Navigation Menu+

tiger lily

A species of lily having spotted flowers (Lilium tigrinum); – called also tiger-spotted lily. / The American lily is L. Philadelphicum. It is of an orange-red color, spotted on the inside with purple. — Webster, 1882

tiger lilyWhat the Ingallses called tiger lilies were the native wood lily, Lilium philadelphicum, var. andinum. Webster’s Lilium tigrinum is the more common, domesticated lily brought to America from the Orient, and is similar in appearance. Both are members of the Lily Family (Lillaceae).

The native American wood lily (or wild lily) grows in moist areas of the tallgrass prairie in eastern South Dakota. The wood lily is fast disappearing due to grazing and mowing, although it can occasionally still be found around Brookings. It is increasingly hard to find, and bulbs should be left in place.

The stems grows to two feet tall, with the red-range flowers appearing in late summer. The petals of the wood lily narrow at the base, giving the flower an interesting “see through” appearance. Petals have purple spots on the insides.

Leaves are narrow and about two inches long, forming a whorl below the flower, while alternate on the stem below.

The wood lily propagates by seeds or starchy scales which are produced on the mature underground bulb and can be dispersed by rodents or other animals. Uneaten scales can produce new plants, with flowers not produced by new bulbs for several years.

Indians dug the walnut-sized bulb when in flower, and roasted it in hot ashes or boiled it in water. When cooked, the nutritious bulb tastes much like a potato. Roots were also used to treat stomach disorders, while crushed leaves were applied to spider bites to relieve pain.

tiger lily (SSL 8)