Tiger Lily

Lilium montanum – Tiger Lily


Tiger Lily Lilium montanum, L. philadelphicum

Lilium = lee-lee-um, from the classical Latin name (used by Virgil);

montanum = L. “of the mountains”;

philadelphicum = L. “of Philadephia”;

Synonyms: Western Wood Lily

Identification: These lilies grow 20-60 cm tall, forming a thick-scaled bulb. There are 1 to 3 large flowers which have similar sepals and petals. The flowers are red and orange-red with purplish-black spots at the base of the interior. The leaves are linear and alternate with the exception of the uppermost which are whorled.

Distribution & Habitat: These plants are found throughout North America on the prairies, in open woods and moist subalpine meadows.

Preparation & Uses:

I took a day to search for God
And found him not.
But where the scarlet lily flamed
I saw his footprint in the sod.

–Bliss Carmen

The bulb of this plant is edible if cooked like potatoes or can be used to thicken soup. The roots are starchy and slightly sweet. The flower is probably the most delicious salad herb you could ever eat. Amerindians used the root in the form of a tea for coughs, consumption, fever, stomach disorders and to expel placenta. It was used externally for wounds, sores, bruises and swellings. As a poultice it can be applied to spider bites.

There is an old legend from Asia about this plant. A Korean hermit befriended a wounded tiger by removing an arrow from its body. The tiger asked the hermit to use his magic to perpetuate their friendship after the tiger died. The hermit agreed and when the tiger died, his body became a tiger lily. Eventually the hermit drowned and his body was washed away. The tiger lily spread everywhere looking for its friend.