Siskiyou wildflowers: Washington Lily

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For two months we have been watching these lily plants, waiting for them to bloom. It took several days of sun and 80 degrees or so to coax them into revealing their flowers.

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These are Washington lilies, Lilium washingtonium. The flowers are white, sometimes pinkish, with tiny pink or purple dots inside.

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Despite the name, these are not found in Washington state, but only in Oregon and California. The plant was first described in 1859 by Albert Kellogg, who went against the usual practice of botanists and used the local settlers’ name, Lady Washington Lily, as basis for the scientific name. Presumably the settlers were referring to Martha Washington.

Turner calls them “uncommon”, and these are the only ones we have seen in our area. There are four plants within a six foot radius. One has had its top foot or so nipped off by some browsing animal, and one has not formed buds—too young perhaps.

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Uncommonly beautiful they certainly are. And they bear a sweet fragrance.

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