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Lilium columbianum

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

Turk's-cap 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.

rhizomatous, often branching dichotomously at 120° from main axis, 2.4–4.3 × 6–10.2 cm, 0.2–0.6 times taller than long, 2(–3) years’ growth evident as annual bulbs, the scaleless sections between these 0.6–3.8(–4.6) cm;

scales 1–2-segmented (if 2-segmented, often only on inner scales), longest 1.2–3.9 cm;

stem roots present or absent.


to 1.7 m, glaucous or not.

1.2–2.8 m.


rounded in cross section.

± triangular 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.

usually ± evenly distributed along stem, in 6–24 whorls or partial whorls, 3–20 leaves per whorl, usually ± horizontal and drooping at tips, distal leaves ascending in sun, 7.1–26.1 × 0.7–2.7 cm, 4–18 times longer than wide;

blade narrowly elliptic, sometimes extremely so, occasionally barely oblanceolate, margins not undulate, apex acute, acuminate in distal leaves;

veins and margins ± smooth abaxially.


racemose, 1–25(–45)-flowered.

racemose, 1–22-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.

pendent, not fragrant;

perianth Turk’s-cap-shaped;

sepals and petals reflexed less than 1/5 along length from base, yellow or sometimes yellow-orange proximally, red-orange or sometimes red, red-purple, orange, or yellow barely suffused with red distally, spotted magenta, not distinctly clawed, nectaries exposed, forming visible green star;

sepals with 2 parallel, often faint abaxial ridges, 6.8–10.5 × 1.1–2.1 cm;

petals 7–10.2 × 1.4–2.6 cm;

stamens strongly exserted;

filaments parallel along much or most of length, then widely spreading, diverging (7°–)11°–30° from axis;

anthers magenta, occasionally purple or dull purple, 1.4–2.6 cm;

pollen rust;

pistil 4.7–8.2 cm;

ovary 1.5–3.4 cm;

style pale green, often spotted purple;

pedicel 7.4–19.1 cm.


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

2.9–6.2 × 1.7–2.5 cm, 1.7–3.3 times longer than wide.



not counted.


= 24.

= 24.

Lilium columbianum

Lilium superbum

Phenology Flowering summer (early May–early Aug). Flowering summer (Jul–early Aug).
Habitat Coastal scrub and prairies, meadows, conifer or mixed forests, clearings, roadsides Gaps and openings in rich woods, swamp edges and bottoms, streamsides, moist meadows and thickets, balds, pine barrens, roadsides
Elevation 0–1800 m (0–5900 ft) 0–1600 m (0–5200 ft)
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
[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 largest Lilium east of the Rocky Mountains and the commonest over most of its range, the Turk’s-cap lily is a familiar sight throughout much of the southern Appalachians and along the northern Atlantic coastal plain. Flowers are rather variable; those in the north are sometimes floridly colored with dark purple bases on the perianth parts. The single report from Vermont (F. C. Seymour 1993) remains unconfirmed; however, recent collections from Washington Parish in Louisiana, Perry County in Missouri, and Bamberg County in the coastal plain of South Carolina extend the range of this species.

Lilium superbum shares distinctive features with L. michauxii, L. pyrophilum, and L. iridollae that indicate a close relationship and are diagnostically useful, namely paired ridges on the backs of the sepals and buds that are triangular in cross section. None has the red style characteristic of the other eastern pendent lily clade (L. michiganense, L. canadense, and L. grayi) centered to the northwest, and only L. iridollae sometimes has the leaf margins and veins roughened abaxially as is characteristic of L. canadense and its close relatives.

Common inheritance of a suite of unique, derived features and peripheral allopatric distributions suggest that Lilium pyrophilum and L. iridollae may be geographical isolates of broadly distributed L. superbum ancestral stock; both restricted species occur in specialized wetland habitats. Geography aside, the three are unequivocally distinguished only by various combinations of leaf and bulb characteristics, flower color, habitat, and blooming time. However, the overall degree of separation is comparable to that between many other species in the genus. Lilium superbum blooms the earliest, is the largest, and has the most numerous and largest flowers, and the long, narrow leaves in many whorls are distinctive. Lilium michauxii overlaps in range with these three species but is easily separated morphologically and ecologically.

Lilium superbum is pollinated primarily by the swallowtail butterflies that are common within its range, among them the spicebush (Papilio troilus Linnaeus, family Papilionidae), pipevine (Battus philenor Linnaeus), and eastern tiger (Papilio glaucus Linnaeus). Great spangled fritillaries [Speyeria cybele (Fabricius), family Nymphalidae] also visit the Turk’s-cap lily (R. M. Adams and W. J. Dress 1982).

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

Source FNA vol. 26, p. 185. FNA vol. 26, p. 192.
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. 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. washingtonianum
Synonyms L. canadense var. parviflorum, L. lucidum, L. parviflorum L. canadense subsp. superbum, L. fortunofulgidum, L. gazarubrum, L. mary-henryae
Name authority Leichtlin ex Duchartre: J. Soc. Centr. Hort. France, sér. 2, 5: 98. (1871) Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. ed. 2, 1: 434. (1762)
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