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The Lily Species

The lily, a plant of the northern hemisphere, is widespread and grows in a variety of habitats. Around eighty species are recognized by botanists, most of which are likely to be hardy in gardens in temperate regions. Species can be found growing from Siberia, North Korea and Japan down to the Mediterranean and, in India, quite close to the equator. Some of the lilies that prove less hardy in our gardens come from islands in the Pacific. From mountainous parts of Burma, Tibet and China come some species that almost blur the lines of demarcation between lilies and fritillaries and Nomocharis. These delightful flowers are not likely to be found in showcases in the local garden centre - they are adapted to their homes and may remain tricky under cultivation until we have the technology to reproduce their natural conditions.

Lilies may grow in large populations or as scattered plants. They are found growing from sea-level to stations high up, perhaps 2600m (8500 ft) high. One kind may be restricted to a certain kind of soil and not stray out of a narrow pH band - there are lilies that grow only on acid soils and others that are found on alkaline ones; many are happiest in the neutral middle.

A species may have a limited distribution, for example L. regale found only in one steep-sided Chinese valley, others can be wanderers like the champion globe-trotter L. martagon known from Siberia across to Poland and down to the Balkans. The latter varies in color and size but, remarkably, the overall character of the plant remains very much the same and variation is limited. It is one species that is instantly recognizable, unlike a number of other wildings, such as some US species which tend to merge one into another. In the series of mountainous valleys in western America, species seem to have evolved in their isolated barricaded homes, being less well differentiated towards the more open ends of the valleys. In Taiwan, the trumpet lily L. formosanum, called after the island's former name, grows from sea-level to some 3600m (12,000 ft). Populations of the lily living low down can be 1.8m (6 ft) high with several flowers; those scratching a living high up are small plants of around 25-30 cm (10-12 in), usually with one bloom (L. f. pricei) and there are a range of intermediates.

Botanists over the years have created divisions and groups to sort through the various species according to similarities or differences in flower form, leaf form, bulb habits and geographical distribution. The following well-recognized classification was made by Harold F. Comber and published in 1949. He divided the species into seven categories:

Martagon section
  • L. distichum - This lily is native to the Amur and Vladivostok regions in Siberia, and to Manchuria and Korea. The 30- to 90-centimeter (1- to 3-foot) tall stem bears whorls of leaves and, in July, a crowded raceme of 3 to 8 fleshy-tepaled flowers of a pale orange-red color with dark spots.
  • L. hansonii - The lily is native to Ullung-Do and Takeshima Islands off the coast of Korea and the Diamond and Negita mountains in mainland Korea. This lily is also reported from eastern Siberia and Japan. The strongly fragrant June flowers are pendent, with thick, fleshy, reflexed tepals of orange-red, spotted in brown. There are 4 to 12 flowers per stem.
  • L. martagon - This lily is native to Eurasia, in limestone hills up to 2300 meters (7500 feet), in beech woods on lime substrates, at the margins of woods and shrub thickets, and in waste places, always in well-drained but well-watered soils. It grows 60 to 120 centimeters (2 to 4 feet) tall, up to 180 centimeters (6 feet) in cultivation. There are 3 to 13 flowers (as many as 50 flowers in cultivation) in a raceme. The flower color is quite variable; in low-land populations it is pale or brownish pink, and at higher elevations a strong, dark, muddy carmine-pink. The brownish violet spotting is also quite variable. The flowers are pendent.
  • L. medeoloides - It is native to Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan, north to Sakhalin, the Kurile Island off Kamchatka, and Cheju Island off southern Korea. The small, pendent flowers have reflexed tepals, orange to apricot in color, spotted in dark red to black, and about 3.5 centimeters (1.5 inches) in diameter. Flowers appear from July to August.
  • L. tsingtauense - This lily is native to China and Korea. In late July the lily bears 1 to 6 flowers, upright, star-shaped pointed bowls, gleaming orange-red with reddish spots, which are usually not distributed on the entire tepal with radial symmetry. The flower has a slight, unpleasant scent.
