Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Lilium japonicum Thunb.

A bulbous perennial with scattered, lance-shaped leaves, to 15cm, and flower spikes, to 90cm, bearing up to 5, fragrant, funnel-shaped, delicate rose-pink flowers on stems in summer.  A white form coexists with the pink in the wild.  [RHSD, Hortus, Grey].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘We have to thank Mr. Aiton for the opportunity of publishing a figure of this rare and ornamental plant.  It flowered in the Kew Gardens, in the open ground, in the month of July last.  Stem about two feet high; leaves nearly a span and half long, but narrow in proportion to their length; flower about a span long, white, usually suffused with purple along the middle of the back of the outer segments; anthers of a deep yellow colour; style and stigma green.  The Lilia from China and Japan appear to us so pre-eminently ornamental, that we regret to find so many of the recorded ones (especially speciosum and longiflorum) from those parts still strangers to our collections.  The present species [L. japonicum] was imported from China, by the Directors of the East-India company, in 1804.’  [BM t.1591/1813]. 

The synonyms Lilium krameri [Hort.Teutschel ex Hook.f.], Lilium makinoi [Koidz.], ‘Bamboo lily’, ‘Saso-yuri’, appear to relate to Lilium (hybridum) Krameri, a hybrid between Lilium speciosum and Lilium japonicum.  These are very similar to the modern, large-flowered, pink and white ‘Asiatic’ lilies still commonly available.  ‘As a rule hybrid plants do not find a place in the Botanical Magazine, from no want of admiration for these always interesting, and often beautiful, productions of the gardener’s skill, but from the simple fact that nature supplies superabundant materials for this work, and that it is the more legitimate function of a Botanical work to illustrate the possible or probable parents of future hybrids, and thus afford to others the means of elucidating the history of hybrids when these are formed.  In the present case it was under the erroneous impression that L. Krameri was a species that it was prepared for publication in the Magazine, and not with the view of illustrating itself or its origin, which are, however, both sufficiently deserving of a place in the pages of a Botanical work.’  [BM t.6058/1873].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.308/1843].


Another, although less likely possibility is Lilium brownii Miellez var. Colchesteri, a Lilium formosanum Wallace x Lilium odorum Planch. hybrid, sometimes called Lilium japonicum.  This plant, originally from China, bears 1-4 massive fragrant flowers of pure white, heavily coloured with purplish-brown on the outside. [Jekyll].  Loddiges’Botanical Cabinet figures a lily with large, pure white, trumpet-shaped flowers, marked brown on the outside, which is almost certainly Lilium brownii var. Colchesteri.  [LBC no.438/1820].  Flore des Serres also figures this plant under the name Lilium odorum Planch., but clearly relating it to Loddiges’ plant.  [FS f.876-877/1854].  L. brownii var. Colchesteri was introduced to Britain about 1835.  ‘Few plants are more useful than the different varieties of Japan lilies.  They come into bloom at a time when an actual paucity of flowering plants exists; and what really can be more suitable?  They produce a gorgeous display either in doors or out; and as they are quite hardy they may be liberally planted in the open borders; they thus constitute one of our best autumnal flowering garden plants’.  [Gard. Chron. 1854].  FS p.110 vol.1/1845.

Lilium japonicum D.Don = Lilium wallichianum Schult.f., which see.  See also Lilium aurantiacum Pax.

See also Notes under Lilium aurantiacum Pax.

Published Dec 26, 2009 - 03:37 PM | Last updated Jul 25, 2010 - 04:20 PM

Illustrated are lance-shaped leaves and white, pink-flushed trumpet-shaped flower.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.1591, 1813.

Lilium japonicum Thunb. | BM t.1591/1813 | BHL

Family Liliaceae
Region of origin


Common Name

Japanese Lily

Name in the Camden Park Record

Lilium Japonicum 

Confidence level medium