Native lilies

There are many different plants that are called ‘lilies’ but there are only a handful in the genus Lilium (Liliaceae), the true lilies. And even fewer are native to the US. In Michigan, there are only two native true lilies: the Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense) and the wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum) (Michigan Flora Online: Lilium). I have been lucky enough to see both species flowering in Michigan.

I took a trip to the top of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan in July 2014. I had been up to the area in early June years before and saw amazing wildflowers. I thought it would be a little late for flowers; however, I was pleasantly mistaken. The first time I saw a wood lily was amazing. It is a tiny plant with a flower about as tall as the stem. The bright orange bloom really stands out against the green. It grows in sunny patches near the edges of forests, on rocky or sandy soil.

A beautiful wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum, Liliaceae)

The only native true lily that has upright flowers. Wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum, Liliaceae)

The Michigan lily is a little harder to find, as it likes to grow in wet meadows, swamps, and fens. I have seen only one flowering, a long time ago at a local nature center. These plants can get up to five feet tall, with many pendulous flowers.

Had to zoom in as this plant was flowering deep in a fen! Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense, Liliaceae)

In New York, there are a total of four native lilies, the two above as well as the Canada lily (Lilium canadense) and turk’s-cap lily (Lilium superbum) (NY Flora Atlas: Lilium). I did find some lily leaves in a nearby fen and I will have to wait a few years until I caught the plants in flower. They are Canada lilies (Lilium canadense)!

Leaves of a Canada lily (Lilium canadense)

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