propagate? There are several large seeds left now that the flowers are gone. Can we plant the seeds? If so, how and when? Many thanks.

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