Turk's Cap lily
by Nelson DeBarros
The Turk’s cap lily (Lilium superbum) is no shrinking violet. With bold orange tepals that recurve dramatically atop 8-foot stems, the flowers of this native lily will demand your attention.
The Turk’s cap lily can be found growing in wet meadows and low areas from New Hampshire to Georgia and west to Arkansas. In New England, however, Turk’s cap occurs primarily within coastal counties and is listed as endangered in New Hampshire.
Turk’s cap can attain heights of 3 to 8 feet and can produce up to 30 flowers per stem. The flowers typically bloom from July through September and can vary widely in color. Blooms can range from yellow to almost red, though the tepals of most ecotypes sport a brazen orange that is ornamented with a smattering of dark purple freckles. A light green ‘star’ can also be seen at the center of the flower when viewed from below.
Turk’s cap can be confused with Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense) or the non-native tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium). The Michigan lily is a mid-western species that can be differentiated by the scabrous edges of its leaves (L. superbum has smooth edges) and its smaller anthers (only 5 to 15 mm). The non-native tiger lily can most easily be differentiated by the presence of black bulblets that form in the axils of the leaves.
Lilies are attractive plants, but wild and cultivated lilies are now being threatened by the lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii) which was first observed in Cambridge, MA, in 1992 and has been spreading through New England since. The bright red beetles superficially resemble ladybugs, but the larvae cause the most damage to lilies as they feed on the undersides of the leaves. For small infestations, handpicking can be effective. To learn more about the lily leaf beetle and methods of control, please review:
Cullina, W. 2000. The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and
Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada. Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston.
Gleason, H.A. & A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern
United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden; Bronx.
USDA, NRCS. 2010. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 14 July 2010).
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.