Colour/color Digital Painting by J. McCombie.
Tricyrtis formosana, commonly called toad lily, is an herbaceous shade-loving perennial of the lily family that typically grows in a spreading clump to 2-3’ tall. It is native to shaded areas of forests, thickets and roadsides in Taiwan. Small, star-shaped, lily-like flowers (1” long) feature six showy tepals (3 inner petals and 3 outer sepals which are similar in appearance). Flowers bloom in branched clusters (cymes) primarily at the stem ends but also in the upper leaf axils in late summer to early fall. Flowers are white with heavy reddish-purple spotting and yellowish throats. Broad lanceolate to obovate, shiny, dark green leaves (to 4-6” long) have parallel veins, hairy undersides and clasping leaf bases. Leaves generally remain attractive throughout the growing season.
Genus name comes from the Greek words tri meaning three and kyrtos meaning swelling or bulging in reference to the swollen sac-like nectarines at the base of each of the three sepals (3 outer tepals) in the plant flower.
Specific epithet is in reference to this species being native to Formosa (now Taiwan).
Common name has a number of possible origins, the simplest one being the resemblance of the spotted flowers to the skin of some toads.
Toad-lilies are rather bizarre, but rewarding plants for late-season display in the shady garden. This selection forms an attractive mound of green leaves. Starfish-like flowers appear in late summer, white with rich wine-purple spotting. Deserves a spot where it can be seen up close. Excellent as a cut flower. Toad-lilies are among the last perennials to bloom, so they give gardeners something fresh and exciting to end the season. This particular form flowers earlier than most, so it’s a good choice for regions with a short growing season. Plants are easily divided in early spring.