What do you know about the lily flower? You may have seen it in a vase, a front yard, or perhaps a botanic garden. If it was in the summertime, you may have noticed the enormous, colorful six-petaled blooms that makes this flower famous. Maybe you even have a friend named Lily!
The beautiful bloom of the lily flower makes it one of the most popular flowering plants in the horticultural business. But, this showy flower is so much more than meets the eye. It has significant symbolism in a number of cultures, partly due to its beauty and radiance. If you’ve ever wondered what’s so special about the lily flower, this article is for you.
What makes a lily a lily? To start, we need to understand some general botanic info about the lily flower. There nearly 100 species of “true” lilies. These flowers fall in the genus Lilium in the family Liliaceae. Lilies have six petals and come in nearly every color of the rainbow. There are many other plants with “lily” in their names, such as daylily (genus Hemerocallis), water lily (Nymphaea), lily of the valley (Convallaria), and peace lily (Spathiphyllum). In this article, we’ll stick to the true lilies, and ignore the imposters. Here’s a handful of reasons why the lily flower is so special!
Horticultural History of Lilies
Lilies are one of the most popular flowers in the horticulture trade. Although there are almost 100 species of lily, there are even more varieties. Humans have cultivated the plant for centuries, creating more and more hybrids and types along the way. One of the most famous types is the Easter lily, Lilium longiflorum. This particular species traces its roots back to the Ryukyu islands of Japan. In the 1800s, it was introduced to Europe and the United States and its popularity flourished. Since World War 2, the center of production of this particular lily has relocated to a small region in Oregon and California. Throughout the world, horticulturists constantly hybridize and cultivate other types of lilies.
Another thing that makes the lily flower special is its ability to survive after being cut. That’s why you often see them in flower arrangements like bouquets, vases, and garlands.
It’s not only the attractive flower that makes a lily special. Aside from enjoying the charismatic bloom, people occasionally eat lilies! The edible part of a lily is belowground, in the form of a bulb. Botanically speaking, a bulb is a stout, round stem which stores energy for a plant during dormancy. A plant uses this energy to grow. Onions and garlic are edible versions of bulbs, as are lily bulbs! Although not as popular as those tear-inducing vegetables, lily bulbs are a traditional food in East Asian countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Generally, lily bulbs are chock full of vitamins and many people in China consider them a superfood. Usually, the Easter lily is the type that’s enjoyed at the dinner table (the white lily pictured above). Sometimes, even the unopened flower bud of a lily becomes food, although it’s not nearly as common as the starchy bulb.
Religion and Culture
Many cultures around the world have held the lily flower in high regard. It makes appearances in Mediterranean mythology, as well as East Asian religion. According to the Ancient Greek, the lily was the symbol of Hera, the wife of Zeus. Apparently, the flower was created directly from the breast milk of the Goddess. It’s no wonder the lily was always a symbol of sexuality in the ancient Greek civilization.
The lily also makes a special appearance in the Bible. Christianity considers the lily to be a symbol of purity and chastity. For this reason, people associate white lily flowers with the Virgin Mary.
These days, husbands and wives give the lily to each other as a traditional 30th-anniversary gift. This is because lilies represent humility and devotion.
The lily flower has significance from Biblical times to the present day. The multicolored bloom is an excellent addition to a garden, as well as an appropriate gift for a wedding anniversary! Why else is the lily flower special? Let us know in the comments below!