The western red lily (Lilium philadelphicum andinum), also known as wood lily or prairie lily, is a perennial lily that grows wild throughout the Midwestern United States. This delightful wild flower is a protected species in many areas and can be found in Eastern states along power line right-of-ways where brush clearing is maintained.
The western red lily ranges in color from an occasional yellow to fiery oranges and reds with maroon spots. These erect, 2-inch flowers lack the characteristic scent associated with lilies. Blooms appear from May or June to August. Plants grow to a height of 1 to 3 feet.
The open, upright flowers of the wood lily attract butterflies and insects, its major pollinators. Similar to the orange day lily that grows wild in ditches and along roadsides, the wood lily is distinguished by these upright flowers.
The red lily grows on prairies, high meadows and in ditches from Southern Manitoba in Canada to New Mexico and Colorado. It could be present in woodlands or wetlands since it is highly adaptable to varying soil and light conditions.
Deer graze on these delicate flowers and are believed to contribute to the decline in wood lily population in the Northeastern United states. As deer population increases, wood lily population decreases, contributing to its protected status in many areas.
Medicinal and Culinary Use
Native Americans relied on the wood lily bulb as a source of food. Used as a substitute for potato and a thickener for soups, its sweet flavor and high starch content added flavor and nutrition.
As a medicinal plant, wood lily bulbs are steeped in tea as an herbal remedy for coughs, fever and stomach ailments. Crushed wood lily bulbs made into a poultice are thought to bring relief to swellings, bruises, sores and wounds and has been used as a remedy for spider bites.
Grown as an ornamental plant, the western red lily is a striking specimen plant, but it can also be left to naturalize along garden borders or sunny hillsides. Plant bulbs in early fall and provide winter protection against wind, rain and snow.
Slugs, rabbits and deer can decimate the foliage of wood lily in the spring, killing off the plants and damaging the bulbs. Protect young shoots from wildlife with wires or cages in early spring.