lily, common name for the Liliaceae, a plant family numbering several thousand species of as many as 300 genera, widely distributed over the earth and particularly abundant in warm temperate and tropical regions. Most species are perennial herbs characterized by bulbs (or other forms of enlarged underground stem) from which grow erect clusters of narrow, grasslike leaves or leafy stems. A few are woody and some are small trees.

Evolutionally, the lily family is probably the basic monocotyledonous stock, its ancestors having given rise to the majority of contemporary monocots, e.g., the orchids, the palms, the iris and amaryllis families, and possibly also the grasses. The relationships between plants of the modern lily family are not always clear, and some botanists subdivide the Liliaceae into several families or, if they take a broader view of the family, include some groups such as the Agave and Amaryllis families.

Common Species

The name lily is used chiefly for plants of the genus Lilium and related species but is applied also to plants of other families, e.g., the water lily, the calla lily, and especially the numerous species of the amaryllis family (often included in the Liliaceae) whose blossoms closely resemble the true lilies in appearance. Familiar among North American species of Lilium are the wood lily (L. philadelphicum), Turk's-cap lily (L. superbum), and Canada, or wild yellow, lily (L. canadense) of the East and the leopard lily (L. pardalinum), Washington lily (L. washingtonianum), lemon lily (L. parryi), and Humboldt's lily (L. humboldtii) of the West. Widely cultivated and often naturalized Old World species are the Madonna lily (L. candidum) and the martagon lily (L. martagon), also called Turk's cap lily. The white trumpet lily (L. longiflorum) of Japan includes the Easter, or Bermuda, lily (var. eximium), which is the most popular greenhouse lily. The garden tiger lily is the Oriental species L. tigrinum, but many other lilies with spotted blossoms also bear the name.

Calochortus, mariposa or mariposa lily, is a genus of the lily family found in W North America. The white-blossomed sego lily (C. nuttallii) is the state flower of Utah. The day lilies, genus Hemerocallis [Gr.,=beautiful for a day], native to Central Europe and Asia, are much cultivated and often found naturalized along roadsides. The name day lily is occasionally used for the Oriental plantain lily genus (Hosta) because it too has short-lived flowers. The glory, or climbing, lilies (Gloriosa superba) are plants of tropical Asia and Africa that climb by means of tendrillike leaf tips.

Many common wildflowers also belong to the lily family, e.g., the asphodel, brodiea, camass, Canada mayflower (see mayflower), dogtooth violet, greenbrier (see smilax), lily of the valley, Solomon's-seal, star-of-Bethlehem, and trillium.

Economic Importance

Because of the showy blossoms characteristic of the family, many species are cultivated as ornamentals. This is the chief economic value of the Liliaceae; over 160 genera are represented in American trade. Types of hyacinth, lily, meadow saffron, squill, and tulip constitute the bulk of the "Dutch bulb" trade. Yucca and aloe species are popular succulents; the latter is also a drug source. Asparagus and plants of the onion genus are the only liliaceous food plants of commercial importance. A small tropical tree was the original source of dragon's blood.


In religion and art the lily symbolizes purity, and as the flower of the Resurrection and of the Virgin it is widely used at Easter. The lily of the Bible (Cant. 2.1) has been variously identified with the scarlet anemone, Madonna lily, and other plants; the "lilies of the field" (Mat. 6.28) probably means any wildflowers, perhaps the iris.


Lilies are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.


See F. F. Rockwell et al., The Complete Book of Lilies (1961); C. Feldmaier, Lilies (1970).

Pons, Lily, 1904-76, French-American coloratura soprano. Pons studied piano at the Paris Conservatory. She made her debut in Delibes's Lakmé at Mulhouse, Alsace, in 1928. She first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in 1931, and the company revived several operas especially for her. Pons appeared in three motion pictures. In 1938 she married the conductor André Kostelanetz.

Santa Cruz water lily (Victoria cruziana)

Any of the freshwater plants in eight genera that make up the family Nymphaeaceae, native to temperate and tropical regions. All are perennial except those in the genus Euryale. Most have rounded, floating, waxy-coated leaves growing atop long stalks that contain many air spaces. Thick, fleshy, creeping underwater stems are buried in the mud. In some species the leaves are also submerged. Showy, solitary, cuplike flowers with numerous spirally arranged petals are borne at or above the water surface on the long stalks. The genus Nymphaea includes the water lilies proper (or water nymphs). The common North American white water lily, pond lily, or toad lily is N. odorata. The lotus of ancient Egyptian art was usually the blue lotus (N. caerulea). The largest water lilies are two species that make up the tropical South American genus Victoria; the Santa Cruz water lily (V. cruziana) has leaves 2–6 ft (60–180 cm) in diameter. Water lilies provide food for fish and wildlife but sometimes cause drainage problems because of their rapid growth. Many varieties have been developed for ornamental use in garden pools and conservatories.

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Any of about 40 species of hardy herbaceous perennials, also called plantain lily, of the genus Hosta, in the lily family, native to eastern Asia. They prefer light shade but will grow under a variety of conditions. They are frequently grown for their conspicuous foliage, which may be light to dark green, yellow, blue, or variegated. The ribbed leaves grow in a cluster at the base, and stalks bearing clusters of tubular white or bluish-purple flowers emerge from the leaves.

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Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)

Fragrant perennial herb and sole species (Convallaria majalis) of the genus Convallaria (lily family), native to Eurasia and eastern North America. White, bell-shaped flowers droop in a row from one side of a leafless stalk, which bears usually two glossy leaves at its base. The fruit is a single red berry. Lily of the valley is cultivated in shaded garden areas in many temperate parts of the world.

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or day lily

Any plant of the genus Hemerocallis, in the lily family, consisting of about 15 species of perennial herbaceous plants distributed from central Europe to eastern Asia. Members have long-stalked clusters of funnel- or bell-shaped flowers that range in colour from yellow to red and are each short-lived (hence “day” lily). Daylilies have fleshy roots and narrow, sword-shaped leaves that are grouped at the base of the plant. The fruit is a capsule. Some species are cultivated as ornamentals or for their edible flowers and buds.

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Lily is a town in Day County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 21 at the 2000 census.


Lily is located at (45.181496, -97.682783).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²), all of it land.


As of the census of 2000, there were 21 people, 10 households, and 5 families residing in the town. The population density was 69.2 people per square mile (27.0/km²). There were 14 housing units at an average density of 46.1/sq mi (18.0/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 100.00% White.

There were 10 households out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.0% were married couples living together, and 50.0% were non-families. 50.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 40.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the town the population was spread out with 28.6% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 14.3% from 25 to 44, 9.5% from 45 to 64, and 42.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 54 years. For every 100 females there were 75.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 114.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $16,250, and the median income for a family was $23,750. Males had a median income of $0 versus $0 for females. The per capita income for the town was $7,938. There were no families and 12.5% of the population living below the poverty line, including no under eighteens and none of those over 64.


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