A Tale of Two Toads.

Whilst I was walking round the garden looking to see if I could find some interesting and eye-catching plants on this last day of November I came across two very different toads. The first is a Toad lily; Tricyrtis. I had forgotten I had this plant as it grows in a dark and dingy part of the garden that I hadn’t looked at for a while. A friend who is sadly no longer with us gave this plant to me years ago and I’m not sure whether it is Tricyrtis formosana ”Purple Beauty’ or perhaps Tricyrtis Hirta.  I wonder if anyone could tell me which it is?


I have never bothered to collect any more Toad lilies because I’m not sure that I love them enough to bother. Some of them have rather small flowers. They are spotted and orchid-like and of course anything in bloom now is welcome. I love Reginald Farrer’s description of them. He said; ‘They emit large and evil flowers, very late in summer or autumn, built on the scheme of a lily, but wried by perversity into an almost Aubrey-Beardsley freakishness of outline and heavy waxen texture and livid sombre colour of putrid pinks, freckled and spotted with dark purple till their name of Toad-lily is felt to be apt.’  I think that Reginald Farrer’s descriptions are always delicious; he had such a way with words. This one sums up the toad lily quite neatly. He says that they have an ‘inexpressible quaintness’ and so all that remains for me to say is that they are stoloniferous and require deep, rich, moist soil and shade. Maybe we should all have one or two of these autumn -flowering charmers.

My other toad is a toadstool; Amanita muscaria or the Fly agaric. It is called this not because if you ingest it you believe that you can fly but because people used to make a preparation from it to keep flies away.  It is the toadstool that often illustrates children’s fairy stories and you see it surrounded by frolicking pixie and elves. I often wonder if  the story illustrators who showed this first had been ingesting it themselves. I believe it is highly hallucinatory and toxic too.



I would love a little group of these toadstools; they are so pretty and brighten up a dark spot under some birch trees. They are ectomycorrhizal and grow on the roots of  these trees. I believe they grow on the roots of pine trees too.  Of course you can’t garden toadstools they appear where and when they want to.

In case there are any crazed druggies out there who think they might break into my garden to steal the toadstool I must add that I only have the one.  And anyway as you can  see from the photo something  has got there first and nibbled it. That means that there are probably slugs crawling about my garden who think they can fly and who see pixies.

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20 Responses to A Tale of Two Toads.

  1. Pauline says:

    I think the problem with Tricyrtis is that when they are shown in books and magazines, their photographs makes the flowers look rather large. I grew some once and was disappointed with the small flower size and didn’t replace them when they finally decided they didn’t like my garden! I have the conditions that they like, so they should have been happy.

  2. Annette says:

    I like tricyrtis very much, their flowers are so delicate. I don’t know why I do not grow them yet. I agree the toadstools would look very nice under birch trees. Can you really see pixies when you eat a piece?

  3. Susan says:

    Thanks for visiting my site. I have quite a few Fly agaric on the property. One has also been nibbled. I liked your post on hollyhocks too. I am trying to create a Suffolk cottage garden here on the coast of British Columbia. Roses and hollyhocks are at the top of the list.

    • lizjwells46 says:

      Thanks for visiting, I see you have 5 acres so good luck. I think all gardens should have roses. Hollyhocks are easy once you have them you are never without..

  4. Lyn says:

    I enjoyed reading about your two “toads”. I tried to grow a toad lily for the first time this year. The snails ate the leaves, so I don’t know if it’s still alive or not. I suppose I’ll find out in autumn. Isn’t it strange that fly agaric, poisonous and looking a bit sinister, has been depicted as a cheery little fairy house in so many childrens’ books? I’ve never seen a real one, so it seems exotic to me to have one in the garden!

  5. lizjwells46 says:

    Yes Lyn, the Fly Agaric does look a bit sinister but it is very colourful. and i suppose that is why it appears in fairy stories.. Good luck with your Toad Lily..

  6. Anna says:

    Thanks for your recent visit to my blog. I’m pleased to have found you and will return. Enjoyed your toady tale. Have never gown toad lilies but have the right conditions and anything that is autumn flowering is well worth considering. Think that I will stay clear of that particular toadstool though however attractive it is 🙂

  7. rusty duck says:

    I have Tricyrtis formosana ‘Pink Freckles’, yours looks very similar if that’s any help. I bought it just this year and it’s been in flower up until the last month, quite good size flowers. In this post if you want to compare:

    • lizjwells46 says:

      Thank you, Jessica, I have checked out your Tricyrtis and I think it is pinker than mine. But your photo makes me think that mine must be T.formosana but I’m not sure which. I see your Tricyrtis was in bloom in September though. Is it still flowering?

  8. rusty duck says:

    It flowered up until about a month ago, but it’s still a youngster. Maybe it will continue for longer when it is more established.

  9. Christina says:

    I like toad lilies but I’m not sure I would actually grow them myself, even if I did have the right conditions.

  10. Ah, but you don’t need to grow them, Christina, you can grow many far more more exciting things than that to cheer you up at this time of the year..I am so envious of the bunch of flowers you picked today. You don’t need pot plants when you have such lovely things in the garden.

  11. I am glad to have come across your blog and am enjoying your posts very much. I planted some Tricyrtis a few years back with great hopes. The flowers are very small but they sure do come back every year just when everything else is done bloomng. They are hardy little things! Again..nice to have found you and will be back to visit!

  12. Cute post! I like Toad Lilies. I had two plants several years ago but they only lasted a couple of years. I’m not sure I’ll try them again, but I appreciate their uniqueness. Nice Toadstool!

  13. Thank you;I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think Tricyrtis like quite moist, rich soil but there are more rewarding plants for such a position. I don’t think I’d bother replacing mine if it died.

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