Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Nature Bulletin No. 231-A   May 21, 1966
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

There is a great group of plants, numbering more than 2500 species, called the Liliaceae or Lily Group, all of which are technically known as "monocotyledons" because only a single leaf appears when their seed first sprouts. Many of them grow from underground bulbs. They have flowers with 3 sepals and 3 petals which are often colored and shaped alike, appearing as 6 equal segments. Many are highly ornamental; some are woody climbing vines; a few are trees; some are vegetables; some are medicinal; and a few are very poisonous.

The word "lily" has been misapplied to many showy beautiful flowers, such as the Calla Lilies and Water Lilies, which are not lilies at all nor members of this group. The "lily of the field" frequently mentioned in the Bible may have been the colored Poppy Anemone, or it may have been the Hyacinth, or the Iris, or the Madonna Lily -- a white-flower species from southern Europe and Asia -- smaller than the Easter Lily which originally came from China and Japan.

Included in the lily group are the "true" or typical lilies, the onions, the trilliums, the lilies-of-the-valley, the smilaxes, the yuccas and some other families. The Smilax Family includes the Carrion Flowers and the Green Briars. The Yucca Family includes such distinctive plants as the Spanish Bayonet, the Desert Candle and the grotesque Joshua Tree. Tulips, native to Asia and the Mediterranean countries, are members of the group; so are the Hyacinths introduced from Asia Minor; so are the Aloes; and so is that prince of vegetables -- the Asparagus.

Several wildflowers, native and common in the Chicago region, belong to this group. One is the Bellwort, a graceful woodland plant with a drooping yellow flower on a stem which appears to grow through the leaves. In the moist woods we have the Yellow and the White Trout Lilies -- also called Adder's Tongues or Dogtooth Violets for no good reason at all. These have bulbs which grow deeper into the ground each year, and bloom in early spring not long after the hepaticas and spring beauties, The Wild Hyacinth, the poisonous Death Camass, three kinds of Solomon's Seal, two of False Solomon's Seal, the Wild onion, the wild garlic and the wild leek -- are all members of the lily group.

Of about 20 species of trilliums, we have four here. The Red Trillium or Wake-robin has spotted leaves, a brownish-purple flower, a fetid odor, and blooms not long after the trout lilies. In northern Cook County, the Large Flowering Trillium is common. It has big showy waxy--white petals which turn pinkish as they grow older. The Nodding Trillium and the Painted Trillium have become rare.

The typical lilies are distinguished by the fact that each has a scaly bulb and showy flowers, most of them bell-shaped, with 6 equal stamens and a long pistil. In the Pacific coast, southwest and mountain regions there are several species of beautiful native lilies. The Canada Lily or Yellow Meadow Lily is a common native plant north and east of the Chicago region. Along our roadsides and elsewhere, thoroughly naturalized and growing in dense spreading communities, we commonly find two plants introduced from Europe or Asia, popularly called the Orange Day Lily and the Yellow Day Lily; and also the Asiatic Tiger Lily. We have only three native species of typical lilies: the Turk's Cap Lily, with reddish-orange petals curving back toward the stem, found in most remnants of the original prairies; the red bell- shaped Western Meadow Lily -- quite rare now; and the Wood Lily which has one or more orange-scarlet flowers opening upward and spotted with dark purple on the inside.

Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

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