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Lilium philadelphicum (Wood lily)
Cressler, Alan

Lilium philadelphicum

Lilium philadelphicum L.

Wood Lily

Liliaceae (Lily Family)


USDA Symbol: liph

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Wood Lily’s stalk rises 1-4 ft. and is topped by upright, cup-shaped, purple-spotted, red-orange flowers. 1-5 funnel-shaped flowers, mostly red to orange with purplish-brown spots, on an erect stem with whorled leaves. There are usually one to four flowers per plant. The leaves of this perennial are long and narrow and arranged in whorls. (The lower leaves of the western variety, var. andinum, are scattered rather than whorled.) The fruit is a pod.

Once much more common than now. It is too often picked by visitors to the mountains. It also disappears rapidly from intensively grazed meadowland. The bulbs were gathered for food by Indians. A variety of this species, found in the Midwest, has leaves scattered along the stem. Among several southern species, the Southern Red Lily (L. catesbaei) has alternate, lanceolate leaves pressed against the stem, and the Orange Lily (L. bulbiferum), a European native, has sepals and petals downy within and bulblets in the axils of the upper leaves.


From the Image Gallery

41 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Orange , Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug
Bloom Notes: Rarely yellow.


USA: AL , AR , CO , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , PA , RI , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , MB , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: S. Que. to s.e. B.C., s. to NC mts., NE & NM mts.
Native Habitat: Deciduous forest openings; prairies

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Well-drained, humus-rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Since there are different regional varieties of this species, it is important to use a reputable supplier as close to home as possible. Cross-pollination is necessary for wood lilies to produce seed, so if seed is desired, plant several bulbs. Bulbs may require protection from rodents.


Use Wildlife: Hummingbirds
Use Medicinal: Many tribes gathered the bulbs of wood lily for food and medicine. The bulbs are said to have an excellent flavour. As well, the abundant, nutritious pollen can be dusted on various dishes. Medicinally, the bulbs were once cooked and then applied to sores, bruises, swellings or wounds. They were also used to make a medicinal tea for treating stomach problems, coughs and fevers and for helping women in labour diliver the afterbirth. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Hummingbirds


Description: Propagation is easiest from division of the scaly bulb, which can be dug as soon as the plant goes dormant and the seed is ripe in late summer. Seeds planted just after collection with usually germinate in the fall and overwinter as tiny bullbs, resuming
Seed Collection: Collect 6-8 weeks after bloom period when the capsule have turned brown and begun to split. Store seeds moist in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Native flowers for Door County, Wisconsin
September 02, 2009
We recently were required to put in a new septic system on our vacation property in Door County, WI. This left us with a clearing on our wooded lot where the septic field is now located. The installer...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1993 VOL. 10, NO.1 - Protecting Trees During Construction, Partnership of Developers and Contractors ...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Lilium philadelphicum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Lilium philadelphicum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Lilium philadelphicum


Record Modified: 2023-02-16
Research By: TWC Staff

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