Close-up View of the "Foxtail Lily"
by Brian Johnston (Canada)
striking plant is not grown in my area with its long severe
winters, but it is shipped from places such as Holland to Toronto as a
cut-flower. Although the Foxtail Lily is native to Iran, Turkey
and Afghanistan, it has been grown successfully in many parts of the
The long stem with its spike of
yellow-green flowers can be up to three
metres in height! My example, (a cut-flower), had a one
stem. In the image above, it is evident that the flowers bloom
from bottom to top in the spike. Some dry, brown blooms and their
stems were removed at the base of the flowering head for the purpose of
taking the photographs in the article.
derived from the Greek “eremos”
meaning solitary, and
“oura” meaning tail. “Spectabilis” can
be translated roughly as
showy. In addition to the common name “Foxtail Lily”, the plant
is often referred to as the “Desert
Candle” or “King’s Spear”.
Notice, in the image below, that
the prominent stamens project some
distance out of the flowers. Newly opened blooms possess bright
orange anthers, while more aged ones have anthers that are yellow-brown.
The two anther colourations can be
seen clearly below.
I must admit that my favourite part
of the flower-head is the upper
portion consisting of green-striped yellow buds. Up close, they
are quite sculptural in nature.
Eremurus flowers possess six oval
petals, each with a green radial
stripe. The yellow structure that can be seen at the centre of a
flower is the ovary.
It is easier to see the flower’s
structure when it is removed from the
spike. There are six orange anthers,
(the male pollen producing
organs) held aloft by long green filaments,
and a single green pistil,
(the female pollen accepting organ) on the end of a long green
supporting style. The
pistil is the angled green column just to
the right of centre in the image.
The green stripe on each petal is
more clearly seen on the
underside. Notice that there are no bracts (modified leaves) at
the base of the petals.
Three photomicrographs follow which
show the cellular structure of a
petal. (The last image shows a portion of one of the green
A side view of the edge of the
flower-head shows the very distinctive
long stamens and pistils.
The much higher magnification image
below resolves the coating of
pollen on two anthers that have become entangled.
When a flower first opens, each
anther has a curved shape with a curled
tip. The curl seems to straighten out as time passes.
The following two images reveal
slightly “older” anthers.
Later still, each anther decreases
in size and curls up even more
tightly than when the bloom first opened. Notice that the bright
orange colour has started to fade.
Under the microscope, the cellular
structure of an anther becomes
visible. The small specks in the second and third images are
Much higher magnification reveals
more details of an anther.
The stigma at the tip of the style
is almost indistinguishable from the
style itself. The second image shows pollen grains which have
been captured by the stigma.
Phase-contrast illumination best
displays individual pollen
grains. The one on the right was not typical, and appeared to
have dried out.
The almost spherical structure at
the centre of the image below is the
ovary in which the seeds develop. Since this species has its
ovary above the petals, the
ovary is referred to as “superior”.
The Foxtail Lily grows from tubers
similar to dahlias. Although I
have not seen such a tuber, it is said to resemble a starfish in shape.
This article is similar to several
others that I have written, in that
it concerns a cut-flower, obtained during the height of the winter
season in Ontario, in order to take my mind off the fact that native
wildflowers would not bloom for another three months!
The photographs in the article were
taken with an eight megapixel Sony
CyberShot DSC-F 828 equipped with achromatic close-up lenses (Nikon 5T,
6T, Sony VCL-M3358, and shorter focal length achromat) used singly or
in combination. The lenses screw into the 58 mm filter threads of the
camera lens. (These produce a magnification of from 0.5X to 10X
for a 4x6 inch image.) Still higher magnifications were obtained
by using a macro coupler (which has two male threads) to attach a
reversed 50 mm focal length f 1.4 Olympus SLR lens to the F 828.
(The magnification here is about 14X for a 4x6 inch image.) The
photomicrographs were taken with a Leitz SM-Pol microscope (using dark
ground and phase-contrast condensers), and the Coolpix
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the April
2006 edition of Micscape.
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