Lily family (Liliaceae)
Description: This native perennial plant is up to 5' tall and unbranched, except at the inflorescence. The central stem is round and smooth. The leaves usually occur in whorls of 3-7 along the stem, although some of the upper leaves may occur along the stem in pairs or alternate individually. The leaves are individually up to 5" long and ¾" across. They are lanceolate or narrowly ovate, with smooth margins and parallel venation.
Above the terminal leaves of the central stem, 1-6 flowers hang downwad from stalks about 3-5" long that spread upward and outward. Some flowering stalks may also appear from the axils of the upper leaves. Each showy flower is about 2½-3" across, with 6 tepals that flare outward and then curve strongly backward toward the base of the flower. These tepals are yellowish to reddish orange, and have numerous brownish purple dots toward the throat of the flower. The stamens are conspicuous and strongly exerted from the throat of the flower, with reddish brown anthers that are ½" or less. A long white stigma with a curves slightly upward; it has a yellow tip. The blooming period occurs from early to mid-summer, and lasts about a month. There is no noticeable floral scent. The oblong 3-lobed seedpods contain closely stacked, flat seeds with thin papery wings this enables them to be carried some distance by gusts of wind. The root system consists of a yellow bulb and rhizomes, from which new offsets may form.
Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, rich loamy soil, and moist conditions. An established plant, however, can withstand some drought. Growing this plant from seed is slow and difficult, but relatively easy from bulbs or transplants. There is some tendency to flop over if there is inadequate support from neighboring plants.
Range & Habitat: The Michigan Lily occurs occasionally in scattered counties of Illinois (see Distribution Map). It is the most common native Lily. Habitats include moist black soil prairies, openings in floodplain forests, thickets, Bur Oak savannas, moist meadows along rivers, swamps, fens, and prairie remnants along railroads.
Faunal Associations: Cross-pollination is required for fertile seeds. The large showy flowers appear to be designed to attract hummingbirds and larger day-flying insects, such as Sphinx moths, Hummingbird moths, long-tongued bees, and the larger butterflies. Charles Wilson in Flowers and Insects (1928) observed the Greater Fritillary, Monarch, and Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies as occasional visitors to Lilium superbum, which was probably Lilium michiganense, as the former species doesn't occur near Carlinville, Illinois. Larger herbiovores, such as deer and livestock, will consume mature plants, while immature plants are vulnerable to small herbivores. Small rodents may eat the bulbs.
Photographic Location: The photographs were taken at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, Illinois.
Comments: This is an attractive plant that adapts well to flower gardens. The Michigan Lily can be distinguished from Lilium superbum (Turk's Cap Lily) as follows: 1) the former species has a more northern distribution in Illinois, 2) the anthers of the former are ½" or less, while the anthers of the latter species are ½" or longer, 3) the former has yellow bulbs, while the latter has white bulbs, 4) the tips of the tepals of the former curve backward toward the base of the flower, while in the latter species they curve backward considerably beyond the base of the flower, and 5) specimens of the latter species may have a conspicuous 6-pointed green star at the base of the flower, although it is not always present.