Pot of gold lily
Lilium iridollae by Mike Creel
- Section: Pseudolirium, Section 2C (East coast, North America)
- Origin: Eastern United States (Alabama, Florida, North & South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia)
- Habitat: riparian zones, pine forests, wetlands
- Type: Eastern American wetland
- Status: endangered
Lilium iridollae is a archetypal Eastern American wetland lily. It is found growing along streambanks, in riparian zones with Sarracenia (pitcher plants), and in pine forests. Its native range is from the Florida Panhandle, north to southern Virginia. It grows from sea-level to a few hundred feet in elevation, but always in fens, swamps and bogs, and slow-water riparian areas. Mary Henry (1884-1967) is credited with describing the species in 1940 and giving it the name iridollae which means pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Lilium iridollae is related to Lilium canadense, Lilium superbum, and Lilium pyrophilum. It has a small rhizome that produces short stolons. The stem rises 2-5 feet (90-150cm), with lanceolate leaves arranged in whorls on the lower portion of the stem; the upper portion is usually leafless. The inflorescence is usually a singe pendant Turk's Cap flower of golden yellow with brown spotting toward the center. But plants may produce up to eight flowers if conditions are to its liking.
Lilium irridolle by Mike Wang Habitat:
Lilium iridollae requires a very specific habitat with soils high in peat. These soils are commonly called acid-sulfate soils, or more technically called histosols. There are several subtypes of histosols,
- Folists – Histosols that are not saturated with water for long periods of time during the year.
- Fibrists – Histosols that are primarily made up of only slightly decomposed organic materials, often called peat.
- Hemists – Histosols that are primarily made up of moderately decomposed organic materials.
- Saprists – Histosols that are primarily made up of highly decomposed organic materials, often called muck.
Histosols are very acidic, nutrient-poor soils. These habitats are commonly known as blackwater habitats because of the brown staining of the water from the tannins in the peat. The soils are high in fluvic and humic acid, as well as tannic acid from tannins released by sphagnum moss. Tannins are a natural preservative and antioxidant, and as such have an antibacterial property. They help preserve the organic matter and prevent decay. This is the reason why these soils are very high in organic matter and thus are an important carbon sink. All these chemicals help to not only acidify the soil, but purify it as well.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the water in these wetlands is very clean. The peat and sphagnum moss, and other wetland plants all act as filtration to trap suspended material where it can be oxidized and purified. Or in other cases, the plants fix pollutants like heavy metals and minerals in the soil and act as a sink. As a result, these waters are very low in TDS (total dissolved solids). They may be acidic, but they are very, very, clean. These are not easy conditions to reproduce in the garden.
The climate of the Southeastern United States is classified as a humid-subtropical climate. It is fairly uniform in temperature across most southern states (Florida, Alabama, and Georgia). Summer temperatures are generally in the high 80s °F (26 °C) low 90s °F (32 ° C), though they do get cooler in the mountains due to elevation. Due to the close proximity of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, it is usually humid (90%+), and thunderstorms occur often in the Southeast region.
The Bermuda-high dominates the summer months and pumps hot, moist air from the tropical Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico west inland over the southern United States and produces a tropical conditions for most of summer. Rainfall in summer is concentrated along the Gulf Coast and the South Atlantic coast, reaching a well-defined summer monsoon pattern. Rainfall in the Southern United States often comes in quickly, often in intense downpours. In this area, December, March, or April are typically the wettest months; August to October, the driest months. The hurricane season extends from June to November.
Winters are cooler in areas the further northwest you go, with average highs in the 45 °F (7 °C) range in January. Farther south, winters become milder across interior eastern North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, with average January highs in the 50s °F (12 °C) range. As one nears the Gulf of Mexico, coastal plain, and coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas, winters become warm, with daytime highs near or over 60 °F (16 °C), until far enough south in central Florida where daytime highs are above 70 °F (21 °C). Winters tend to be very dry and sunny across Southeastern U.S., with a gradual increase in winter rainfall with increasing latitude, especially west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Lilium iridollae is very similar in cultivation to Lilium catesbaei. Like most plants that inhabit peat-rich, nutrient-poor soils, Lilium iridollae can't handle hot soils with high nutrient levels. Lots of fertilizer, especially phosphorus, is potentially deleterious. And water low in TDS (total dissolved solids) is essential. Use rain water, filtered well water, or distilled water. Use 100% peat just like with Lilium catesbaei. And, as we always say, just because it's a wetland plant doesn't mean it wants to be submerged or planted in waterlogged soils. It simply means it handles wet conditions better than other plants. Keep it moist but not saturated, and don't let the roots sit in standing water. It will rot for sure. Give it deep peat to sink it's roots into and allow it almost dry out between watering.
Mike Creel has had great success with Lilium iridollae in a created wetland. He essentially has created a large pond with wet margins, that is a bog. He says he does little but do his best to not interfere with the lily. Below are pictures from his garden with Lilium iridollae growing in abundance. His potting mix he says is 50:50 pine nuggets and peat moss.