Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Atamasco Lily - Zephyranthes atamasco   (L.) Herbert
Members of Amaryllidaceae:
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Section 5 » Family Amaryllidaceae
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Author(L.) Herbert
DistributionThroughout the eastern half of the Piedmont and the inner Coastal Plain, but of spotty occurrence in the lower Coastal Plain, absent from the Sandhills proper, and scarce in the southern Blue Ridge Escarpment. Essentially absent from the Mountains and northwestern Piedmont, as well as some far eastern counties. It follows the Cape Fear River down nearly to tidewater.

This species has a somewhat limited range, from southern MD and southern VA southward to central FL and MS. It essentially does not occur in the Appalachians.
AbundanceCommon in the eastern half of the Piedmont and much of the northwestern Coastal Plain. Uncommon to infrequent in the central Coastal Plain, but rare to absent within 50 miles of the coast. Absent from the Sandhills proper, and very rare in the southwestern Piedmont.
HabitatThis species is typically found in shaded to partly shaded wetlands and moist depressions, generally in brownwater river bottomland forests and openings. It can occur in wet meadows and damp ground along roadsides. Rarely is it found in uplands, and then over mafic rocks in poorly drained soil.
See also Habitat Account for General Wet Hardwood Forests
PhenologyBlooms from late March through April; fruits in May and June.
IdentificationThis is a familiar wildflower to most people in the state, even though it only ranges over 2/3rds of the state. It has a cluster of shiny, strap-like basal leaves, that grow to about 10-12 inches long but less than 1/4-inch wide. The naked flowering stalk is about 1 foot tall, topped by a very large white flower that becomes pale pink with age. The 6 tepals are each about 3 inches long and elliptical in shape, normally gracefully arching back, like the mouth of a trumpet. No other species looks like it over nearly all of its range in the state, but on the southern coast one must take care with the identification, as the similar Z. simpsonii grows there. This latter species has somewhat smaller flowers (shorter tepals), and erect or somewhat ascending tepals when in flower as opposed to arching in Z. atamasco. Also, this latter species has the style and stigma as long as or shorter than the anthers, whereas in Z. atamasco they extend beyond the anthers (Weakley 2018). This latter species is normally found along and near the coast over marl or otherwise in maritime forest or thickets, usually in fairly dry soil. Stands of dozens of Atamasco Lilies can be seen in many eastern Piedmont and Fall Line bottomlands and their edges.
Taxonomic CommentsThe species is sometimes spelled as "atamasca" instead of "atamasco".


Other Common Name(s)Common Atamasco-lily, Rain Lily, Easter Lily
State RankS4S5
Global RankG4G5
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