Michigan Lily


Sumner, United States

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A Michigan Lily in a ditch along a northeast Iowa rural road. USA

Michigan Lily
Lilium michiganense
Lily family (Liliaceae)

Description: This native perennial plant is up to 5’ tall and unbranched, except at the inflorescence. The central stem is round and smooth. The leaves usually occur in whorls of 3-7 along the stem, although some of the upper leaves may occur along the stem in pairs or alternate individually. The leaves are individually up to 5" long and ¾" across. They are lanceolate or narrowly ovate, with smooth margins and parallel venation.

Above the terminal leaves of the central stem, 1-6 flowers hang downwad from stalks about 3-5" long that spread upward and outward. Some flowering stalks may also appear from the axils of the upper leaves. Each showy flower is about 2½-3" across, with 6 tepals that flare outward and then curve strongly backward toward the base of the flower. These tepals are yellowish to reddish orange, and have numerous brownish purple dots toward the throat of the flower. The stamens are conspicuous and strongly exerted from the throat of the flower, with reddish brown anthers that are ½" or less. A long white stigma with a curves slightly upward; it has a yellow tip. The blooming period occurs from early to mid-summer, and lasts about a month. There is no noticeable floral scent. The oblong 3-lobed seedpods contain closely stacked, flat seeds with thin papery wings – this enables them to be carried some distance by gusts of wind. The root system consists of a yellow bulb and rhizomes, from which new offsets may form.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, rich loamy soil, and moist conditions. An established plant, however, can withstand some drought. Growing this plant from seed is slow and difficult, but relatively easy from bulbs or transplants. There is some tendency to flop over if there is inadequate support from neighboring plants.

Range & Habitat: It is the most common native Lily. Habitats include moist black soil prairies, openings in floodplain forests, thickets, Bur Oak savannas, moist meadows along rivers, swamps, fens, and prairie remnants along railroads.

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Artwork Comments

  • Warren. A. Williams
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