Chinese Plants: Chen Yi and EBay

Submitted by Weintraub on Thu, 12/01/2011 - 19:50

Anyone buy plants from either of these places?

I'm particularly interested in some of the unusual geophytes.

- Barbara Weintraub


Submitted by BalistrieriCarlo on Fri, 12/02/2011 - 06:11


I have not, but if you search the archives, I'm sure you'll come up with lots of discussions of Chen Yi.

Submitted by Mark McD on Fri, 12/02/2011 - 12:03

Yes, lots of debate over the years on the whole Chen Yi thing, centered around two points, one is the belief most of what is sold is wild collected material, and second is that most material is misidentified.  11 years ago I placed a small order for Alliums and a couple Fritillarias.  Of those that survived, all were misnamed except for one Frit.  The only thing you can depend on, the plants are indeed from China, so if you're up to a gamble and willing to research the Flora of China keys, and not bothered by the wild-collected-plant possibility, and more excited about obtaining something new and exciting (whetever it may be), then Chen Yi is there.  I have not ordered from Chen Yi since then, preferring instead to obtain seed or use other plant sources.

Don't know anything about the eBay resource, other than the fact I'm suspicious when I see so many orchids for sale, pretty good chance they're collected.  Also, I've read of many complaints on the Pacific Bulb Society maillist about being swindled by non-delivery of eBay purchased items, with little recourse to address the matter.

Submitted by RickR on Fri, 12/02/2011 - 15:37

I had ordered from Chen Yi  years ago, mostly lilium bulbs.  I piggy backed on someone else's order, who had already done the necessary rigamarole needed for the foreign order. Usually misidentified or identified only as "species", items were ridiculously cheap back then, but have doubled in price now.  Communication was always lagging, and sometimes practically non-existent.  I echo Mark's sentiments, too.

Submitted by Mark McD on Fri, 12/02/2011 - 15:47

My order was "piggy-backed" onto someone else's order as well, so I'm not familiar with the logistics of actually placing a foreign order.  Seems there are a lot of "Plant sp. ex Chen Yi" out there.

Submitted by Weintraub on Sat, 12/03/2011 - 11:15

Here's what I'm considering buying from Chen Yi:

Order # Genus species
I-03         Iris         bulleyana
I-02         Iris         chrysographes
I-08         Iris         sichuanensis
I-30         Iris         milesii
I-13         Iris         sp. (4)
I-31         Iris         ruthenica var. nana
I-18         Iris         kemaoensis
S-157         Tulipa iliensis
A-180  Allium songpanicum
A-192         Allium pallasii
L-29         Lilium amoenum
L-05         Lilium nanum
L-99         Lilium nepalense var. birmanicum
L-49         Lilium nepalense
L-104  Lilium bakerianum var. (pink)
F-10         Fritillaria cirrhosa var. przewalskii
F-23         Fritillaria wallujewii

Comments? Experience with listed taxa? ??? I'm tempted to get only one of each bulb, except for the small ones where I'd buy 2-3. I'm mostly interested in whether they will make seed if I have only one.

Thanks for your help!

- Barbara Weintraub
Santa Fe, New Mexico
zone 5b

Submitted by Mark McD on Sat, 12/03/2011 - 11:38

Just be aware that the small photo links in the Chen Yi Nursery web page might bear no resemblance with what gets sent out.  In at least one example that I know about (someone on SRGC Forum), not only the plant species wrong, it was also the wrong genus :P.  I had ordered A. songpanicum, it was not (I believe it ended up being A. prattii).  Just looking through the photo links for Allium, almost half of them are incorrectly identified to begin with, if indeed the photos even correlate to what is shipped.

Some items on the list are readily available from seed exchanges, such as Iris bulleyana and chrysographes, so you could save money by checking to see what species are commonplace in the seedexes.

Important:  if you do order and end up successfully growing some Chen Yi plants, each one should be checked carefully against the same species in Flora of China to make sure the ID is correct before disseminating seed or plants.

I've always been interested in some of the Lloydia species from China, but the one time I did get plants from Chen Yi the bulbs were rotted upon receipt.

Submitted by RickR on Sat, 12/03/2011 - 22:51

Most Lilium species are self infertile.
I had ordered L-49 Lilium nepalense.  But it was not.  Most closely, it was an all yellow form of L. primulinum.  Another clue: it is completely hardy in zone 4a.


I also received Iris sichuanensis.  This is it, below.  I never tried to key it out (can't explain that), but it is very close to I. tectorum and what seems to masquerade a lot as I milesii in the U.S.  Don't bother buying it.  I can send you a piece in the spring if you remind me in late April.


It took four years for this iris to bloom from a substantial rhizome! :(  Iris tectorum will bloom the second season from seed.  SIGNA (Species Iris Group of North America and now under AIS - American Iris Society) is a good source for irid species seed, and NARGS usually has a fair amount too.