Log Cabin Chronicles

wild lily

© 1998 Charles Tetreault

Not-so-endangered flowers


Several years ago my brother Joe and I were returning from a fishing trip in the timberlands of northeastern Vermont. We had almost reached the state highway when I espied a beautiful plant towering over a jumbled mass of brambles to our right. It looked like some sort of day lily. My wife and I both love day lilies, and have many varieties in our flower gardens.

Joe and I struggled through the clawing blackberry canes and dug up the plant, along with a ball of soil large enough to fill a five-gallon container we had in the truck. We figured the plant might have grown from a bulb mixed in with trash left on the roadside by some unscrupulous denizen of the civilized world. You know how trashy some folks are.

I planted our new day lily in a large hole lined with good humus and compost, watered it well, and it grew. The following Spring it sprouted and grew one tall stem, and produced about a dozen nodding yellow blossoms. It was so spectacular, I needed to find out what it's name was.

I found it immediately in one of my wildflower books -- the Canada or Wild Yellow Lily thriving in southeastern Canada, northeastern U.S., and the uplands of Kentucky and Virginia.

The second year our plant sent up two stems and produced 26 large blooms. The third year we had three stems in a space 8-10 inches across, with a display 39 gorgeous yellow bells.

Our friends marveled at this beautiful plant in our flower bed. However, that summer we were ravaged by burrowing critters who destroyed many of our plant bulbs and roots. Our beautiful Canada Lily was one of the victims. We were devastated.

Meanwhile, I discovered where hundreds of these plants live. I had never traveled those areas at the time of year when they bloom. I collected a few more plants and placed them in several beds, with other plants for company. Most of them are doing very well, and bloomed this past Spring.

A couple of them did not, because when they had reached a height of 12-14 inches, deer ate their heads off. Did you know that deer love day lilies? They clip the blossom buds from our lilies on a regular basis if we don't protect them.

I do not wish to discredit Katherine Mackenzie of Georgeville, Quebec, who was quoted in the Sherbrooke Record as saying, "They won't survive the transplanting, people don't realize it, but they'll all die."

Maybe In Canada, but here in Vermont they seem to love my environment. The soil is sandy, by the way, and the plants I have were mostly growing in coarse, rocky gravel along the roadway of a logging operation. The gravel was laid down by construction equipment, and the plant grew there after the equipment had gone.

I firmly believe that they are quite hardy, and their light, flat seeds are wafted through the air by the breezes, and germinate in wet, moist loamy soil of the forest; but if need be, in the rocky, gravelly semi-dry bank of a logging road.

Go figure, eh?

Another note of interest: One of my books, Lee Allen Peterson's Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants states about the Canada Lily: Use: Cooked vegetable. The fleshy bulbs can be roasted, added as an okra-like thickener to soups and stews, or boiled for 20 min. and served with butter.

Ain't no way in heck I'll allow my pets to be turned into somebody's stew, man!

To the endangered flowers story...

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Copyright © 1998 Charles Tetreault/Log Cabin Chronicles/7.98