Liliaceae is a large family, with hundreds of exotic species in cultivation. They include hyacinths, tulips, onions, as well as the true lilies. This family is extremely complex and botanists estimate 250 genera and 4,000 to 6,000 species worldwide. Some species are edible while others are very poisonous. The flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals, often very similar (in which they are referred to as tepals or perianth segments). There are typically 6 stamens, rarely 3. All these parts attach at the base of the ovary. The fruit is either dry and cracking at maturity or fleshy in certain species - it is divided into 3 segments. The leaves are alternate or basal, simple and usually narrow. All species are perennial, but most are herbaceous (not having a woody stem) and die back, after flowering or fruiting, to underground bulbs, corms, or rhizomes. New plants form from bulb division or sprout from seeds, but usually do not begin flowering until about the fourth year, after the bulb has developed sufficiently.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of the Lily Family
WHITE OR PINK FLOWERS, IN DENSE UMBEL CLUSTERS
Allium Onion Stems 10-50 cm tall, mostly naked, onion-smelling. Dry to moist habitats.
Flowers white to pink, bell-shaped, few to several, in top cluster, with 6 tepals.
Leaves mostly basal or on lower part of stem, grass-like. All parts edible.
WHITE OR CREAM FLOWERS, MANY IN OTHER TYPE OF CLUSTERS
Maianthemum False Solomon's Seal Stems 20-60 cm tall, leafy, straight or arched. Moist woods to dry hills.
Flowers white or cream, with 6 spreading tepals, in loose or dense clusters.
Leaves: alternate, broad, pointed, stalkless, in 2 rows. Fruits are berry-like.
Xerophyllum tenax Beargrass Robust plant, 50-150 cm tall, in colonies. Open woods, montane to subalpine.
Flowers white, fragrant, long-stalked, numerous in a dense top cluster..
Leaves: mainly basal, in large clumps, grass-like, sharp-edged.
Zigadenus Death-camas Stems mostly naked, about 15-60 cm tall. Moist forests to dry meadows.
Flowers white, 1-2 cm wide, with inner green, oval or heart-shaped markings.
Leaves mainly basal, grass-like, keeled. All parts highly poisonous.
WHITE OR CREAM FLOWERS, FEW, NOT CLUSTERED
Calochortus Mariposa Lily Stems about 10-30 cm tall, simple. Grasslands and open coniferous forests.
Flowers white, 1 to few, 1-4 cm wide, with 3 broad petals and pointed sepals.
Leaves: few, grass-like, from the base and 1-2 much reduced on stem.
Leucocrinum montanum Star Lily Stemless, about 5-10 cm tall. Sandy to rocky areas, plains to montane.
Flowers white, fragrant, about 3 cm broad, long-stalked, from base of the plant.
Leaves: basal, tufted, grass-like, up to 20 cm long. Roots reportedly edible.
Lloydia serotina Alp Lily Stem 5-15 cm tall, almost naked. Cliffs and rock crevices in the alpine zone.
Flowers mostly solitary, white, about 2 cm broad, with colored veins.
Leaves basal and alternate, small, short, grass-like.
Erythronium grandiflorum Glacier Lily Stems 10-40 cm tall, leafless. Moist sites, forest openings, montane to alpine.
Flowers bright yellow, solitary, nodding, 3-6 cm wide, 6 tepals curved upwards.
Leaves basal in 1 pair, bright green, lance-shaped to elliptic.
Fritillaria pudica Yellowbells Stems 10-30 cm tall, often clustered. Grasslands and sagebrush areas.
Flowers yellow, nodding, usually solitary, about 2 cm long, narrowly bell-shaped.
Leaves basal, 2 and usually almost opposite. Bulbs and seed pods edible.
Triteleia grandiflora Wild Hyacinth Stems 20-60 cm tall, leafless. Grasslands, meadows, sagebrush areas.
Flowers blue, ca 2 cm long, narrowly bell-shaped, in a top cluster.
Leaves: basal, 1-2, grass-like, flat but keeled beneath.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Lily family: