Liliaceae (Lily)

Catesby's Trillium, Trillium catesbaei


Day Lily, Hemerocallis fulva

Pine Lily, Lilium catesbaei


Colic Root, Aletris lutea

Colic Root, A. farinosa



Wild Onion, Allium canadense

Leucojum sp.

Such a page as this says everything for the Lily family; diverse, beautiful, intriguing and special. The Escambia region has a wide range of lilies and, like the Legume family, is not only long on substance, but very long on variation.

Catesby's Trillium is well known from North Carolina to Georgia and west to Alabama and Tennessee. Sitting at the edge of this range is the Escambia region; the streams, bluffs, and flood plains; Escambia/Conecuh River, Murder Creek, Burnt Corn Creek, Sepulga River, Black Water River and Big Escambia Creek; Conecuh National Forest and the Black Water National Forest.

This Trillium blooms in either pink or white, or may fade to one or the other. The plant presents itself on a tall stem with three wavy leaves at the top. From this perch comes a nodding flower that bears three narrow sepals, three petals, six stamens and yellow anthers. Its height is 8-20 inches. The species is named for Mark Catesby (1679-1749), an English naturalist.

Day Lily -- the term is used because the flower lasts no more than 24 hours before fading. No matter, it's wonderful while it lasts; given good care and they provide a welcome relief of color for several weeks. Color variations are endless for both the wild and the domestic hybrids. The most popular garden variety is called Golden Splendor, while the most common wild variety is the burnt orange pictured here and a greenish-orange variety that doesn't have the white streaks on its petal.

In olden times the mature flower bud of day lilies was a favorite food source and some naturalists continue to eat them today. The flower and bud is dipped in batter and fried like a fritter. Or, the buds are steamed tender and eaten like snap beans.

Pine Lily is sometimes called Leopard Lily or Catesby's Lily. This is without doubt one of most beautiful and exotic of lily this country and region can boast to the world. While it is rare in the Escambia region it may be seen in most flat pine woods and savannas throughout central Florida and coastal Alabama. The plant does not lend itself to transplanting because the small bulb and root system is highly susceptible to shock; it would simply go dormant when disturbed ... best not to move it.

Yellow and White Colic Root -- These members of the Lily family bloom from May through August and while we enjoy two varieties, it is the yellow we see most often. Colic Root is endemic to the southern states only and is found throughout the region. To see them in large colonies visit the lake area in the Conecuh National Forest or the Solon Dixon Forest. The two varieties rarely frequent the same bog or savanna as they generally have their own territory. Until early in the 19th century the roots of the plant was used to treat colic in both humans and animals, thus the name. Since they resemble Spiranthes Orchids they are sometimes incorrectly identified.

Wild Snowflakes are also known as White Bells and Canada Mayflower. This is a small plant that is usually seen as a domestic garden lily and, indeed, it is seen as a handsome border plant at many southern homes. However, what you see in the garden is really the wild variety that is being cultivated, but it will never be tamed. Given the slightest leeway it escapes to the wild, which it naturally prefers. The plant quickly forms dense colonies in woods, ditches or on slopes. While there is a good "crop" of this sweet-smelling lily in the Escambia region it is most prevalent in the mountains of Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee. It goes without saying that it has a keen friendship with the semi-tropical regions of central Florida. Many nurseries call it Green Spot Lily due to the attractive jewel-like spots at the tip of each lobe. Snowflakes was introduced to North America by European settlers during the 17th century. Flowering occurs in May and extends through June.

False Asphodel is also called White Featherling. It's a small plant of peat bogs and cypress swamps, or wherever pitcher plants, lizard's tail and camass is prevalent. It may also be found in open, moist pine lands. Flowering occurs in August and extends through October. A related featherling that grows in the Escambia region begins its flowering cycle in early June.


