Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tiger Lily

The Tiger Lily, Lilium trigrinum, has been a rather common species around the lake--that is, in the past. I have found only this one. Just wait, now I will be seeing them everywhere. Happens all the time! :-)

I've just read that shiny black balls (called bulbils) in its leaf axils can be picked and planted, and will germinate the next spring. That's enough of the technical details for this evening. Let's now turn rather to a whimsical love song.


by Ruth McEnery Stuart

OH my little yaller Lily wid de freckles 'crost 'er nose,
An' 'er purty yaller ruffles roun' de aidges of 'er clo'es.
She's my speckled tiger-lily,
An' I giggles tell I'm silly
When she nods to me a-passin' f'om de winder whar she sews

An' I looks at my bare foots, an' at my dirty gallus strings,
An' I knows de mules is waitin' fur me at de cattle springs.
But wild horses couldn't hinder
Me from buzzin' to her winder,
An' a-sayin' 'bout a million dozen honey-softie things.

You may talk about yo' daisy, you may brag about yo' rose,
But de spotted tiger-lily is de sweetest flower dat grows.
All de yether blooms looks jaded,
An' dey colors seems all faded.
When it curtsies to de gyarden in its yaller furbelows.

Ef you seen my Lily standin' on 'er little yaller toes
Out behind de cedars whar de tiger-lilies grows,
'Cep'n dat de gal is taller,
An' de flowers' bonnets smaller,
You couldn't designate 'er when she's hangin' out 'er clo'es.

Once-t I called her '"Tiger-Lily," des to see de way she'd do,
An' she up an' 'spon', "I ain't a bit mo' yallerer 'n you."
An' wid dat she suds-ed me over,
Den she rolled me in de clover.
Oh, she's a tiger an' a lily, an' a tiger-lily too.


She's my tiger, tiger, tiger,
An' my lily—an' my lily—
She's my tiger,
An' my lily.
An' my tiger-lily too.

Harper's New Monthly Magazine. December 1898 May 1899. New York, London, 1899. Web. Google Book Search. 5 Aug 2009.


  1. I read through these words/lyrics a few times, grasping something different with each read; my first reaction was "oh this is funny and charming" (and it really is!) but then I tried to place the dialect/vernacular- thinking probably that of the deep south; and then I thought "how scandalous!" that a "lady" would write about "rolling in the clover" in 1898! oh my! My curiosity was piqued and I google the authoress.
    This link, the text of which was written in 1901 and is so NOT politically correct in today's world (apparently 'yaller gals' are Creole women) is a fascinating glimpse into Ms. Stuart's life and environment (she was also a self professed mycologist!). You will reread today's tiger lily verses with a new layer of understanding and sense of place.

  2. Just me again! Ok, now this is getting really interesting; after I wrote my last comment, I decided to keep on researching. The word "yaller" (i.e. yellow) has quite a story -remember the song "The Yellow Rose of Texas"? -not exactly a yellow rose of the botanical variety... who knew? Check this out:
    Isn't it amazing the amount of history hidden within a simple poem about tiger lilies?

  3. WOW Gretchen! This is some fascinating research! Thank you so much. :-) Some of this had me thinking of Flannery O'Connor's work.

    You summarize so eloquently...hidden history...awesome.