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The Woman is a Tiger

I bet you never thought you'd see such a gorgeous tame-looking beauty thousands of feet up on a mountain, looking like a natural guest of any quaint hedge-enclosed garden. Trust me, this is no domestic tea-sipping Victorian tulip lily. Lilium columbianum is a tiger lily. She grows (growls?) wild all over, from lowlands with enough soil moisture, to moist alpine meadows and she is always a treasured sight. And hard to tame.

I ate the crap out of that salad

Have you tried taking pictures of dangling flowers? It's awkward. And yes I HAVE laid down on a trail to capture them. Other hikers are welcome to step over me (sorry!).

Although unlike most actual tigers, L. columbianum really doesn't bite, and in fact is quite edible. Her flavor doesn't even bite. It's quite mild, at least the flower buds. I could only stand to pluck two from a plentiful field of them because they are just so lovely and not extremely common, and all around a great plant that I don't want to reduce their reproduction rate in any area. HARVEST with ECOLOGICAL RESPECT. Always. Eat weeds as much as you want but be gentle on the native populations. They have enough challenges.

I brought mine home, took a nibble then put the petals like veg-sprinkles on a nice fruit salad. I ate the crap out of that salad...lemme tell ya...

Tiger lilies, or Columbia lilies (named for the region they were found in) also have edible bulbs, but I personally would feel awful killing a plant like that just to nibble its bulb. Yes, you could spread any bulblets it may have (make some clone babies) but still. If I wanted to try em, I'd grow them in my own garden to harvest without damaging a wild and ecologically valuable population. So I don't (yet) know what the root tastes like but have read it's starchy and slightly sweet, reminiscent of slightly bitter & sweet chestnuts. The flowers though, are quite bland and grassy; just a fresh "green" flavor. Surprisingly- zero floral or sweet notes.

These plants are found only in the western US & Canada, from British Columbia to California and east to Idaho with only the very western corner of Montana, so they are considered rare for that state. Some plants can get as bit as 5 feet, which I would like to see (face to flower-face) for easier photos. The bloom in mid-late summer and make neat 3-sectioned (yep= monocot trait) seed pods like dry long lanterns.

I sprinkled those last few seeds in the pod in a nice open area to spread the love.

Tiger lily flowers of course are named for the distinct black speckles on their orange to yellow petals that look sort of like the black/orange stripes of a tiger.

The petals (or rather tepals- aka altered petal-like merging of the petal & sepal structures to be extra showy) distinctly curl backward or rather upward when fully open, jutting those sexy parts down into the breeze for a passing by bee to check out. This tigress really puts herself out there to breed, ya know?

Check it out! Double-headed tiger

As you walk by, give her a little poke and then pass that pollen on to another plant's flowers. While several Native peoples of North America regularly harvested the bulbs for a nutritious food source, I'd leave them in the wild personally, and just gawk at those gorgeous strikingly orange flowers. If you want to grow your own, look for bulbs for sale, since the seeds will take several years to mature to flowering. But still, the whorled leaves are quite nice as well.

Tiger lilies are all around beautiful and I hope you spot some next time your paths cross. Better this tiger than a hungry mountain lion, right?


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