American section
a:
  • L. bolanderi - This lily is native to southern Oregon and northern California. The sturdy stem carries up to 9 delicate flowers with a true bell shape. Color of flowers ranges from brick to wine-red, spotted faintly inside with crimson or pure red. The flowers open in July.
  • L. columbianum - It is native to western North America. The inflorescence is a raceme of 2 to 10 small, pendant flowers, the tepals sharply reflexed about halfway. Flower color ranges from bright gold to red-orange, with small purple spots scattered in the throat. Depending on elevation, the flowers appear in June, July, or August.
  • L. humboldtii - This lily is native to the United States. In June it bears 10 to 15 turk's- cup flowers in a pyramidal inflorescence. The flowers are bright orange, spotted with chestnut brown or purple, and the pollen is dark orange. 
  • L. kelloggii - It is native to the United States. The lily has as many as 30 flowers in the tall, pyramidal inflorescence. These pendent turk's-cap blooms have strongly inrolled tips. The flowers are ivory-white with pink spots, turning pink to magenta as they age, with the spots turning brown or wine-red. The flowers appear in July.
  • L. rubescens - The species is native to the Pacific Coast of the United States. The raceme carries up to 50, but normally 3 to 30, upright trumpets, in which the tepals first form a tube and then, in the last third of their length, are strongly reflexed. The flower color is white on opening, lightly sprinkled with purple, and gradually changes to rose-purple or wine-red. The flowers open in June and July.
  • L. washingtonianum - This lily is native to the western American mountains. In June and July it bears 2 to 30 horizontal, trumpet-form flowers with slightly reflexed tepals, pure white in color with purple spots in the throat, turning more purple with age.
b:
  • L. maritimum - This lily is native to coastal California in the United States. The flower stem may be from 10 to 200 centimeters (4 inches to 6 feet) tall, depending on habitat. The flowers are small, bell shaped, and dark to soft orange-red, 1 to 8 per stem.
  • L. nevadense
  • L. occidentale - This lily is native to the Pacific Coast of the United States. The flower stem is 60 to 180 centimeters (2 to 6 feet) tall, with small elliptical leaves in whorl. It bears 1 to 15 small, pendent, turk's-cap flowers with a green base color and orange throat with brown spots. The flowers open in July.
  • L. pardalinum - The species is native to the Pacific Coast of the United States. The flower stem grows 120 to 200 centimeters (4 to 7 feet) tall. The flower is scentless, borne on an elegant out-arching stalk with strongly reflexed turk's-cap flowers around 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter. The flower color is gleaming orange-red, carmine-red at the tips, marked in the center with strong red-brown spots bordered in orange. The flowers open in July.
  • L. parryi - This lily is native to the south-western United States. The trumpet flowers are borne horizontally on flower stalks rising obliquely upward. The flower color is pale to bright yellow, spotted in light brown. The lily is 60 to 180 centimeters (2 to 6 feet) tall with 1 to 15 flowers, sometimes as many as 50 flowers on one stem.
  • L. parvum - The species is native to the western United States. The flower stem grows 90 to 120 centimeters (3 to 4 feet) tall and bears small, outfacing, bell-shaped flowers of yellow, orange, or red, with brown spots. This lily flowers in June and July.
  • L. roezlii
c:
  • L. canadense - This lily is native to eastern North America. It bears an umbel of up to 20 flowers in  June to July, usually yellow with dark purple spots. The flowers are of turk's-cap form, with the tepals only halfway reflexed to produce an exquisite bell shape.
  • L. grayi - This species is native to North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia in the United States. The flowers, borne 1 to 12 on a stem, are usually dark carmine, orange inside, strongly spotted in red-purple.
  • L. iridollae - The lily is native to southern Alabama and northwestern Florida in the southeastern United States. The flower stem is 90 to 150 centimeters (3 to 5 feet) tall. The flowers are typically borne singly, but there may be as many as 8 on a stem. Of martagon form, and pendent, with the tepals rolled under, the flowers are a warm, golden-yellow color, heavily spotted in brown on the lower part, with green nectaries. Flowers appear from June to July.
