Toad Lily

'Seiryu' Formosan Blue
Toad Lily

"An hour how slow to come, how quickly past,--
Which blooms & fades, & only leaves at last,
Faint as shed flowers, the attenuated dream."

-Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Toadlilies are suprisingly drought tolerlant, but this one languished a year in dry shade, "tolerance" translating merely "didn't die." So at summer's end I moved it to a garden of plants that like bright shade & persistent moisture, & it began at once to recover, having this portrait snapped in October (2005). It'll obviously be a really nice clump next year.

Tricyrtis x formosana 'Seiryu' is supposed to be a blue toad lily, or turquoise at the petal tips, fading to white at the center. It seems to me to be pretty much the same shade of purple as the majority of toad lilies, though if I put my imagination to it I can see it leaning to the blue-violet side of purple.

It is the hybrid toad-lily apparently longest cultivated in the west of any variety. It was for years sold as 'Hatatogisa,' which is a mispelling of the common name in Japan for the whole genus, rather than the specific cultivar name for the blue-tinged form, properly Hototogisu or "Mountain Cuckoo." The mistaken cultivar name is still commonly used in catalog listings but increasingly the correct cultivar name 'Seiryu' is being learned.

Toad Lily'Seiryu' bares the Japanese name of one of the four gods of the Celestial directions, in Chinese called Qinlong or Qinglong, Ruler of the East. He has the form of a green dragon (not as often blue), the very dragon embroidered on the imperial robes of China. Seiryu is also symbolic of Spring, hence a protector of gardens & gardeners, farms & farmers, forests & foresters. The jade dragon shown on this page is Seiryu with cub at the entry of Japanese garden in Chiba province.

Purple-speckled starfish flowers of dusty blue & white centers occur in late summer & autumn, strongest flowering being for September & October, sometimes lasting into November. The flowers can look almost luminous as though viewed under an ultraviolet black-light. They are small (one-inch) but can be very numerous on a well-established clump. The blooms could almost be imagined as some kind of dollhouse-sized tigerlilies or orchids.

'Seiryu' is low-growing & semi-creeping, but can lift some of its stems to nearly two feet. It may need spring division after four or five years to revitalize the spreading clump; it can be divided more often for propogation purposes. Toad lilies in general like highly organic well-draining soil & bloom best with persistant moisture though short periods of droughtiness won't harm them.

See under 'Samurai' Toad Lily for a detailed discussion of why this perennial is associated with toads. See 'Miyazaki' Toad Lily for a discussion of their Japanese common name Hototogisu. See 'Gilt Edge' Toad Lily for a 'Samurai' look-alike.


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