Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Lilium occidentale (Western Lily)


Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Liliopsida Monocotyledons
Subclass Liliidae
Order Liliales
Family Liliaceae Lily family
Genus Lilium L. lily
Species Lilium occidentale Purdy western lily


Photo credit: Jennie Sperling

This species is now considered rare. Lilium occidentale, commonly called Western Lily, is native to southern Oregon and northern California where it has been documented in just 28 locations (down from historic locations of 58), every one within six miles of the coast. Found in coastal prairie habitats, swamps, stagnant bogs, on bluffs or sandy cliffs and in seaside spruce forested areas.
This is a perennial herb very often 6 ft or more in height. The bulb is about 4 inches long, scaly and reported to be edible. The leaves circle the stem at intervals. The flower stems sprout from the end of the main stem and bear up to 35 flowers, nodding in breezes. The flowers have 6 petals curved back towards the stem. They are very red with spots in the center, usually bicolored and more greenish outside but red inside. They have the usual spots in various colors. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds, usually Allen's (Selasphorus sasin).

Careful research and monitoring can positively name its endangered status in both Oregon and California as well as federally are resultant from environmental factors. Threats to this species have included grazing and trampling by livestock, development and ranching, cranberry farming, genetic drift, vehicles and road maintenance, and horticultural collecting of the bulbs and flowers. New sprouts and shoots dry out quickly and are easily crushed. The invasion of trees into the plant's habitat, either by natural succession or deliberate planting and fire suppression, can alter the hydrology and soil structure enough to eliminate it. When the plant was listed as an endangered species in 1994, there were 2000 to 3000 individuals remaining.

Photo credit: Melissa Carr

One tragic instance of habitat destruction illustrates the change in public opinion and government policy over the last 30 years. In the 1960s, a public restroom was built directly over a known population at Shore Acres State Park. The population was completely destroyed. Conservation and habitat protection for native plants are now priorities both for local residents and the government. Too late, however, to save this stand of precious natives from destruction.

The USDA PLANTS database under Wetland Indicator Status has this announcement:

NOTE: On June 1, 2012, the 2012 National Wetland Plant List superseded the information below (see Federal Register, May 9, 2012, 77(90): 27210-27214[https://federalregister.gov/a/2012-11176]). For updated wetland information about this species, see the latest wetland list.

Photo credit: Dave Imper

For a short comparison of northwest native lilies, click here.

Thanks to the following resources:

Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilium_occidentale

USDA PLANTS Database, www.plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=LIOC2

Center for Plant Conservation, www.centerforplantconservation.org/collection/cpc_viewprofile.asp?CPCNum=2548


Contact:  star@chillirose.com ~ Copyright 2012 Wallace W. Hansen ~ All rights reserved