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Plant Description


Lilium philadelphicum L.

En: wood lily, prairie lily, mouse root (Cree), Saskatchewan lily, western red lily
Fr: lis de Philadelphie
Oj: mashkodepin

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
Lilium philadelphicumhab Lilium philadelphicumflpl Lilium philadelphicumlvs Lilium philadelphicumflw


General: A tall erect perennial herb, stems to 1.2 m tall, smooth (glabrous), with intense orange to red terminal flowers. Stems originate from a scaly bulb composed of several white fleshy segments clustered around the base of the stem. The starchy bulbs are edible (served boiled). The bulbs are also eaten and dispersed by small rodents. The Cree common name, "mouse root," refers to the fact that voles often store the fleshy bulbs in their burrows. The wood lily is the floral emblem of Saskatchewan.

Leaves: Simple, parallel-veined, sessile, glabrous, in 1–4 whorls of 3–11 leaves situated near the top of the stem, and with leaves of alternate or seemingly random attachment along the lower portions of the stem. Leaf blades linear, narrowly elliptic, or oblanceolate, to 10 cm long and up to 2.3 cm wide; tapering gradually to a blunt point at the apex; margins entire.

Flowers: Bisexual,1–3, terminal, erect, large and showy, on stalks (peduncles) 2.5–10.5 cm long. Sepals and petals alike (tepals), 6, pale to bright orange or red, marked with reddish brown to black spots near the centre of the flower. Tepals 5–8 cm long, 1.6–3 cm wide, narrowly elliptic to oblanceolate, tapering abruptly to the paler, clawed base; nectar guides, located on the claws, are more well–developed and tube–like on the sepals. Stamens 6, erect and extending beyond the perianth (exserted), anthers 5–12 mm long, maroon, facing outward (extrorse); pistil 5–8 cm long, ovary superior, elongate, topped by a long style that ends in a prominent 3–lobed stigma.

Fruit: The dry capsule is oblong, 2.5–7 cm long, and splits open (dehisces) vertically through each of the 3 chambers (a loculicidal capsule); seeds are flat. Flowers bloom in late June to July.

Habitat and Range: Meadows, prairies, alvars, barrens, open woods, and roadsides. The wood lily is native to eastern North America and the tall-grass prairies of central North America, extending to western British Columbia. In northern Ontario, its range extends north to James Bay and west to the Manitoba border, near the Lake of the Woods region. It is found most often found in areas with calcareous bedrock or sediments.

Similar Species: The wood lily is one of only two North American lilies with clawed tepals. The other species is Lilium catesbaei (pine lily or Catesby's lily), which occurs only in the southeastern U.S. This webpage is from the Aquatic, Wetland, and Invasive Plant website, Univ. of Florida. The Michigan lily, Lilium michiganense, is the only other native lily that occurs in northern Ontario, where its range is restricted to around Lake Superior and areas adjacent to the United States. This webpage is from the Wildflowers of Missouri website. The Michigan lily can be recognized by its several pendant, long-stalked flowers and unclawed tepals.

Internet images: An image of Lilium philadelphicum from the Wildflowers and Plants of the Upper Ottawa Valley website.

The Lilium philadelphicum webpage from the Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands website.

The Lilium philadelphicum webpage from the Connecticut Botanical Society.

– written by Shawna Wanamaker & Susan Meades

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