Turk's Cap Lily, Lilium superbum

Turk's Cap Lily, l. superbum
Turk's Cap Lily is a tall plant displaying drooping, spotted, reddish-brown flowers bearing strongly recurved petals. Unlike the domestic Turk's Cap, which produces only a few flowers per stem, the wild variety produces several stems each bearing three to five blossoms, or upward to 30 flowers per plant. There is a yellow species called Carolina Lily, L. michauxii, but I must report that the Escambia region is a little too southern for that variety. Turk's Cap has a very brief flowering cycle, from July through August. It's preferred habitat is meadows, occasional roadsides, swamps and damp woods. Native Americans used the bulbs of this plant for making soup; however, such practice is discouraged in these times as the plant has fallen on hard times; becoming little known as a wild variety. Though not on the Threatened and Endangered Species List, the plant is considered rare.


Death Camass
Zigadenus leimenthoides

Grape Hyacinth
Muscari racemosum

Death Camass is also known as Camass. Every family of native plants have their good mix and bad mix and while Camass is of the bad it is no less useful in our plant society. Its leaf, stem, flower and seeds are poisonous. In olden times it was called Snakeroot. The preferred habitat is sandy pine lands and bogs. The flowering cycle begins in June and extends into August. It rises to heights of three to four feet and stands head and shoulder above its neighbors so there is no mistaking the plant and its creamy florets. Camass does transplant well, but it would be best to select something less dangerous, particularly if there are children in the home.

There is folklore that suggests oil extracted from the plant was used by charlatans to prepare the magic elixir peddled at fairs and shows as "snake oil." Such a thing was far too risky to have happened. Snake oil was usually a mix of various substances without regard to their medicinal worth.

Grape Hyacinth is one of a kind. Several times in this treatment I have said that the best things happen when least expected. Such is the case with Grape Hyacinth. While going about my business and looking for "anything" that blooms, a splotch of color caught my eye. On a very windy and cool March morning I had happened onto this grass-like plant of the Lily family. Thanks to El Nino, the Escambia spring had come too early and summer could not be accurately predicted. But the little lily was making a valiant stand in hopes of getting its job done before another unexpected frost.

Generally, Grape Hyacinth blooms around the end of March and then produces blossoms until the end of April. Look for them on old fields, lawn margins, roadside embankments and the edge of alluvial plains. The leaf is narrow and in cross section would appear round (like an onion blade). Its purple flowers are oval and borne in a dense raceme like a bunch of grapes that have been turned upside down.


Crow Poison, Zigadenus densus

Fly Poison, Amianthium muscaetoxicum

Two plants residing in the Escambia region would appear to be virtually the same; Crow Poison and Fly Poison. Each serving a profound purpose in colonial times.

Obviously, Fly Poison is the smaller of the two, standing at 8-12 inches high whereas Crow Poison may reach heights of three feet or more. The flower cluster of "Crow" is much larger and at maturity turns a reddish-purple. Fly, on the other hand, simply fades away, but occasionally shows one or two florets to have turned a darker color (those are the male flowers). In both cases the plants were used as insect repellents in colonial times. Pulp from the crushed bulb of Fly Poison, mixed with sugar, was used to kill flies around the house, but when screen wire came on the scene there was little need for the mixture and it became history. Some general stores continue to market a product today called "fly paper," which is hung around a room and flies stick to it.

A similar concoction was made using Crow Poison, which was rubbed on the underside of a chicken's head or on selected vegetables. When a crow, owl or hawk ate the chicken or vegetable it was quickly dispatched.

Look for Fly Poison on low sandy grounds, bogs and open woods. Crow Poison is strictly a marsh plant. Bloom cycles occur from May through July.


Wild Hyacinth, Camassia scilloides

Wild Hyacinth is a smooth, upright perennial from a bulb. Its preferred habitat is prairies, roadsides, and open woods. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region except directly at seashore.

The leaves are mostly basal (occasionally may have one or two smaller leaves on the flower stalk); linear; no teeth and no lobes; tapering to the tip with sides less than equal.

Flowers are supported by bracts and arranged in a raceme along a tall scape (single flowers arranged one above the other along the stem). Flowers are bisexual; symmetrical in shape; deep blue to bluish white. Flowering occurs from March to May.

Fruit is a capsule.

 Previous Page

 Return to Index

Next Page