Plant of the Week
Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum Kellogg)
By Russell Holmes
Washington lily is in the Liliaceae (lily family) which contains 478 species in North America and approximately 4200 species worldwide distributed mostly in the tropics. It is a diverse plant family, including numerous important ornamentals, a number of important agricultural crops, and has been the source of valuable pharmacopoeia. Washington lily is a very attractive and aromatic plant and a desirable addition to cultivated landscapes and gardens. Those interested in using Washington lily as an ornamental should only collect limited amounts of seed from native populations or purchase seed or mature plants from reputable seed suppliers or native plant nurseries. Collection of plants or bulbs from the wild is never appropriate and strongly discouraged.
Washington lily is a perennial up to 2 m (6.5 feet) tall. Leaves are mostly arranged in one to as many as nine whorls with 6 to as many as 16 leaves per whorl, leaves are narrowly elliptic or oblanceolate, acute at the tips, and 4 to 12 cm (1.6 to 4.7 inches) long. The inflorescence contains few to as many as 20 slightly nodding flowers that are white in color, aging purplish, and decorated most often with fine purple spots. Perianth segments are typically 6 to 9 cm (2.4 to 3.5 inches) long and spreading or recurved. The stamens support off white, yellow, or pink anthers which are barely exerted past the petals. The pistil matures to form a capsule, which can produce over 200 seeds.
Habitat for Washington lily ranges from chaparral to open conifer forest including early successional forest at elevations of 400 to 2,200 m (1,300 to 7,200 feet). Its range is restricted to the Cascade, Klamath and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges of Oregon and California.
Albert Kellogg described Washington lily in 1859. Kellogg named the plant after Martha Washington and not, as is often falsely assumed, the state of Washington.