The Flowers of Easter – Part 1

Easter Lily

Lilium longiflorum (often called the Easter Lily, is a plant endemic to both Taiwan and Ryukyu Islands (Japan). Lilium formosana, a closely related species from Taiwan, has been treated as a variety of Easter lily in the past. It is a stem rooting lily, growing up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) high. It bears a number of trumpet shaped, white, fragrant, and outward facing flowers.

Features

Plants tend to grow from about 50 cm (20 in) to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) tall. They have long oval leaves and the vein enters the horizontal direction. From April to June, the plant’s flowering season, it produces pure white flowers on top of the stem. The stem has a cylindrical shape, with a diameter of about 5 cm (2.0 in).

Use in Easter

Lilium longiflorum is known as the Easter Lily because in Christianity, it is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ, which is celebrated during Easter. The “Lily has always been highly regarded in the Church”, as Jesus Himself referenced the flower, saying “Consider the Lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:27). Moreover, according to pious legend, “after Jesus’ death and resurrection, some of these beautiful flowers were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray the night before His crucifixion. Legend has it that these flowers sprung up where drops of Jesus’ sweat fell as he prayed”. In many Christian churches, the chancel is adorned with Easter Lilies throughout the Paschal season.

Lilium longiflorum (Easter Lily).JPG

History

From the 1890s to the early 1920s, there was a thriving export trade of bulbs from Bermuda to New York. In 1903, USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) started to distribute disease free plant materials and seeds. The agency also started a breeding program, and released one of the first dwarf cultivars for potted-plant production in 1929. Prior to USDA’s effort, Lily bulbs were mostly imported from Japan before the 1940s. The supply of bulbs was suddenly cut off after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Easter Lilies became extremely valuable in the United States.

Currently, nearly all Easter Lily bulbs used in North America are grown on coastal bottom lands in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon, particularly in the town of Smith River, California, according to the trade association Easter Lily Research Association.

Toxicity

Some Lilium species are toxic to cats. This is known to be so especially for L. longiflorum, though other Lilium and the unrelated Hemerocallis can also cause the same symptoms.[ The true mechanism of toxicity is undetermined, but it involves damage to the renal tubular epithelium (composing the substance of the kidney and secreting, collecting, and conducting urine), which can cause acute renal failure. Veterinary help should be sought, as a matter of urgency, for any cat that is suspected of eating any part of a lily – including licking pollen that may have brushed onto its coat.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Stay tuned to more about flowers associated with Easter in Part 2 of this series!