Leopard Lily

Because of the purple flecks or spots on the lower half of the petals Lilium pardalinum is commonly called the leopard lily, tiger lily or panther lily. This can be confusing because other lilies and plants from other families are also commonly called the same names. Leopard lily does appear to be the common name generally assigned to L. pardalinum though.

Native to California and SW Oregon, these are still the only two states where the leopard lily grows naturally. Because leopard lilies are easily cultivated and strikingly beautiful they often adorn gardens. Growing along stream banks and other wet areas, leopard lilies prefer open areas in evergreen or conifer forests. These specimens were photographed along the North Umpqua River in Oregon. I was so happy to find them.

The lance -shaped leaves grow in whorls up the stem, which grows 3 to 7 feet in height. The flowers are pale to bright orange with a lighter orange center. Purple spots crowd the lower half of the six petals. The stamens are reflexed outward, which is a distinguishing field characteristic. There is quite a bit of variation in the shape and arrangement of leaves and flowers. The leopard lily grows from a large bulb with scales. Because of habitat destruction and over-collection, the populations of leopard lilies are declining. For this reason I did not dig any of the bulbs to photograph – or sample.

Native peoples used the steamed or baked bulbs as a food staple, as did small and large animals. Today, because of the pressure on leopard lily populations, these striking plants should not be picked or dug.

There is a superstition that smelling spotted lilies will cause one to get freckles. Leopard lilies have no fragrance so probably cannot be held responsible for many freckles, even if the folklore were true.

There are very few true orange flowers in the wild. The lovely leopard lily is one of a select group.

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4 Responses to Leopard Lily

  1. Lin says:

    What a fine !!! The purple spots make this a strikingly beautiful blossom.

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