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Lilium pardalinum

California tiger lily, leopard lily, panther lily

Gray's lily


rhizomatous, usually branching, continuously scaly, 1.4–5.1 × 3.9–19 cm, 0.2–0.6 times taller than long;

scales sometimes unsegmented but always some 2–4-segmented on each bulb, longest 1–3.3 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 2.8 m, strongly clonal and thus forming dense colonies, to weakly clonal and forming small colonies or clumps.

to 1.3 m. Buds rounded in cross section.


rounded in cross section.


usually ± evenly distributed along stem, rarely concentrated proximally, scattered or in 1–6 whorls or partial whorls, 3–19 leaves per whorl, horizontal and drooping at tips to ascending, 4.9–26.5 × 0.3–5.6 cm, 3–34 times longer than wide;

blade usually ± elliptic, wide or narrow, margins usually not undulate, apex acute, often narrowly so;

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, 1–28(–35)-flowered.

racemose, 1–9(–16)-flowered.


pendent, usually not fragrant;

perianth Turk’s-cap-shaped;

sepals and petals reflexed 1/4–1/3 along length from base, yellow, yellow-orange, or orange proximally, darker orange to red-orange to red on distal 1/5–3/5 (entirely orange or yellow-orange in subsp. wigginsii), with maroon spots concentrated proximally and always surrounded by yellow or orange if extending into distal reddish zone, conspicuously green abaxially on proximal ± 1/5, not distinctly clawed;

sepals not ridged abaxially, 3.5–10.4 × 0.9–2.2 cm;

petals 3.4–10.2 × 0.9–2.5 cm;

stamens moderately to strongly exserted;

filaments moderately to widely spreading, diverging 7°–22° from axis;

anthers ± magenta or sometimes orange, orange-pink, or pale yellow, 0.5–2.2 cm;

pollen red-brown, red-orange, brown-orange, rust, orange, or yellow;

pistil 3.1–7.5 cm;

ovary 1–2.2 cm;

style green, often pale, rarely sordid;

pedicel 6–32 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.


2.2–5.7 × 1.2–2.1 cm, 1.5–3.7 times longer than wide.

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



not counted.


= 24.

Lilium pardalinum

Lilium grayi

Phenology Flowering summer (late Jun–mid Jul).
Habitat 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 1200–1900 m (3900–6200 ft)
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from FNA
[BONAP county map]

Subspecies 5 (5 in the flora).

The subspecies of Lilium pardalinum display a classic pattern of discrete geographical ranges with intervening zones of introgression, and no two occur sympatrically without intermixing. Plants in the hybrid zones are confusing in appearance and cannot be assigned to subspecies. However, each subspecies is fairly well marked within its core distribution. With the exception of subsp. pitkinense, the subspecies of L. pardalinum can be common plants in the proper habitats within their rather narrow distributions.

Leaf size and shape are quite variable in Lilium pardalinum subspecies and often clearly dependent on environment. In populations that typically have narrow, ascending leaves, shaded plants often have wide, horizontal leaves. This hampers taxonomic separation as well as identification, especially of herbarium specimens. Further field study is desirable.

Lilium pardalinum is primarily pollinated by western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus Lucas, family Papilionidae) and pale swallowtails (P. eurymedon Lucas); several species of hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) are also important visitors, especially when butterflies are rare.

The Atsugewi, Karok, and Yana ate Lilium pardalinum bulbs steamed or baked in an earth oven (D. E. Moerman 1986).

(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.)

1. Sepals and petals uniformly yellow or yellow-orange; sepals 3.5–7.1 cm; anthers pale yellow, 0.5–1.3 cm; pollen yellow or orange; pistil 3.1–4.3 cm; capsules 2.3–4.2 cm; n California, s Oregon.
subsp. wigginsii
1. Sepals and petals ± 2-toned, with yellow or orange proximally, distal 1/5–3/5 darker orange to red; sepals 3.7–10.4 cm; anthers magenta, occasionally purple or orange, 0.5–2.2 cm; pollen yellow to rust; pistil 3.3–7.5 cm; capsules 2.2–5.7 cm; California, s Oregon.
→ 2
2. Sepals (5.9–)6.6–10.4 cm; anthers 1.1–2.2 cm; capsules 2.9–5.7 cm; leaves 3–12 times longer than wide, blade ± elliptic; stems strongly clonal, forming large colonies; California.
subsp. pardalinum
2. Sepals 3.7–8.3 cm; anthers 0.5–1.8 cm; capsules 2.2–4.8 cm; leaves 3–34 times longer than wide, blade elliptic to linear; stems weakly to moderately clonal, sometimes forming small colonies; n California, s Oregon.
→ 3
3. Leaves 7.3–34 times longer than wide, often concentrated proximally, often ascending, sometimes horizontal, blade ± linear; sepals (4.9–)5.3–8.3 cm; anthers 0.6–1.8 cm; pollen usually dark orange; extreme nw California, adjacent s Oregon.
subsp. vollmeri
3. Leaves 3–17 times longer than wide, ± evenly distributed along stem, ± ascending or horizontal, blade ± elliptic; sepals 3.7–7.6 cm; anthers 0.5–1.4 cm; pollen yellow, orange, or red- or brown-orange; n California, s Oregon.
→ 4
4. Pollen red- or brown-orange; anthers magenta; bulb scales usually 2-segmented; n Coast Ranges near Sebastopol, California.
subsp. pitkinense
4. Pollen usually yellow or bright orange; anthers orange to magenta; bulb scales (1–)2–4-segmented; ne California, adjacent s Oregon.
subsp. shastense
Source FNA vol. 26, p. 188. FNA vol. 26, p. 197.
Parent taxa Liliaceae > Lilium Liliaceae > Lilium
Sibling taxa
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. 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
Subordinate taxa
L. pardalinum subsp. pardalinum, L. pardalinum subsp. pitkinense, L. pardalinum subsp. shastense, L. pardalinum subsp. vollmeri, L. pardalinum subsp. wigginsii
Name authority Kellogg: Hesperian (San Francisco) 3: 300. (1859) S. Watson: Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 14: 256. (1879)
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