Family Heirlooms: Hostas, Tiger Lilies, Yellow Roses, and More

Readers share stories of treasured family plants passed down for generations.

  • The author's father gave her this Tradescantia spp., an orange tree, and an Easter lily cactus, which he recieved from his elementary school teacher.
    Photo by Amy Wieden
  • These tiger lilies are flourishing in the author's garden, through 29 years of transplanting and replanting splits from the original.
    Photo by Lois McGowan
  • This fern, though unidentified, has been inherited by the author's family members for generations.
    Photo by Jane Brunton

Origins of an Orange Tree and a Cactus

In the 1940s, my father’s elementary school teacher gave him some Easter lily cacti (Echinopsis ancistrophora). How she came across a plant from Brazil in rural Nebraska during the Great Depression is anyone’s guess! I officially inherited them from my father upon his death, although I had been caring for them for years by then. The original plants are long gone, so what I have today are their clones — this species sets “pups” that you can pull off the mother plant and use to start new plants. When it blooms, it has a beautiful, pale pink flower that opens at night and smells like Easter lilies. The flowers only last a few hours.

From my father, I also have a calamondin orange tree (x Citrofortunella microcarpa), which was a prize given away in the late 1960s by the Dixie Cup company for collecting box tops. My father carefully saved those box tops while my mother was pregnant with me — the tree and I both came into the family at about the same time. The fruit of this tree is exceptionally sour, so it’s mostly decorative. It hasn’t bloomed in years, but because it’s 50 years old now, that’s not really surprising. When it did bloom, it was the best floral scent in the world!

The cacti are beautiful indoors or out, and the fruit of the orange tree can be eaten — if you’re brave. The fruits can be used for making a pretty good marmalade; sugar cuts the sourness and makes the oranges palatable. These plants have journeyed along with us. The cacti — after their forever-to-remain-mysterious travels from Brazil — grew in Nebraska until my father married a Kansas girl and moved to the Texas Gulf Coast, where they were joined by the orange tree, my sister, and me. We all moved to Boulder, Colorado, where we spent the next 46 years. Last year, we packed up everything except my sister and moved to southern Colorado.

Amy Wieden

Peyton, Colorado



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