Paradisea liliastrum (St Bruno’s lily)
The common name St Bruno’s lily refers to the founder of the Carthusian order of monks, and its medicinal properties have been known for a millennium.
About this species
Paradisea liliastrum is an elegant species, native to the alpine meadows of southern Europe. The common name, St Bruno’s lily, refers to the 11th century founder of the Carthusian order of monks, whose motherhouse was in the French Alps, where this plant can be found.
Paradisea liliastrum was listed in AD 512 by the Greek Dioscorides in his book, De Materia Medica, for its supposed medicinal properties. It has been grown in English gardens for many years. It was one of the plants ordered from Brussels by the English naturalist John Tradescant the elder, for the gardens of Hatfield House in 1610.
Geography & Distribution
Paradisea liliastrum is found in the mountain ranges of the Alps, Jura, Pyrenees and Apennines, from Spain to Italy and Yugoslavia, at elevations of 1,000–2,300 m.
This herbaceous perennial has a rhizomatous rootstock that spreads slowly to form a small clump. Its leaves are narrow and greyish-green. The flowers are white and trumpet-shaped, each 5 cm long with bright yellow stamens, and are produced in June and July in racemes on erect stems, 60 cm high above the foliage. The seeds are formed in an ovate capsule.
A larger-flowered form of this species, known as ‘major’, is available commercially.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Hand-coloured engraving of Paradisea liliastrum by Sydenham Edwards (1795), taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Image: RBG Kew)
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Paradisea liliastrum is grown as an ornamental. It received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. Historically, St Bruno’s lily was used medicinally. There are reports that it is still occasionally collected from alpine meadows in the Pyrenees for use in folk medicine.
Paradisea liliastrum grows best in full sun, in rich, peaty soil, with ample moisture in summer. Propagation is by seed or division of clumps.
It is a beautiful, summer-flowering plant, suitable for rock gardens and herbaceous borders, but it is not commonly grown.
This species at Kew
St Bruno's lily can be seen growing north-east of the Temple of Arethusa.
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