This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Yellow to orange-red, of a deeper shade within, and speckled with dark reddish-brown dots. One or several (rarely many) nodding on long peduncles from the summit. Perianth bell-shaped, of 6 spreading segments 2 to 3 in. long, their tips curved backward to the middle; 6 stamens, with reddish-brown linear anthers; 1 pistil, club-shaped; the stigma 3-lobed. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. tall, leafy, from a bulbous rootstock composed of numerous fleshy white scales. Leaves: Lance-shaped, to oblong; usually in whorls of fours to tens, or some alternate. Fruit: An erect, oblong, 3-celled capsule, the flat, horizontal seeds packed in 2 rows in each cavity.
Preferred Habitat - Swamps, low meadows, moist fields.
Flowering Season - June - Ju1y.
Distribution - Nova Scotia to Georgia, westward beyond the Mississippi.
Not our gorgeous lilies that brighten the low-lying meadows in early summer with pendent, swaying bells; possibly not a true lily at all was chosen to illustrate the truth which those who listened to the Sermon on the Mount, and we, equally anxious, foolishly overburdened folk of to-day, so little comprehend.
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
"And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Opinions differ as to the lily of Scripture. Eastern peoples use the same word interchangeably for the tulip, anemone, ranunculus, iris, the water-lilies, and those of the field. The superb scarlet martagon lily (L. chalcedonicum), grown in gardens here, is not uncommon wild in Palestine; but whoever has seen the large anemones there "carpeting every plain and luxuriantly pervading the land" is inclined to believe that Jesus, who always chose the most familiar objects in the daily life of His simple listeners to illustrate His teachings, rested His eyes on the slopes about Him glowing with anemones in all their matchless loveliness. What flower served Him then matters not at all. It is enough that scientists - now more plainly than ever before - see the universal application of the illustration the more deeply they study nature, and can include their " little brothers of the air" and the humblest flower at their feet when they say with Paul, "In God we live and move and have our being."
Tallest and most prolific of bloom among our native lilies, as it is the most variable in color, size, and form, the Turk's Cap, or Turban Lily (L. superbum), sometimes nearly merges its identity into its Canadian sister's. Travellers by rail between New York and Boston know how gorgeous are the low meadows and marshes in July or August, when its clusters of deep yellow, orange, or flame-colored lilies tower above the surrounding vegetation. Like the color of most flowers, theirs intensifies in salt air. Commonly from three to seven lilies appear in a terminal group; but under skilful cultivation even forty will crown the stalk that reaches a height of nine feet where its home suits it perfectly; or maybe only a poor array of dingy yellowish caps top a shrivelled stem when unfavorable conditions prevail. There certainly are times when its specific name seems extravagant.
Its range is from Maine to the Carolinas, westward to Minnesota and Tennessee. A well-conducted Turk's cap is not bell-shaped at maturity, like the Canada lily: it should open much farther, until the six points of its perianth curve so far backward beyond the middle as to expose the stamens for nearly their entire length. One of the purple-dotted divisions of the flower when spread out flat may measure anywhere from two and a half to four inches in length. Smooth, lance-shaped leaves, tapering at both ends, occur in whorls of threes to eights up the stem, or the upper ones may be alternate. Abundant food, hidden in a round, white-shingled storehouse under ground, nourishes the plant, and similarly its bulb-bearing kin, when emergency may require - a thrifty arrangement that serves them in good stead during prolonged drought and severe winters.
Why, one may ask, are some lilies radiantly colored and speckled; others, like the Easter lily, deep chaliced, white, spotless? Now, in all our lily kin nectar is secreted in a groove at the base of each of the six divisions of the flower, and upon its removal by that insect best adapted to come in contact with anthers and stigma as it flies from lily to lily depends all hope of perpetuating the lovely race. For countless ages it has been the flower's business to find what best pleased the visitors on whom so much depended. Some lilies decided to woo one class of insects; some, another. Those which literally set their caps for color-loving bees and butterflies whose long tongues could easily drain nectar deeply hidden from the mob for their special benefit, assumed gay hues, speckling the inner side of their spreading divisions, even providing lines as pathfinders to their nectaries in some cases, lest a visitor try to thrust in his tongue between the petal-like parts while standing on the outside, and so defeat their well-laid plan. It is almost pathetic to see how bright and spotted they are inside, that the visitor may not go astray. Thus we find the chief pollenizers of the Canada and the Turk's cap lilies to be specialized bees, the interesting upholsterers, or leafcutters, conspicuous among the throng. Nectar they want, of course; but the dark, rich pollen is needed also to mix with it for the food supply of a generation still unborn. Any one who has smelled a lily knows how his nose looks afterward. The bees have no difficulty whatever in removing lily pollen and transferring it. So much for the colored lilies.
Turk's-Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)
The long, white, trumpet-shape type of lily chooses for her lover the sphinx moth. For him she wears a spotless white robe-speckles would be superfluous - that he may see it shine in the dusk, when colored flowers melt into the prevailing blackness; for him she breathes forth a fragrance almost overwhelming at evening, to guide him to her neighborhood from afar; in consideration of his very long, slender tongue she hides her sweets so deep that none may rob him of it, taking the additional precaution to weld her six once separate parts together into a solid tube lest any pilferer thrust in his tongue from the side.
The common orange-tan Day Lily (Hemerocallis fulva) and the commoner speckled, orange-red Tiger Lily (L. tigrinum) are not slow in seizing opportunities to escape from gardens into roadsides and fence corners.