  • L. michauxii - This species is native to southeastern United States. The inflorescence is an umbel of 1 to 5 strongly scented, pendent turk's-cap flowers, gleaming orange-red, yellowish white at the throat.
  • L. michiganense - This lily is native to the United States. The flower stem rises 60 to 150 centimeters (2 to 5 feet), with elliptical leaves in whorls. It bears 1 to 8 flowers on long, upright flower stalk in a loose inflorescence. The pendent flowers are of graceful turk's-cap form, red-orange with copious red-brown spotting at the base, and reddish yellow pollen. Flowers open from June to July.
  • L. superbum - It is native to the eastern United States. The purplish flowering stalk can reach up to 3 meters (10 feet) in cultivation. This lily bears a pyramidal inflorescence of up to 40 long-petioled, large, pendent turk's-cap flowers of orange-yellow, tinted with carmine red at the tips. In the center of the flower is a green star, and the throat is spotted with brown. The flower color is quite variable, with form known in various shades of yellow, and the true red. The flowers open from July to August.
d:
  • L. catesbaei - This lily is native to southeastern United States. The flower stalk is 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 inches) tall. The flower, usually borne singly, is un up facing starry bowl, scarlet or yellow speckled with heavy brown spots.
  • L. philadelphicum - This species is native to North America. The 1 to 5 widely opened, up facing, bowl-shaped flowers are borne in an umbel and are a lively orange-scarlet in color and more orange within, where they are frequently spotted heavily in dark brown.
Candidum section
  • L. bulbiferum - This lily is native to Europe. It flowers in a terminal umbel with up to 20 up facing golden-orange bowl-shaped blossoms, marketed with red-orange toward the tips, and with light spotting.
  • L. candidum - This lily is native to the eastern Mediterranean. The flowering stalk grows in spring, usually 80 to 120 centimeters (2.5 to 4 feet) tall, bearing in June and July 5 to 20 pure white, widely trumpet-shaped, sweet-scented flowers. 
  • L. carniolicum - It is native to the Balkans. The thick-textured, turk's-cap flowers are a rusty red, not highly polished.
  • L. chalcedonicum - This lily is native to Albania and Greece. From July into August it bears up to 10 flowers of martagon form.
  • L. monadelphum - This lily is native to the northern Caucasus. This early flowering lily grows 60 to 80 centimeters (2 to 2.5 feet) tall in the wild and up to 120 centimeters (4 feet) in good garden conditions. The stem bears on short flower stalks 5 to 20 strongly scented, pendent, widely open trumpet-form flowers of pure yellow to soft cream with or without faint lilac spots.
  • L. polyphyllum - The species is native to the Himalayas. This lily generally bears 1 to 10 flowers, but sometimes as many as 40. The fragrant, nodding flowers are bell shaped, with the lower half of the tepals strongly rolled under. The flower color is greenish yellow inside the trumpet, and cream on the outside, prettily spotted with lilac.
  • L. pomponium - This lily is native to the Alps-Maritimes of France. There are up to 10 nodding red turk's-cap flowers with small black spots. Flowers open in July. Flowers have an unpleasant scent.
  • L. pyrenaicum - This lily is native to Europe, Turkey, and the Caucasus. The flower stem is 30 to 120 centimeters (1 to 4 feet) tall, set with many linear-lanceolate leaves. The unpleasantly scented flowers are borne in a raceme in groups of 1 to 12. Flowers are small, 3.5 centimeters (1.5 inches) wide, nodding, strongly reflexed turk's-caps of a greenish yellow color with faint black spotting. Compared to the lush foliage, the flowers are quite small. Flowers open early, from late May to June.
Oriental section
  • L. alexandrae - It is native to Japan. The flowers are pure white and trumpet shaped, carried horizontally or slightly raised, and have a delightful fragrance. 
  • L. auratum - Native to Japan. The out facing flowers are large, sweetly scented, and of flattened bowl shape. The flowers, 25 to 30 centimeters (10 to 12 inches) in diameter, are ivory-white with a golden-yellow central band and carmine spots and papillae. Flowers appear from August to September. 
