Many flowers that are called lilies, such as day lilies and water lilies, are not true lilies. Real lily flowers belong to the Lilium genus. They typically have narrow leaves that grow in intermittent clusters along the stem, as well as showy blossoms that come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and colours. Many lilies are native to Asia, while other varieties grow wild in the United States.
The Formosa lily is native to Taiwan. It grows between 3 and 6 feet tall on average; according to Floridata, the Formosa is one of the tallest lily species. Each lily bulb produces two or three stems that are covered in narrow, dark green leaves. A cluster of up to 10 fragrant white blossoms grows at the top of each stem between August and October. The trumpet-shaped flowers are between 5 and 8 inches tall. They have three petals and three sepals, or leaflike parts that resemble petals, that curl toward the stem. The flowers usually last for several days. They are replaced by papery brown seed capsules that contain small flat seeds.
The Easter lily Lilium longiflorum is native to southern Japan, but most commercial lily bulbs are produced in northern California and southern Oregon. Mature plants average between 12 and 36 inches tall, with lance-shaped leaves that grow around the stem. They prefer cool temperatures between 12.8 and 18.3 degrees Celsius. They produce more leaves when they are planted in cooler environments, according to the University of Vermont. Each stem produces between two and six white, trumpet-shaped blossoms. Commercial growers harvest the Easter lily bulbs in autumn and ship them to greenhouses, where they are potted and force-bloomed so that they will be available for the Easter holiday.
Michigan lilies (Lilium michiganense) or turk's cap lilies are native to wet meadowlands from New Hampshire to Wisconsin and from Florida to Alabama and Arkansas. Michigan lilies prefer cool, moist, nutrient-rich loamy soil and grow in full sun, partial sun or full shade. Michigan lilies reach approximately 5 feet tall. They have tall stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves that grow up the stem in clustered whorls of five to seven. Michigan lily blossoms hang downward from individual flower stalks that grow from the central stem. Their 3-inch blossoms are reddish-orange or yellow with purplish-brown speckles across the inner surface of their petals. The blooms emerge in midsummer and last for around a month.
Canada lilies (Lilium canadense), which occur in moist woodlands and thickets from Nova Scotia to Alabama, grow between 3 and 8 feet tall. They have light green central stems surrounded by alternating whorls of 6-inch-long leaves. Each plant produces between one and five blossoms, although some may produce as many as 20. Reddish-orange or yellowish-orange speckled flowers nod from long light green stalks. The flowers blossom between late spring and midsummer and bloom for approximately three weeks. Two-inch-long seed capsules replace the blossoms. Canada lilies prefer full sunlight and nutrient-rich, moist loam or sandy soil.
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