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Lilium columbianum

Columbia lily, Columbia tiger lily, Columbian lily, Oregon lily, tiger lily

Gray's lily


variable, subrhizomatous to ± ovoid, 3.1–8.1 × 3.6–10.6 cm, 0.3–1.4 times taller than long;

scales 2–3(–5)-segmented, some unsegmented, longest 3.1–7.3 cm;

stem roots absent.

often yellowish, rhizomatous, unbranched, 2.2–2.6 × 3.8–5 cm, 0.5–0.6 times taller than long, 2 years’ growth evident as annual bulbs, scaleless sections between these 1.2–2.5 cm;

scales 1–2-segmented, longest 0.9–2.2 cm;

stem roots present.


to 1.7 m, glaucous or not.

to 1.3 m.


rounded in cross section.

rounded in cross section.


in 1–9 whorls or partial whorls, 3–25 leaves per whorl, usually ascending, 1.7–15.7 × 0.4–4.7 cm, 2.4–7.4 times longer than wide;

blade weakly oblanceolate to obovate or ± elliptic, margins usually somewhat undulate, apex acute;

veins and margins ± smooth abaxially.

in 3–5 whorls or partial whorls, 3–12 leaves per whorl, ± horizontal to occasionally slightly ascending, drooping at tips, 4.1–12.7 × 1.5–3.6 cm, 1.9–5 times longer than wide;

blade elliptic, occasionally narrowly so or barely lanceolate, margins not undulate, apex acute, usually barely acuminate in distal leaves;

principal veins impressed adaxially, veins and margins noticeably roughened abaxially with tiny ± deltoid epidermal spicules, especially apically and on proximal leaves.


racemose, 1–25(–45)-flowered.

racemose, 1–9(–16)-flowered.


pendent to nodding, not fragrant;

perianth Turk’s-cap-shaped;

sepals and petals reflexed 2/5–1/2 along length from base, yellow or orange to occasionally red, with copious maroon spots, often darker and especially reddish abaxially, not distinctly clawed;

sepals not ridged abaxially, appearing wide for their length, 3.4–7.1 × 0.8–1.9 cm;

petals 3.5–6.9 × 0.8–1.9 cm;

stamens barely to moderately exserted;

filaments moderately spreading, diverging 10°–20° from axis;

anthers pale yellow to yellow, 0.5–1.3 cm;

pollen orange or yellow;

pistil 2.4–3.7 cm;

ovary 1.1–2.2 cm;

style green;

pedicel 2.8–20.2 cm.

nodding, not fragrant;

perianth campanulate;

sepals and petals barely recurved 2/3–9/10 along length from base, yellow-orange proximally, pale red distally, spotted maroon, pale red or sometimes red-orange abaxially, not distinctly clawed;

sepals not ridged abaxially, 3.2–5.6 × 1.3–2 cm;

petals 3.1–5.5 × 1.2–2 cm;

stamens included;

filaments ± parallel to style, barely spreading, diverging 3°–9° from axis, red;

anthers magenta, 0.4–1.2 cm;

pollen brown-rust;

pistil 2.4–3.8 cm;

ovary 0.8–1.7 cm;

style red;

pedicel 2.6–6.5 cm.


2.2–5.4 × 1.1–2 cm, 1.7–3.3 times longer than wide.

2.1–3.7 × 1.5–2.1 cm, 1.5–2.1 times longer than wide.



not counted.


= 24.

= 24.

Lilium columbianum

Lilium grayi

Phenology Flowering summer (early May–early Aug). Flowering summer (late Jun–mid Jul).
Habitat Coastal scrub and prairies, meadows, conifer or mixed forests, clearings, roadsides Grassy balds, openings in red spruce (Picea rubens Sargent)–Fraser fir (Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poiret) forests, moist hardwood bogs, seeps, and meadows at lower elevations
Elevation 0–1800 m (0–5900 ft) 1200–1900 m (3900–6200 ft)
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from FNA
[BONAP county map]

The author citations often seen for this species derive from Baker (1874), who published the name as Lilium columbianum “Hanson in hort., Leichtlin”; this authority is given by various later writers as Hanson, or Baker, or Hanson ex Baker. However, Ducharte’s (1871) recapitulation of a letter from M. Leichtlin is apparently the first confirmed and valid publication of L. columbianum, and hence that citation is used here.