  • L. brownii - This lily is native to southern China. Flowers are pure creamy white inside and rosy purple to chocolate-brown outside, sometimes overlain with green. The flowers open in July.
  • L. japonicum - It is native to Japan. There are generally 1 to 3 flowers per stem, clear pink or sometimes white. Depending on altitude, the flowers open from May to August.
  • L. nobilissimum - This lily is native to Japan. The waxy-textured, pure white, scented trumpet flowers, as many as 6 in number, are borne on short upright stalks.
  • L. rubellum - It is native to Japan. The flower is a horizontal, bell-shaped trumpet, 4.5 centimeters (1.5 inches) long and 6.5 centimeters (3 inches) wide, delicate pink, sweet-scented, turning purple-rose with age. There are usually 1 to 3 flowers per stem. 
  • L. speciosum - This lily is native to Japan, Taiwan, China. On the stiff stem are borne large, fragrant flowers with strongly reflexed tepals. The flowers, usually 4 to 30, appear in August to September. The flowers are delicate pink to crimson with very undulate margins, sprinkled with carmine spots and papillae.
Asiatic section
a:
  • L. davidii - This species is native to China. This lily has a long, pyramidal inflorescence with stiffly horizontal stems bearing 6 to 20, but sometimes as many as 40 flowers. The fragrant flowers are cinnabar to scarlet, spotted finely inside with black.
  • L. duchartrei - This lily is native to China. The pendent flowers, marble-white with scattered wine-red spots, are borne in an inflorescence of 2 to 12 on long, strongly outward-held stalks arranged in an umbel. The flowers are beautifully scented.
  • L. henryi - It is native to China. This lily has large orange pendent flowers. Although it bears only 1 to 3 flowers in the wild, in good garden conditions it may have as many as 30 flowers and attain a height of 140 to 240 centimeters (5 to 8 feet). The inflorescence is a raceme with the flower stalk held horizontally or slightly upward, often with secondary and ternary buds. The flowers, borne from late July to August, are of turk's-cap form, orange with many brown spots and papillae, with green or blackish green nectaries in the interior of the flower.
  • L. lancifolium - This lily is native to Japan, Korea, China. In June, round, dark-purple bulbils form in the leaf axils, then loosen and fall in autumn. The flowers are arranged in a raceme, with strongly reflexed tepals of orange-cinnabar color heavily spotted in chocolate-brown. The flowers open from August to late September.
  • L. lankongense - This lily is native to China. It bears up to 15 flowers in a raceme. The pendent flowers are of turk's-cap form, delicate rose-red becoming darker with age, with copious spots. Flowers open in July.
  • L. leichtlinii - It is native to Japan. The lily grows 60 to 120 centimeters (2 to 4 feet) tall, with pendent flowers of reflexed martagon form, pure citron yellow with reddish purple spots. The stem bears up to 12 flowers in July to August.
  • L. papilliferum
b:
  • L. amabile - This lily is native to Korea. The racemose inflorescence may have 5 to 15 unpleasantly scented turk's-cap flowers of gleaming orange-red, speckled with purple spots. Flowers open in June and July.
  • L. callosum - It is native to eastern Asia. This lily grows 30 to 90 centimeters (1 to 3 feet) tall and bears in July and August a slender stem of up to 12 small, lightly spotted turk's-cap flowers. The flower color is an unusual shade of brick-red finely sprinkled with black spots in the throat.
  • L. cernuum - This lily is native to Korea, Russia, China. In June each stem holds up to 8 lilac-rose flowers, stippled with carmine and with very fine scent.
  • L. concolor - Native to China, Japan, Russia, Korea. This small, delicate lily produces one or more up facing, starry flowers in June or July, glistening scarlet-red without spots.
  • L. pumilum - The species is native to South and North Korea, Russia, Mongolia, northern China. In May or June this lily bears 1 to 30 scented, nodding turk's-cap flowers of gleaming sealing-wax red, occasionally with small black spots in the throat.
c:
  • L. bakerianum - This lily is native to Burma, Nepal, China. The typical plant bears a tight raceme of up to 8 pendent, bell-shaped, sweetly scented flowers with a greenish base color, heavily overlain and spotted in reddish brown. All varieties of the species have flowers in different colors: white, pink, yellow, and greenish. 
