Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Wood Lily - Lilium philadelphicum   L.
Members of Liliaceae:
Members of Lilium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Liliaceae
DistributionThis species is restricted to the higher elevations of the Mountains, primarily in the northern Mountains south to Yancey County. South of that county, it has been found in Haywood and Swain counties, and historically in Polk County (for a remarkably low and disjunct record).

This is a very wide-ranging lily found nearly across southern Canada and most of the northern and western US. It ranges widely south to NJ, PA, and IA; but southward it is found mainly in the Appalachians to western NC, northwestern GA, and eastern TN.
AbundanceVery rare to rare, and declining, south to Yancey County, and very rare farther southward in the Mountains. This is a State Endangered species. The State Rank is S1S2, upgraded in Fall 2022 from the former S2, owing to so few sizable populations.
HabitatThis is a Lilium of cool microclimates though it usually grows in full to partial sun. It is found on grassy balds, high elevation meadows, and open, glade-like woodlands. Most sites are over thin soil with rock just below the surface; some sites are underlain by mafic rocks, though most references do not indicate the species as showing an affinity to higher pH soils. Unlike most of our Lilium species, L. philadelphicum does not require moist to wet soils.
PhenologyBlooms in June and July, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a spectacular and very easily identified wildflower in the state. The only other lily with a single very large, upward-facing orange flower is L. catesbaei, which is a savanna species of the Coastal Plain. L. philadelphicum grows to 1-2 feet tall, and most stems have just a single flower, though as many as five can at times be present. The stem leaves are in several whorls, with 4-7 narrow leaves in a whorl (probably not safely identifiable just from the leaves). The 6 tepals are bright orange, with yellow near the base and brown spots within the yellow; they are narrowed at the base and grow to 2-3 inches long. The petals are spreading and slightly recurved, as in L. catesbaei. Though the ranges do not come close to overlapping, the latter species has all leaves alternate on the stem. Sadly, you are highly unlikely to encounter this scarce species on your own in NC and will likely have to visit a known site on public or other preserved land. Thankfully, it is a widespread and numerous species in southern Canada and the Northern states, so you should be able to find it outside the state.
Taxonomic CommentsBecause it has such a wide range, it is not surprising for it to have several subspecies or varieties. The form found in the eastern part of the range is the nominate L. philadelphicum var. philadelphicum.

Other Common Name(s)Prairie Lily, Philadelphia Lily, Western Red Lily
State RankS1S2
Global RankG5
State Status[E]
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empFACU link
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Luke ApplingYEMO 2017-07-07 MitchellPhoto_natural
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