Lilium columbianum

Lilium columbianum is a perennial member of the Liliaceae plant family that sprouts from a deep, oval, white bulb with thick scales measuring 3 to 5 cm across. The stems of L. columbianum are slender and stand up to 1.2 m tall supporting few to many showy, bright orange nodding flowers appearing in June. Flowers are composed of 6 tepals, where the petals and sepals are indistinguishable, that are bright orange with red or purple spots near the center and are curved backwards. As typical of the Liliaceae family, the flowers have 6 long stamens with impressive yellow anthers arranged around a single style formed from 3 fused carpels. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped, 4 to 10 cm long and arranged in several whorls of 6 to 9 leaves along the stem. The fruit is a barrel-shaped capsule with low ridges.

Common habitats include meadows, thickets, open forest and clearing at low to subalpine elevations. L. columbianum is often found where the bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) grows. In drier climates, L. columbianum has been found up to 6000 ft.

Historically, people of the Washington coast steamed and ate the bulb. After the bulb was harvested and cooked it was generally dried for winter storage then cooked in soups with meat or fish. The bulb was typically used as a condiment or flavoring due to the bitter or peppery flavor. After flowering, it is said that the flavor gets better.

Common names for L. columbianum include: Oregon Lily, Columbia Lily and Tiger Lily. There is a superstition that smelling the flower of this species will give a person freckles like the spotted tepals.


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