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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1027: III International Symposium on the Genus Lilium


Author:   H. Okubo
Keywords:   Lily, Asiatic hybrids, Oriental hybrids, Longiflorum hybrids, Trumpet hybrids, Japan, China
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2014.1027.1
Ancestors of currently and commercially important lily cultivars, Asiatic, Oriental, Longiflorum, Trumpet, and their intersectional hybrids such as LA (Longiflorum × Asiatic), LO (Longiflorum × Oriental), OT (Oriental × Trumpet) and OA (Oriental × Asiatic), are mostly of Asiatic origin.
From literature, a set of two Chinese letters pronounced “Pai Ho” that corresponds to L. brownie var. colchesteri first appeared in the book “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing” in A.D. 453-536 in China. A plant described by a different letter in an ancient book “Nan-Du-Fu” in A.D. 78-140 is also considered to be L. brownie var. colchesteri. This is probably the oldest description of lily in Asia. The first mention of lily in Japan is found in the oldest history (or myth) book, “Kojiki” in A.D. 712. The lily is considered to be L. japonicum. Later, L. auratum appeared in the history book “Nihonshoki” (A.D. 720).
In art works, the oldest depiction of lilies in China is probably a wall painting in Mogao Caves #130 in Dunhuang, Gansu Province in High Tang Dynasty (A.D. 712-765). They seem to be L. lancifolium (L. tigrinum). In a fragment of a flag for religious purposes woven almost at the same time (A.D. 710-756) in Japan, L. japonicum is embroidered. The oldest fine art of lilies in Japan is probably “Hamamatsuzu” in 1333-1573. The lily is L. concolor.
The introduction of these Asian lilies to Europe started with L. dauricum from Siberia in 1743. Later, C.P. Thunberg described Japanese L. longiflorum, L. japonicum, L. speciosum, and L. callosum in “Flora Japonica” published in 1784. In 1830, P. F. B. von Siebold brought live bulbs of seven species to the Netherlands from Japan, but only L. speciosum flowered in 1832. Further introductions from Japan included L. auratum, L. japonicum, and L. rubellum. The Chinese L. lancifolium and L. brownii were introduced into England in 1804, and L. regale in 1905. There were interesting, sometimes curious stories during these introduction. Examples are: L. dauricum was first supposed to be an American species; there is an 87 years gap in Europe between the description and introduction of live plants of L. japonicum, during which Chinese L. brownii first mistakenly gained its scientific name as L. japonicum. Such history of these Asiatic lilies is presented.

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