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The genus Lilium are herbaceous flowering plants growing from bulbs. Most species are native to the temperate northern hemisphere. They comprise a genus of about 110 species in the lily family (Liliaceae).
They are important as large showy flowering garden plants. Additionally, they are important culturally and in literature in much of the world. Some species are sometimes grown or harvested for the edible bulbs.
The species in this genus are the true lilies. Many other plants exist with “lily” in the common English name, some of which are quite unrelated to the true lilies.
Lilies are leafy stemmed herbs. They form naked or tunic-less scaly underground bulbs from which they overwinter. In some North American species the base of the bulb develops into rhizomes, on which numerous small bulbs are found. Some species develop stolons. Most bulbs are deeply buried, but a few species form bulbs near the soil surface. Many species form stem-roots. With these, the bulb grows naturally at some depth in the soil, and each year the new stem puts out adventitious roots above the bulb as it emerges from the soil. These roots are in addition to the basal roots that develop at the base of the bulb.
Most species are deciduous, but a few species (Lilium candidum, Lilium catesbaei) bear a basal rosette of leaves during dormancy.
Seeds ripen in late summer. They exhibit varying and sometimes complex germination patterns, many adapted to cool temperate climates.
The large flowers have six tepals, are often fragrant, and come in a range of colours ranging through whites, yellows, oranges, pinks, reds and purples. Markings include spots, brush strokes and picotees. The plants are summer flowering.
Some species formerly included within this genus have now been placed in other genera. These include Cardiocrinum, Notholirion, Nomocharis and some Fritillaria.