This widespread lily is rather variable. In California plants the stamens are considerably less exserted than those of plants found farther north. Lilium columbianum may intergrade with L. kelloggii along Highway 199 at the border between California and Oregon; these plants are slightly fragrant, the stamens moderately exserted, and the bulb scales unsegmented. Lilium columbianum hybridizes with L. pardalinum subspp. wigginsii and vollmeri, and extensively with L. occidentale in Oregon.

Lilium columbianum is pollinated primarily by rufous hummingbirds [Selasphorus rufus (J. F. Gmelin), family Trochilidae] and to a lesser extent by large butterflies, including the pale swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon Lucas, family Papilionidae).

Native Americans used Lilium columbianum bulbs as a food or peppery condiment, sometimes mixed with meat or salmon roe. For many, it was a staple food (J. Pojar and A. MacKinnon 1994).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

The narrowly endemic Gray’s lily blooms predictably on or about July 4 in the balds and forest openings of the Roan Mountain massif shared by North Carolina and Tennessee. In its unadulterated form it also occupies the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina and Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain in Virginia. A few populations occur at lower elevations (below 900 m) in streamside meadows along the Blue Ridge Parkway in northern North Carolina (Alleghany County), but in similar settings farther north in Virginia introgression with L. canadense occurs.

Lilium ×pseudograyi Grove (as species) is a name given to frequent hybrids between L. grayi and L. canadense that are scattered at somewhat lower elevations (usually 700–1000 m) in the southern Appalachians. The generally small stature of these hybrids is misleading and encourages the label of bona fide L. grayi, but in most respects they are intermediate. Sepal lengths of 4.8–6.2 cm and floral tube lengths of 3.2–4 cm predominate, and these are between the ranges of the two parent species. The freshwater wetland or moist hardwood habitat of these hybrids also reveals the contribution of L. canadense to their genome.

J. K. Small (1933) made reference to depredations by lily enthusiasts who sought Gray’s lily because of its supposed rarity, and this continues today, though to a lesser degree. Of greater threat, perhaps, is succession on the high grassy balds that gradually shades and crowds the plants; like most lilies, this one requires open conditions for vigor and reproduction.

Although fritillaries (Speyeria spp., family Nymphalidae) pilfer nectar from flowers of Gray’s lily, ruby-throated hummingbirds [Archilochus colubris (Linnaeus), family Trochilidae] are its only reliable pollinator. This red, tubular-flowered lily represents the zenith of pollinator-mediated evolution in the eastern true lilies, and is a high-elevation derivative of the ancestral stock that also produced Lilium canadense. The level of floral convergence with independently derived western Lilium species such as L. bolanderi and L. maritimum is remarkable and must be due to selection pressures exerted by hummingbirds during the floral evolution of these species.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Source FNA vol. 26, p. 185. FNA vol. 26, p. 197.
Parent taxa Liliaceae > Lilium Liliaceae > Lilium
Sibling taxa
L. bolanderi, L. canadense, L. catesbaei, L. grayi, L. humboldtii, L. iridollae, L. kelleyanum, L. kelloggii, L. lancifolium, L. maritimum, L. michauxii, L. michiganense, L. occidentale, L. pardalinum, L. parryi, L. parvum, L. philadelphicum, L. pyrophilum, L. rubescens, L. superbum, L. washingtonianum
L. bolanderi, L. canadense, L. catesbaei, L. columbianum, L. humboldtii, L. iridollae, L. kelleyanum, L. kelloggii, L. lancifolium, L. maritimum, L. michauxii, L. michiganense, L. occidentale, L. pardalinum, L. parryi, L. parvum, L. philadelphicum, L. pyrophilum, L. rubescens, L. superbum, L. washingtonianum
Synonyms L. canadense var. parviflorum, L. lucidum, L. parviflorum
Name authority Leichtlin ex Duchartre: J. Soc. Centr. Hort. France, sér. 2, 5: 98. (1871) S. Watson: Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 14: 256. (1879)
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