The Washington lily (Lilium washingtoniaum) is an uncommon native wildflower that grows in the dry forests of the Cascades in Oregon and the Klamath and Sierra Nevada Ranges in California. Unfortunately due to logging, road maintenance and other forest activities, crowding by non-native species and horticultural collecting the numbers of this species are diminishing.
My experience with this beautiful plant that resembles an Easter lily is probably typical. Several years ago Leonard and I found a small patch of Washington lilies growing along County Road 91 in Modoc County CA. The following year I anxiously returned to the site to again observe this lovely flower. Unfortunately during the intervening summer the site was logged. In addition, I heard several other “gardeners” mention that they had seen the same lily patch and picked the flowers or dug the bulbs for their gardens. There were no Washington lilies to be found the following summer or in the years since then. How sad to no longer have that patch of beautiful lilies along the road. Fortunately Leonard and I discovered other Washington lilies growing in the Day area (Shasta County CA).
Fragrant flowers that grows along the upper portion of a two to six foot erect, unbranched stem, Washington lilies are a waxy white with purple dots on the upper petal surface. In some areas the older blossoms fade to a light pink color. Occasionally the flower is a light pink on the outer surface. The stamens have yellowish anthers and the pistil is long. The narrow, elliptical leaves with pointed tips form whorls along the stem. Each whorl consists of 6 to 16 leaves. A perennial, the Washington lily grows from a bulb.
Other common names for L. washingtoniaum include Shasta lily, Mt. Hood lily and Santiam lily, depending on location within the plant’s range. This lily with the species name washingtoniaum, was not named after the state of Washington, where it does not naturally occur, but rather was named in honor of Martha Washington.
Indigenous people consumed the bulbs of Washington lilies. However, due to the declining populations of these beautiful flowers and our abundant food supplies, there is no contemporary need to harvest Washington lily bulbs.
I am glad Leonard and I found more Washington lilies to enjoy.