Torch Lily or Red Hot Poker Plant in Two Vancouver Destinations

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Red hot pokers growing in the shade of a monkey puzzle tree

The torch lily or red hot poker plant always attracts my attention when it’s in flower. The tall spike of tubular and colourful flowers is very noticeable. The flowers are red, pink, orange, or yellow. Some spikes are multicoloured. The torch lily grows well in Greater Vancouver and is a popular landscaping plant.

I took the photos in this article in two locations: the VanDusen Botanical Garden and Devonian Harbour Park. These Vancouver destinations are interesting to visit for multiple reasons, including the presence of torch lilies. I enjoy exploring them, particularly the larger botanical garden.

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A scene in the VanDusen Botanical Garden

The 55-acre VanDusen Botanical Garden is a wonderful place for a plant lover to visit. It contains plants from around the world as well as ponds, small lakes, and interesting works of art. The garden offers a variety of scenery, including colourful flower beds, treed areas, a large lawn, and an interesting maze.  It also contains a cafe, a restaurant, a garden store, and a horticultural library. Though it’s a botanical garden, some wildlife can be seen in the area, including ducks on the ponds.

Special events and workshops are held in the garden during the year. The Festival of Lights is a popular Christmas celebration, for example, and the Sakura Days Japan Fair celebrates the cherry blossoms. Specific events are held for schools.

The garden can be reached from downtown Vancouver by public transit and has a parking lot for vehicles. It’s open every day of the year except on Christmas Day. An admission fee is charged, but this fee varies depending on the circumstances. The garden’s website contains more information. The website also contains a bloom calendar that shows potential visitors some of the garden highlights of each season.

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Another scene in the VanDusen Garden

Devonian Harbour Park is located at the entrance to Stanley Park. It’s located by the waterfront. It’s quite small, but it has some interesting features. Like the VanDusen garden, it contains flowers, shrubs, and trees, a pond, and art, though on a much smaller and less elaborate scale. It also has a large area of grass.

The park has the added attraction of being bordered on one side by a seawall and a harbour and being very close to Stanley Park. This park is a large area with multiple attractions and is a highlight of a visit to Vancouver. The seawall has a walking and cycling path on top of it. The path travels into and around Stanley Park and then continues beyond the park, forming an appealing route called the Seaside Greenway. The entire route is long, but it can be accessed and left in many places.

It’s perfectly feasible for someone to walk from Devonian Harbour Park to Stanley Park. Both parks are within walking distance from downtown Vancouver and can also be reached by public transit.

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Plants in Devonian Harbour Park

The torch lily is native to Africa and belongs to the genus Kniphofia. Multiple species exist. Kniphofia uvaria is a popular species of ornamental plant. The vivid red version is sometimes known as the red hot poker plant. The multiple flower spikes do resemble flames, especially those with the brightest colours.

The flower stalks are thick and look very sturdy. The flowers produce a nectar that is attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant often blooms periodically from spring to fall, providing a lovely source of colour. It grows in clumps and is a perennial.

Torch Lily two

A torch lily in the VanDusen Botanical Garden

The leaves of red hot pokers are long and strap-like and have a pointed tip. They look somewhat like those of lilies. Despite one of its names, however, the red hot poker isn’t a lily. Both the torch lily and true lilies belong to the monocot group of plants, but other than that their biological classification is different. Torch lilies belong to the order Asparagales and the family Asphodelaceae.  Lilies belong to the order Liliales and the family Liliaceae.

Monocots and dicots are major divisions of flowering plants, or the Angiosperms. Monocots have one cotyledon or seed “leaf” instead of the two that dicots bear. Their real leaves are narrow and have parallel veins. Their flower parts are arranged in multiples of three. The vascular bundles in an angiosperm conduct food and water through the plant. In monocots, the vascular bundles in the stem are scattered. In dicots, they are arranged in a neat ring. Real lilies are monocots, too. Some other popular monocots are orchids, irises, tulips, daffodils, and grasses.

In the United States, the torch lily is said to grow best in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9. It’s also said to be able to reach a height of five feet (or according to some sources, even higher). I’ve never seen plants this tall in my part of the world. A clump of flowering red hot pokers that is nearly as tall as me would be a very impressive sight.

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Torch lilies in Devonian Harbour Park

I admire the plants in landscaped areas. but I don’t grow them in my garden. According to what I’ve read, they like full sun and moist but well drained soil. They seem to grow well in partial shade in my area, or at least some varieties do. Someone who would like to grow the plant in their garden should check the features and requirements of the different types carefully.

yellow torch lily

A yellow torch lily in Devonian Harbour Park

Unlike true lilies, torch lilies are nontoxic to cats as well as dogs and horses. It’s important to note that nontoxic doesn’t mean the same as edible, however. True lilies are very poisonous for cats. Ingestion of even part of the plant is potentially life threatening for them.

There’s lots more to see in the VanDusen Botanical Garden and Devonian Harbour Park than red hot pokers. I always enjoy seeing the flowers amongst the other attractions, though. They provoked my curiosity long before I knew their name. Their colour and size make them a noticeable and lovely part of the landscape.

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