  • L. mackliniae - It is native to Burma. There are 1 or 2 flowers, occasionally as many as 8 per stem, pendent, bell shaped, widely open, white or flushed with pale pink, about 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter. Flowers open from June to late July.
  • L. nepalense - This lily is native to the Himalayas of Nepal, Bhutan, and Kumaon. The stout stems bear 1 to 5 pendent flowers. The flowers open in July. The flowers exude an exotic fragrance at night.
  • L. ochraceum - It is native to Nepal. This lily has small flowers.
  • L. sempervivoideum - This lily is native to China. This lily grows only 15 centimeters (6 inches) tall, with fine grassy leaves and up to 3 small, pendent white flowers with fine purple spots.
  • L. taliense - It is native to China. This lily carries 10 or more flowers per stem.
  • L. wardii - This lily is native to southeastern Tibet. As many as 40 strongly fragrant turk's-cap flowers of deep pink with carmine spots may be borne in a single raceme.
Trumpet section
a:
  • L. leucanthum - It is native to China. This lily bears large white trumpet-shaped flowers. There are 10 to 17 flowers in a raceme. The flowers open in July to August.
  • L. regale - This species is native to China. It bears a wheel-like umbel of 1 to 8 or more trumpet-shaped flowers with a strong fragrance. The flowers open in June and early July. Inside the flowers are gleaming white with a chrome-yellow throat.
  • L. sargentiae - Native to China. The large, beautifully sculpted trumpet flowers are pure white inside with a yellow throat, and purple-rose or brown and green on the reverse. When the flowers open, the tepals are elegantly reflexed. The raceme form inflorescence can bear as many as 18 strongly perfumed flowers. The flowers open in the second half of July.
  • L. sulphureum - Native to China. The lily bears as many as 15 nodding trumpet flowers 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inches) long, with a good scent, dark gold in the throat paling to ivory at the tips. The flowers open at the end of August or the beginning of September.
b:
  • L. formosanum - This lily is native to Taiwan. The pendent flowers are narrow white trumpets, 12 to 15 centimeters (5 to 6 inches) long, widely flaring, generally with a pink tint along the midrib. The flowers are usually borne 1 to 2 on a stem, but there are selections with 30 to 40 flowers. 
  • L. longiflorum - This lily is native to Japan. It bears one or more out facing, pure white trumpet flowers.
  • L. neilgherrense - Native to India. The stems carry one or two very large trumpet flowers. The white of the flowers is unsullied except for the suffusion of yellow in the throat and creamy cast to the buds.
  • L. philippinense - This lily is native to the Philippines. In July and August it bears 1 to 30 pure white, long-tubular trumpet flowers with dark green or brown reverse on a stem as tall as 90 centimeters (3 feet). 
  • L. wallichianum - Native to the Himalayas. The flower stem is 90 to 180 centimeters (3 to 6 feet) tall and bears scattered, linear, grassy, dark green leaves and one or sometimes more flowers at its tip. The flowers are 18 to 22 centimeters (7 to 9 inches) long, with a narrow trumpet flaring broadly at the mouth. The flower is creamy white, tinted green within.
Dauricum section
  • L. dauricum - This lily is native to Asia. Rising 30 to 75 centimeters (12 to 30 inches), the typically ribbed stem has closely scattered, lanceolate, dark green leaves below 1 to 6 up facing, cup-shaped flowers of orange-red to scarlet, variably spotted, carried in an umbel.
  • L. maculatum - Native to Japan. The flowers are rather large, borne in an umbel of 3 to 12 on stems 30 to 100 centimeters (1 to 3 feet) tall. The flowers have a lovely goblet shape, and the color is usually orange-red with scattered dark spots. When the flower stem grows on cliffs, it often hangs out horizontally and bears the flowers erect. The flowers open in July to August.
Hybrid Lilies →

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